The history of St. Vincent Parish reaches back before its actual founding. We trace our roots to the founding of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and its first bishop, Thaddeus Amat, C.M., a Vincentian priest. Part of his vision for the small, growing archdiocese was to bring Vincentians to the West and to found a college.
St. Vincent College was founded in 1865 – the first college in Los Angeles. It was briefly located on 7th Street and Broadway (what is now the St. Vincent Jewelry Mart), and it then moved to the corner of Washington and Grand.
During this time, people began to gather in the college chapel and worship, which led to the founding of our parish by Rev. Aloysius J. Meyer, C.M. After La Placita Olvera and St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, we stand as the third parish founded in the city of Los Angeles.
This was when our parish family was born on the northwest corner of Washington and Grand in 1887. The people who had gathered to worship in the chapel of St. Vincent’s College now had their own parish church and their own pastor, the Father Meyer, C.M.. On January 25, 1887, the first Eucharist was celebrated with parishioners who came from within the original parish boundaries: from downtown Los Angeles west to Santa Monica along the coast of San Pedro.
From the beginning, Father Meyer was sure that our young people would have a school. In 1889, he insisted in his letter to Mother Agatha, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet: “We must also consider it a parish school, where all the girls of the parish can go, even as you kindly mention, the poor, for we must never neglect them. Otherwise, the Lord would not bless us. And besides, we must have room for the little boys. The building is so arranged that they have their separate yard and can go to their room without ever coming in contact with any girl.”
By 1907, the population of the city had so increased that several other parishes were formed within St. Vincent’s boundaries, and an article in The Tidings stated, “The number of parishioners is the largest in St. Vincent’s history. It is certain that a new church will soon become a necessity.”
Beginning in 1914, the plans for a new church were delayed because of World War I. But the parishioners and their pastor, Father James McRoberts, C.M., spent the following years and much of their energy raising funds. The parish was blessed when Mr. and Mrs. Edward Doheny stepped in to help finance the project in 1922. Mrs. Doheny was very religious and had a lot of influence on the design of the new church.
According to our records, she and her husband gave one million dollars for the project on one condition: that the new church be modeled after the cathedrals in Mexico, which she so dearly loved. All parties agreed, and St. Vincent Church went on to be the most splendid church in Los Angeles.
The cornerstone was set on July 18, 1924. On March 29, the last Eucharist was celebrated in “Old St. Vincent’s Church.” On April 5, 1925, the first Eucharist was celebrated in “New St. Vincent Church” on the corner of Adams and Figueroa. Father Martin Hanley, C.M. was pastor at this time.
In 1945, our small chapel of Santo Nino, on the corner of 23rd Street and Trinity, began to celebrate Sunday Liturgies.
St. Vincent Parish celebrated its 125th anniversary on January 25, 2012.