A Century of Serving and Building
Holy Trinity Catholic Parish of El Cajon traces its roots to self-sacrifice, hard work and firm faith. El Cajon was first served by pioneering Spanish priest, Father Anthony Ubach, who, once a month, rode the three hours on horseback from San Diego.
Following in his footsteps came a young French Canadian priest, Father Edmond Lapointe, who came to Southern California because of his poor health. In 1903, he became Pastor of the first parish in El Cajon, known as Mission Saint Mary’s. His handwritten church sacramental records testify to his wondrous and widespread ministry.
The little parish gathered to celebrate Mass in various halls and rooms until locating its first church in the old El Cajon schoolhouse. This building housed the Pastor, and served the community well, until gutted by fire on the evening of Holy Saturday, April 7, 1917. Hard work, and the concerned response of the entire County, enabled a new church to be built on Magnolia Avenue.
In the late 40’s, Father Leo Davis and the parish community, really wanted to have a Catholic school. For that, more property and a lot of funds were needed. Aided by the 1948 arrival of an energetic Associate, Father B. Francis Ross, the parish set about organizing a star-studded fund-raising weekend to be called All Western Days, in 1948 and 1949, featuring movie stars, parades, games, food and fun, at Gillespie Field. The 1949 All Western Days included Bing Crosby, Andy Devine, Jimmy Durante, Gabby Hayes, Dorothy Lamour, Carmen Miranda, Richardo Montalban and many others. The event raised over $100,000.
The present site on Ballard Street was purchased and the building of the school commenced. Father Davis invited the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, to which his own sister, Ellen, belonged, to staff and run the new school. The school welcomed it’s first students in September 1951.
Father Edward Kokoszka arrived in July 1952. He expanded the four-room school and completed the Convent. 1955 brought the decision to move the church from Magnolia Avenue to Ballard Street. Without money for a new church, Father Ed purchased an old barracks from Camp Callen and had it erected at the corner of Redwood and Ballard Streets, as Holy Trinity Church. He then set about building a Rectory.
Father Patrick Gerald Walsh completed the building of the Rectory and set about the building of a new church. Through a lot of generosity and commitment the parish met the fund raising goal of $250,000. Each of the furnishings of the church – pews, stained-glass window, stations, altars etc, – was funded by individual families. Bishop Richard H. Ackerman dedicated the new church on May 24,1959. A well-designed, multi-purpose building with space for classes, a modern kitchen, and a large banquet hall, was dedicated in February, 1983. In September, 1986 Monsignor Walsh retired, thus ending 30 years of shared joys and sorrows with his beloved parishioners at Holy Trinity.
Father Stephen Dunn, a Scripture scholar, liturgist and caring Pastor, bravely took the helm at Holy Trinity in 1986. Building on the inclusive style of ministry, heralded by Vatican ll, the need for a Center from which to coordinate all ministry became immediately apparent. The priests agreed to vacate the Rectory, facilitating it becoming a humming Ministry Center. Father Dunn encouraged the full and active participation of all in the liturgy and in ministry. He sponsored the founding of Holy Trinity Seniors organization, and had an unwavering commitment to Catholic education and the parish School. He realized that for it’s success the School must be financially independent of the parish and initiated the process. He was instrumental in the founding of our Early Childhood Development Center (Pre-School) in our Convent facility.
Father Nick Clavin and Father Brian Corcoran continued in the style of Father Dunn, working to bring more people into parish ministries and urging parishioners to assume a greater and growing voice in parish affairs. Active Parish, Finance and ministry councils were revamped. A Priests’ house was purchased in 1997.
Father Brian Hayes served as pastor from 2006-2015. During this period he oversaw the much needed repair and ugrade of the church building - the leaky roof and damaged drywall were repaired; the interior and exterior walls were repainted; central air conditioning was installed; the bathrooms and main entrance way were remodeled; and the beautiful stained glass windows were restored thanks to many generous sponsors. In addition, new flooring in the parish hall and a handicap / delivery ramp in the Ministry Center were installed.
Father Eddie Ruiz was appointed pastor in 2015. It was a homecoming for Father Ruiz, who served as an associate to Father Corcoran from 2000-2004.
From 1903 to 2016 there have been 16 Pastors at Holy Trinity. San Diego Auxiliary Bishop Richard Ackerman served as Pastor for six months in 1956, with Monsignor Patrick Walsh serving the longest from 1957 until 1986. A total of 46 Associates, and 3 deacons, have assisted here. Another 140 priests and 1 deacon have celebrated here at one time or another. There have been 11,393 baptisms, 8,269 First Communions, 5,395 confirmations, 2,667 marriages and 2,404 funerals recorded since 1917. Records from 1903 to 1917 were all destroyed in the fire at the Easter Vigil on April 7, 1917. And besides all of this, a bustling faith community at all times! One hundred years of faith in action!
Holy Trinity School continues as an outstanding Catholic school with the Early Childhood Development Center (Pre-School) and K - 8th Grade curriculum, providing children of East County with a Christ centered quality education and formation. Holy Trinity School continues to strive towards academic excellence while maintaining a strong foundation based on our Catholic Christian faith.
Holy Trinity is the Catholic Church of El Cajon, alive and fully in tune with the Universal Church, growing because of the commitment, love, sacrifice, generosity and kindness of every single parishioner says Father Corcoran. Remembering, celebrating and believing – this is what parish is all about, the people of God sacrificing, building, serving and celebrating through 100 years and on, joyfully and confidently, into the future. Now, that is our story to write!
From the original Saint Mary’s – Holy Trinity Parish, four further thriving parish communities in El Cajon have been formed: Saint Louise de Marillac, in 1944, Our Lady of Grace, in 1955, Saint Kieran, in 1958, and Saint Luke, in 1985. Sacrifice, hard work and firm faith!