St. Louise Parish was established in 1963 to meet the needs of the Catholic community in the growingCovina area. Parish boundaries were redrawn, and 1000 families from the neighboring churches of St. Francis of Rome, Holy Name of Mary, St. Dorothy’s, and Sacred Heart became members of St. Louise de Marillac Parish, named for the foundress of the Ladies of Charity. Father James Walsh was appointed as the first pastor, and he arrived in a new Chevrolet, a going-away gift from his parishioners at St. Elizabeth’s in Pasadena.
Father Walsh faced an enormous task – to build a church and school on an orange grove provided by the Archdiocese. He purchased a home on Stephora Avenue which served as the first rectory, and it was furnished by the members of the new Women’s Association. First Masses were celebrated in a warehouse on Arrow Highway with chairs that had to be borrowed from St. Dorothy’s each week. After a few months, the Echo Sales warehouse became available on Edna Place, and, with an old altar from Sacred Heart and confessionals hurriedly built on Christmas Eve, the parish was on its way.
With the first annual Frontier Days Carnival and with a $2000.00 gift of new dishes from St. Dorothy’s, church suppers could be held, and fundraising had begun for the development of the Bonnie Cove and Covina Boulevard property. By 1966, the Hall was completed and served in many capacities – as a church for Mass, an assembly room and a social gathering spot. The Hall was furnished with tables and chairs purchased with Blue Chip and S&H Green Stamps. Father Walsh purchased another home in the area which served as a convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The first graduating class received their diplomas in the Hall in 1969.
In 1972, plans were underway for a new church, and this beautiful structure, consecrated in 1973 by Cardinal Timothy Manning, won national recognition for its distinctive architecture and became a model for new churches within the Archdiocese. By now, St. Louise had established itself as a model in other ways as well – as an involved faith community, willing and able to expand its facilities as needs increased – and soon a CCD program, with a new building and staff, was also added to the parish plant.
In March of 1984, after 21 years of dedicated service as shepherd of the flock at St. Louise, Monsignor James Walsh was called to his eternal reward. His labor for the growth of the parish family at St. Louise will always remain as a living tribute to his commitment to his faith and to his parishioners.
Father Robert Pierce was named pastor of St. Louise in June of 1984, and another era of spectacular growth and fellowship began as the parish register reached 2300 families. A milestone year came for the parish in 1988. In October of that year, the parish gathered for two celebrations; the investiture of our pastor to Monsignor, and the 25th (Silver) Anniversary of the parish. Our first Parish Pictorial was also compiled that year.
Under the direction of Monsignor Pierce, the Parish Development Program was undertaken, with the goal of providing a new parish hall, kindergarten, CCD offices, computer lab, library and the conversion of the existing hall to a Parish Center with administrative offices and rooms for various ministries to meet. Again our faith community responded in record numbers and the new facilities were completed by 1991. That first Kindergarten class graduated from eighth grade as the Class of 1999.
Monsignor Pierce celebrated the 40th Anniversary of his ordination in 1994, and the church was filled for the Mass concelebrated with Father Damien McHale, Father Peter Foran, Father Dennis Young, and Deacon Jerry Thompson. Our late, beloved, “in and out” associate, Father Ben Olsen, C.P, was the homilist. A gala reception followed in the new Parish Hall and patio, and included members of Monsignor’s family and guests from his former parishes – St. Joseph, St. Vibiana, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, S.S. Felicitas and Perpetua, St. Basil, and Nativity. The highlight of the day came in the form of a “roast” with fond memories shared and telegram greetings from as far away as the White House and the campus of Notre Dame. It was indeed a day to enjoy all that Monsignor Pierce had accomplished.
The Educational Building Program was first suggested to the school and parish family in February, 1998. The large number of ministries, organizations, school gatherings, CCD for elementary and high school students, and storage for our annual Carnival had outgrown the available meeting rooms and buildings. Monsignor Pierce again met the challenge, and with our school principal, Ms. Janice Kalwei, plans were laid for yet another expansion – one that would provide a new playground, basketball courts and a multi-purpose room with kitchen for hot lunches, office space and storage.
The parish answered this call with a generous pledge program. Monsignor Pierce participated in a ceremonial ground-breaking at the close of the Carnival in June. The building project was completed in record time during that summer and fall. The parish gathered on November 1, 1998 for a special Mass and dedication with Bishop Gabino Zavala, which was followed by a parish picnic at our new lunch pavilion and playground.
St. Louise is poised and ready to minister well into the next millennium. We ended the 20th century with the strength and loyalty of many of the original founding families, as well as those who had joined us on the faith journey in the intervening years. We now number about 4600 households whose dedication to their faith and willingness to make sacrifices have made us a parish that will continue to grow, serving one another with a generous heart and spirit.