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2016 O.L.P.H. Distinguished Graduate – Olga Garcia
Class of 2002

Every year the National Catholic Educational Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award is presented to a graduate who demonstrates outstanding personal and professional achievements. Our Lady of Perpetual Help School is proud to announce Olga Garcia as our 2016 Distinguished Graduate. Olga has earned a BA in Psychology from Georgetown University in 2010 and the following year a BA in Nursing, also from Georgetown University. For the past 9 years, Olga has volunteered at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times as a cabin counselor, an activity counselor and for the past few years as a unit director. Olga works with The Thousand Smiles Foundation, a Rotary International sponsored nonprofit organization that provides cost-free care to children in Ensenada, Mexico who suffer from lack of dental care and maxillo-facial deformities such as cleft palates and cleft lips. Congratulations Olga!

Looking Back On…Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
Downey Patriot – March 5, 2010


In 1907, a petition began to circulate around the newly established community of Downey.

However, unlike other formal written requests, this petition was not political in nature, but rather religious. For the nearly 100 early Catholic settlers who sent the letter, a positive response would be the first step needed to establish a parish in the thriving city.

By December the settlers had their answer as Bishop Thomas Conaty announced that mass would be said in Downey every Sunday, a rare occurrence for Catholics living in a developing Los Angeles County.

As a result of the earnest petition and hardworking parishioners, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church would steadily grow from a small mission parish to a large Catholic community, giving birth to five subsequent parishes in the area. The 100-year-old church now stands as one of Downey’s oldest houses of faith.

Before services were regularly held in the city, Catholics living in Downey during the late 1800s had to travel outside city borders every week to attend mass in Los Angeles and San Gabriel.

Occasionally, Franciscan fathers would come to Downey to celebrate mass for Catholic families, but the majority of parishioners would journey to St. Joseph’s Church in Los Angeles after it was erected in 1888.

In 1908, after Bishop Conaty arranged for services in Downey every week, Rev. P.J. McGrath of St. Aloysious Church was assigned responsibility for the Catholic population in Downey. He would travel to the city every Sunday.

Soon after Fr. McGrath began conducting services, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles purchased property from Downey Land and Improvement Association described as “a triangular lot bounded on the east by Crawford Street (which is now Downey Avenue), on the south by Fifth St. and on the west by New Street.

In 1909, a small frame church was built facing Fifth St. where Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s rectory and parking lot are located today. This original building was named in honor of St. Anthony and served as the church and later the parish hall for 43 years.

St. Anthony’s boundaries stretched from the Los Angeles River on the west to the San Gabriel River on the east, and from just south of Slauson Ave. on the north, to Imperial Highway on the south.

For years, Catholics from all across the region attended St. Anthony’s Church each week, and as the parish’s membership grew, the small mission church quickly became a large parent church, sponsoring and establishing churches in surrounding cities.

The church even took a new name in the early 1920s when the Redemptorist fathers who were assigned to the parish changed it to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

In 1927, Our Lady of Perpetual Help oversaw the establishment of Our Lady of the Rosary in Paramount, which was called Clearwater at the time.

Later, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was sectioned off to establish St. Gertrude Church in Bell Gardens in 1938, St. Mariana de Paredes in 1950 in Pico Rivera, Bellflower’s St. Dominic Savio Church in 1954, and, finally, St. Raymond’s in Downey in 1956. All of these churches are still open today.

By the late 1920s, Downey’s population was around 5,500 with an estimated 75 Catholic families. The parish was expanding and in the opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Edmond Morris Smith it was time for a new church building.

In 1929, local industrialist E.M. Smith of EMSCO Aircraft and his wife, Mimmie, approached the pastor, Fr. John J. O’Brien, and proposed to build a new church as a memorial to their mothers and as a gift to the Diocese of Los Angeles.

After the architects released a drawing of the new church, the Downey Live Wire reported that “the Catholic church will be Italian Romanesque of the Transition period” with traces of Gothic influence “evident in the pointed arches and windows.”

By 1931, the new church, which seated about 450 people, was completed and furnished at a cost of nearly $100,000.

Ten years later, Fr. Patrick Carey was appointed pastor of the growing parish, where he would serve for more than 30 years.

One of his goals was to establish a school for the parish’s children. Prior to this time, Catholic students either attended St. Matthias in Huntington Park or the local public schools, but on Dec. 17, 1947, Our Lady of Perpetual Help purchased the 3.5 acre site on Downey Ave. After the Sisters of Notre Dame of Cleveland agreed to staff the school, it opened in 1948 with 124 students in three classrooms.

Today, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School has more than 300 K-8 students, a larger staff and Consultative School Board made up of school parents, parishioners, alumnae, faculty and community members.

In 1951, the church was remodeled to increase its seating capacity. In an engineering feat, the church was cut through its width at the front of the nave and the sanctuary was moved 47 feet south on railroad tracks. A 65 by 47 foot addition was added between the two sections, almost doubling the seating capacity.

After the 1987 Whittier-Narrows Earthquake damaged the aging church, the congregation was divided over whether to remodel the 56-year-old building or to raze it and construct a new sanctuary. However, the church was simply reinforced and modified.

Just last year, Our Lady of Perpetual Help celebrated its 100th anniversary as a Catholic community in Downey. It now stands as a symbol of the strength, patience and resolve of our city’s forefathers.

When these men and women moved to Downey to live and work, it’s evident that they not only brought their skills and talents, but they also brought an enduring faith, which can still be seen today.

Congratulations to the OLPH Academic Decathlon Team

For the fourth year, OLPH School students competed in the Junior High Academic Decathlon hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The team consisted of 17 students from 6th, 7th and 8th grade. The team studied hard for the ten events: two team tests, logic and super quiz, and eight individual tests, social studies, math, science, fine arts, current events, religion, English and literature. The school team competed against 100 other school.
The OLPH team did a great job this year. They received four individual medals (Elizabeth Pelayo: 9th Place English, Kristen Lago: 7th Place Math, Ivan Calderon: 6th Place Religion, Melissa Covarrubias: 2nd Place Literature) and won First Place in deanery 17. The entire school community is extremely proud!We’d like to Thank Academic Decathlon Moderator Miss Pilloni and her entire team of Coaches for a job well done. Congratulations! We are looking forward to next year!

60th Anniversary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School
January 23-26, 2009









The Saturday mass at 5:00 p.m. on January 24th was celebrated by Bishop Alexander Salazar in the parish church. The Most Reverend Salazar was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle School, Daniel Murphy High School, East Los Angeles College, California State University Los Angeles, Immaculate Heart College, and St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal Timothy Manning ordained him a priest in 1984. He served as associate pastor for ten years at St. Teresa of Avila, Silverlake. He was elected Dean of Deanery 14. He has served on the Council of Priests, College of Consultors, Clergy Pension Board, and Archdiocesan Personnel Board. In 2003, he was appointed Vice Chancellor and served on the Archdiocesan Leadership Team. Cardinal Mahony ordained him a bishop on November 4, 2004 and appointed him Episcopal Vicar of the San Pedro Region which includes Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish.

Schedule of Events:
Friday, January 23, 2009
– 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. – Students attend mass.
– 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Career Day at Our Lady’s School.
– 7:00 p.m. – Evening Welcome Cocktail Reception (Classes of 1948 to 1988) at the Embassy Suites, Downey.
– 7:00 p.m. – Informal Social (Classes 1989 to 2008) at the Pineda Home in Downey. Cost approx. $10 per person.

Saturday, January 24, 2009
– All day – Individual Class reunions at Our Lady’s School. Classrooms will be open for tours for new students. Book Fair starts.
– 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. – Saturday mass kicking off parish 100th anniversary in the church with Celebrant Bishop Salazar. Current students will act as lectors, ushers, altar servers and student speaker. 2009 Distinguished Graduate will be recognized.
– Alumni Class Socials in the evening.

Sunday, January 25, 2009
– 9:30 a.m. mass – We invite all married couples celebrating any anniversary ending in 0 or 5 to come and renew your vows as we celebrate World Marriage Day. There will be a reception for all participants in the Carey Center after the mass.
– 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Parade of classes, class presentations, awards, tours of the school and convent, social time, food and beverage at Our Lady’s school. Awards consist of commemorating Sister of Notre Dame for years of service to OLPH, recognition of all OLPH Distinguished Graduates of the Year, Kick Ball Award.

Monday, January 26, 2009
– There will be a book fair Monday, January 26 through Friday, January 30 at the school; Tuesday is Community Day, Wednesday is Student Appreciation Day, Thursday is Family Day, and Friday is Teacher Appreciation Day & Mass.

60th Anniversary Committee Members
Steffani McMains – Principal
Diane Davis – Development
Hector Perez – Parish Development
Ron Zurek – Class of 1966, Webmaster of Alumni Web Site
Gene St. Hilaire – Class of 1968
Ruth Augimeri – Class of 1971
Kathi Dominici – Class of 1971
Laura Freedman – Class of 1971
Chris French – Class of 1971
Pamela Jones – Class of 1984
Lisa Larres – Class of 1987
Jon Cousimano – Class of 2004
Yolee Casagrande – Alumni Parent Class of 2007
Silvia Castro – Current Parent/Alumni Parent ’07
Damian Zavala – Current Parent