Kevin is right that the years before/after World War II were busy times for the Catholic community living south of Golden Gate Park. While working on the history of St. Cecilia Parish for the January 2017 Centennial, I’ve come across many scattered bits of history, and have now compiled a “genealogy” of local Catholic parishes.
ST. ANNE: In the beginning there was St. Anne of the Sunset, established on Funston Avenue near Judah in 1904. The original church was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and replaced with a new structure nearby. In 1917, the southern portion of St. Anne Parish was spun off to form St. Cecilia Parish. In 1920, St. Anne opened the first Catholic elementary school south of Golden Gate Park, and many children living throughout the entire Sunset and Parkside were enrolled there. Then, in 1925, the western portion of St. Anne’s was spun off to form Holy Name Parish. St. Anne’s post-earthquake church remained in service until the present structure facing Judah Street was built in 1930.
ST. CECILIA: In January 1917, the southern portion of St. Anne Parish was spun off to form St. Cecilia Parish, extending from Twin Peaks all the way to the Pacific Ocean, north of Sloat Boulevard. The first church building, dedicated in June 1917, was located at 15th & Taraval and it underwent several expansions over time. In 1928, the parish hall was moved away from the commercial area of Taraval to the quiet and flat block of 17th Avenue near Ulloa Street to become the new church (1928-56). In 1930, St. Cecilia opened an elementary school with 8 classrooms, and in the years before World War II, the school had 60 children per classroom (with only 1 nun and no teacher’s aides) because students from Holy Name, St. Brendan and St. Gabriel parishes were attending St. Cecilia School prior to the time that those parishes were able to open grammar schools of their own. In 1948, the school was doubled in size, with two classes at each grade level, plus a Kindergarten. The 17th Avenue church near Ulloa was expanded several times until the present structure at 17th & Vicente was dedicated in 1956.
HOLY NAME: In 1925, the western portion of St. Anne’s was spun off to form Holy Name Parish, with its original church building on 38th Avenue between Irving and Judah. In 1941, a new and larger Holy Name Church opened at 40th and Lawton, with Holy Name School opening at the same time on 40th Avenue. In the early 1960s, the long-time rectory, then located on Lawton Street, between 39th and 40th Avenues, was moved one block east so that a larger space at the corner of 39th & Lawton would be available for construction of a new church building, in a unique oval shape, and it was dedicated in 1964. Holy Name was the first local parish to establish a pre-school in 2012 to serve the needs of young families in the area.
ST. BRENDAN: As the neighborhoods continued to grow, the eastern portion of St. Cecilia Parish was spun off in 1929 to form St. Brendan Parish, revitalizing a name from an old South-of-Market parish that was located at Fremont & Harrison Streets until it was disbanded after the events of 1906 when that area transitioned from mostly residential to mostly industrial. After World War II, St. Brendan opened its own parish school in 1947.
ST. GABRIEL: In 1941, St. Gabriel Parish was spun-off from the western portion of St. Cecilia Parish, from 28th Avenue to the Pacific Ocean. In 1948, there was the opening of St. Gabriel School, originally with one class at each grade level, and then growing incrementally each year, until there were three classes for each grade (1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, etc.), with 50 students per classroom, for a total of 1,200 students, making it the largest Catholic elementary school west of Chicago by the early 1960s.
ST. STEPHEN: In 1950, St. Stephen Parish was spun off from the western portion of St. Emydius Parish, with Sloat Boulevard as its northern border, to serve the established Merced Manor neighborhood, along with the newer Lakeshore and Country Club Acres areas. St. Stephen School opened in 1952 (with a new wing added in 2000), and the first parish church opened on Eucalyptus Drive in 1953, before being replaced in 1964 by a newer and larger structure nearby. The bell tower that was part of the original construction was removed in the early 1980s due to weather erosion.
ST. THOMAS MORE: Also in 1950, St. Thomas More Parish was formed from the western portion of St. Emydius just north of the San Mateo County line. The first church was built in 1952, on land purchased from the San Francisco Golf Club, and a new larger church was opened in 1967. The parish school opened in 1954, and continued in operation, even when the parish was closed in June of 1994—one of 13 parishes shut down as part of an Archdiocesan reorganization. The parish was eventually re-established in 1996.
ST. JOHN OF GOD: In 1965, the craftsman-style building at 5th Avenue and Irving Street that had long been home to the congregation of Christ Church-Lutheran was acquired by the Catholic Archdiocese and re-named St. John of God, as a chapel for students and faculty at nearby UCSF. In the 1970s, it became a parish in its own right, serving a portion of the area originally assigned to St. Anne’s.