Father Gregory Ashe was the founding pastor of St. Patrick’s parish, beginning in 1921 and serving until 1925 when he was replaced by Father Thomas Healy, the parish’s second pastor, and first Augustinian. Father Ashe eventually returned to Buffalo, New York to serve in parish work. He died there in 1934. Father Healy served as pastor of St. Patrick’s for a year and a half, after which he returned to Pennsylvania. He died a short time later in January 1927 at the age of 54. Both Fathers Ashe and Healy were born in Ireland.
Succeeding Father Healy as pastor of St. Patrick’s was Father John Daley. Born in Massachusetts, Father Daley served in two parishes on the east coast before being given the assignment at St. Patrick’s.
Upon arriving at St. Patrick’s it was obvious to Father Daley, and everyone else, that the original structure being used as a church was inadequate. Situated on Ray Street the building was more of a hall than a church. It could hold just over a hundred people. Put up hastily when the parish was formed a few years before, by the mid-20s it was obvious that a new church was needed.
The 1920s were good to San Diego and the community of North Park. Businesses were thriving, new arrivals spurred development, and optimism was high. Under Father Daley’s guidance, the parish decided to commit to the construction of a magnificent structure, Romanesque in style, using the best architecture and artistry available. Frank Hope was contracted as the architect and the M.H. Golden company did the construction. The contract was signed on October 15th, 1928, and work began almost immediately. Amazingly, the church, the present structure, was finished by Easter Sunday, 1929, in just about six months, but it wasn’t dedicated until September 1929. The cost of the structure was $37,000, and with all the interior additions the cost of the project was around $60,000. Father Daley and the parishioners of St. Patrick’s were justifiably proud of their accomplishments. The next step would be the construction of a school, and it probably would have gone forward but for one obstacle: the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.
Somehow the parish and the costs incurred with the construction of the church survived the depression. The school start-up would have to wait, but the bills were paid and the church on 30th street flourished. The people of North Park were very proud of their beautiful church, undoubtedly the finest in San Diego at the time, and many sacrifices were made to keep the new parish going.
In 1936 San Diego became a diocese separate from Los Angeles. Charles Francis Buddy was named bishop. Every diocese needs a cathedral and a center to conduct business. Bishop Buddy much-admired St. Patrick’s church and the growing affluent neighborhood. He made a strong overture to take over the parish and church, despite the contrary opinion of the Augustinians and the parishioners. After much discussion (to put it politely) the decision was made to name St. Joseph’s church downtown as the cathedral. St. Patrick’s remained as it was.
Father Daley was the longest-serving pastor in St. Patrick’s history, 15 years. After leaving St. Patrick’s he served several parishes in Massachusetts before retiring in 1968 to Merrimack College where he lived until his death at age 90.