By population, San Diego is now the 8th largest city in the United States, but a hundred years ago it was little more than a large village. When constructed in the 1880s, San Diego high school, located on Park Blvd., was on the outskirts of town. Golden Hills was the suburbs. The area now known as North Park was wilderness.
Slowly, the city expanded. One great achievement was the development of the area known as Burlingame, located between Kalmia St. to the south, 32nd St. to the east, 30th St. to the west, and Switzer Canyon to the north. With its elegant houses and peach-colored sidewalks, Burlingame, completed around 1912, was a showcase community. It wasn’t long before other tracts of land began to be developed, and the area known as North Park soon emerged.
In 1921 San Diego was not a Catholic Diocese. The area was part of the Diocese of Los Angeles, which stretched from the Mexican border to the California city of Monterey. The bishop was Rev. John Cantwell. There were six parishes in the San Diego area, including one run by the Order of Saint Augustine, St. Vincent’s parish in Mission Hills. Bishop Cantwell felt that the developing area of North Park in San Diego needed a parish of its own. On October 21, 1921, even though there was no building present and no land purchased, he assigned Father Gregory Ashe to the parish.
Father Ashe was born in Kerry County, Ireland, in 1870. He came to the United States with a wave of Irish immigrants in the late 1800s and made his first vows with the Jesuits in 1902. He later left the order. He attended Niagara University and was ordained a priest in 1906. After working in Texas, he made his way to southern California as a secular priest.
Father Ashe was able to secure property, and the bishop approved on November 28, 1921. The first building was a hall, located at 3620 Ray Street. Although the building was not dedicated until July 22nd, 1922, the first Mass was said there on February 5th, 1922, and the first baptism took place on March 5, 1922. The baptized baby was Maria Elena Rivera, daughter of Jose Antonio Rivera and Elena Betancourt. She grew up to be Helen Bordelon, a lifelong member of the parish. Among other things, Helen participated in the Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, was a member of the parish council, served as a Spanish language interpreter, and played a key role in the visitation of the sick. She remained a very active and proud member of the parish until her death in 2006.