St. Maria Goretti Parish
Celebrating over 60 Years as a Catholic Community
In 2021 St. Maria Goretti Parish celebrated its 60th Anniversary as a parish community. Over the course of the past six decades, St. Maria Goretti has grown from a tiny faith community created to accommodate the southward growth of the San Jose metropolitan area, to a large, multicultural family that is a stalwart of faith formation, celebration of the sacraments, and outreach within the greater San Jose community. Through it all, the commitment to fulfillment of the parish mission on behalf of the parishioners, staff members, and clergy over the years has enabled our parish family to survive and continue to thrive.
St. Maria Goretti Parish, which grew out of orchard land off of Senter Road near Capitol Expressway, was formed in July of 1961. About 60 families belonged to the parish. There was a house, barn, garage, and 16 acres of prunes. Its first pastor, Fr. Joseph Deans, celebrated Mass on an altar set up in the garage.
Four months later, in November of 1961, Fr. Arthur Hoffmann was named administrator of the new parish. The following month, the owner of the San Jose flea market donated a Quonset hut to be used as a new worship area, but it quickly became clear that this young parish community needed a permanent worship space.
Under Fr. Hoffmann’s leadership, construction of the present church was started in March of 1962. A year later, construction was completed, and the church was dedicated by the Most Rev. Joseph McGucken, Archbishop of San Francisco, on March 3, 1963. A partition separated the church area from the hall where social functions and instruction classes were held. The interior of the church had a very simple design: the altar was made of cherry wood with a large Crucifix above, and the pews were made of oak. At that time, there were approximately 800 families in the parish.
As St. Maria Goretti moved into the 1970s, the parish community experienced great growth, which required many physical changes to the parish campus, as well as an increase in the variety of parish ministries. The partition was removed from the church to increase seating, and padded pews were installed. The parish catechists were mostly teaching in their homes, and the barn served as a parish office. In 1975, the Hall was built and named in honor of Fr. Joseph Sullivan, who served as pastor of St. Maria Goretti from 1971 until his retirement in 1987.
In 1981, The Diocese of San Jose was formed out of the southernmost area of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and most Rev. Pierre DuMaine became the first Bishop of San Jose. As St. Maria Goretti entered the 1980s, the parish community placed an emphasis on the social change that it was experiencing as the greater community evolved. To deal with social and civic issues, the parish joined PACT (People Acting in Community Together), a federation of churches of various denominations working towards finding solutions to community problems such as drug abuse and gang involvement among the youth. Sullivan Hall was remodeled to accommodate the Loaves and Fishes ministry. And as our parish community became increasingly ethnically diverse, Fr. Sullivan also encouraged the formation of the parish’s ethnic groups to form organizations, resulting in the Filipino, Guadalupanos, and Vietnamese associations.
“We became quite adept at not just bilingual, but three and four languages in our liturgical celebrations when we would gather as one community for major liturgical celebrations like Holy Thursday, the Easter Vigil, and the Feast of St. Maria Goretti,” Ann says. “We began to try very hard to incorporate different languages into the liturgical celebrations, and over time I think we have become very adept at making that happen, so that all the parishioners are now expecting that. It’s just woven into the spirit of the community.”
In 1990, the construction of a new Parish Center was completed, and Religious Education classed moved out of homes and back onto the parish campus. Due to the large numbers of parishioners at St. Maria Goretti (4,640 registered households in 1993), the parish was divided in July of 1993, with the southern area becoming the “Edenvale Mission.” The Edenvale Mission later became Christ the King Parish.
At the same time, a new area was added to St. Maria Goretti – the McLaughlin corridor (between Tully and Hwy. 280). Under the leadership of Bro. Frank Gomes, S.M., a parish mission (La Mission Guadalupana) was established in the Santee area, where Sunday Mass was offered, as well as faith formation in the homes. In 2012, the Santee mission became a new parish community called Our Lady of Refuge.
Over the course of the last decade, St. Maria Goretti has emphasized the importance of expanding and improving upon its parish ministries and adult prayer and formation opportunities. Since 2005, the parish has actively advanced the stewardship way of life within our parish family, focusing on the importance of giving back of our gifts to God in thanksgiving, and encouraging parishioners to take greater ownership of their parish community.
Presently, the number of parishioners at St. Maria Goretti tops 5,000. Despite the enormous challenges of being a large, multicultural parish, St. Maria Goretti parishioners and staff have worked hard the past 60+ years to build a parish that is genuinely “Catholic” (universal), where everyone is welcome. We are truly a microcosm of society – many cultures, many languages, young and old, rich and poor, old-timers and new immigrants – but all working toward one common goal: living out the Gospel message as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.