A Parish Icon Leaves
It seemed as if Blessed Sacrament Church and School never had quite enough space so when the opportunity presented itself in May 1957 to buy another plot of land on Cassil for a relative bargain at $25,000, Fr. McCoy didn't hesitate. The structure on the lot was demolished to build a garage facing the street that would hold the school buses and the priests' cars. In July, Fr. McCoy was also given permission to move the cafeteria building to the new lot as well. The idea was to make the place where the cafeteria stood parking area for church-goers on Sundays and a playground for the school kids during the week. It would be the final major project Fr. McCoy would oversee as pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
On July 30, 1957, Fr. McCoy received a letter from Cardinal McIntyre, which in part read: "I have a letter from Fr. O'Sullivan in which he tells us of the plan to relieve you of the responsibility of the church of the Blessed Sacrament and that you will take up residence at the retreat House in Azusa.
"We cannot allow this transfer to become effective without expressing to you our heartfelt and sincere gratitude for the magnificent service you have rendered the people of Hollywood and the Parish of the Blessed Sacrament over long years. Yours has been an administration of great accomplishment spiritually and administratively."
Fr. McCoy wasn't just the pastor; he had become an icon in the parish. While many people couldn't quite imagine what it would be like not to have the venerable priest in charge, there were signs that perhaps the timing was right for the community to welcome new leadership and to be reinvigorated. In September 1957 the archbishop suggested instituting a noon mass to accommodate those parishioners who found it difficult to attend early morning masses, but Fr. McCoy was less than enthusiastic and resisted the change.
He wrote, "In past years I did give thought to requesting permission for such a Mass...it always seemed to me that the attendance would not warrant its introduction. This area is quite different from the business district downtown. I considered that the number of employed Catholics on the Boulevard was insufficient. With the children playing on the grounds our parking facilities would be limited.
"However, if the number of favorable suggestions is, in the judgment of your eminence, sufficient, we certainly would be happy to make an experiment."
In the end Fr. McCoy never did implement the Archbishop's suggestion and put if off to his successor, Fr. Harold E. Ring. As it turned out, the noon Mass was a success and Fr. Ring reported to Cardinal McIntyre that over 200 people showed up and, "It does not seem either that the other morning masses have been affected."
Fr. McCoy left Blessed Sacrament on October 6, 1957 after twenty-eight years of devoted service, making his tenure as pastor the longest in parish history. Looking through old letters, it seems apparent that Fr. McCoy hadn't left Blessed Sacrament of his own volition. It seems his health had been failing and his superiors believed it best to relieve him of the pressure and stress of running the parish. But after only a few months of recuperation, Fr. McCoy was anxious to get back to parish work.
By 1958, the Sunday masses were often Standing Room Only. The situation seemed to indicate that the Hollywood area needed another parish to relieve some of the attendance strain on Blessed Sacrament. When a small church on Argyle was put up for sale, Bishop Timothy Manning sought out Fr. McCoy's advice on whether the purchase price was reasonable. In response, Fr. McCoy - who was now at the University of Santa Clara - threw his hat in the pastoral ring. "As I write this it seems presumptuous on my part but I know the area and many of the parishioners in it. My health is greatly improved and I have no assignment here and I do not see how I can fit in with this modern university work. Too many years in parish activity." McCoy promised his tenure at the proposed new church would be brief and that he would bow out in favor of "a Diocesan pastor" once it was established.
Unfortunately for him, the new parish on Argyle never came to fruition. In hindsight, it seems obvious that Fr. McCoy's expressed dismay about finding it hard to adapt to "modern" university work made him long for the relatively straight forward life as a parish priest. But within a few years the Catholic Church would undergo dramatic and sweeping changes under Vatican II that would both redefine the role of the parish priest and increase lay interaction and participation. That, along with the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s, compounded by the economic change of fortune for Hollywood, would forever change the face of the Blessed Sacrament community.