ince its founding as the first Catholic parish in Hollywood, Blessed Sacrament has been a community of service. From its humble beginnings, through the heyday of Hollywood, to the economically diverse & inter-cultural community it serves today, our story is that of priests, sisters, and lay friends and families who have nurtured faith amidst the joys and struggles of changing times.
January 18, 1903
The first Mass in Hollywood is celebrated by Bishop George Montgomery for about 24 Catholic families in “Drouet Hall” (a large hall in a two-story building owned by Marie and Louis Drouet on the corner of Cahuega and Sunset). Hollywood at this time is a community mostly of orange groves and farm lands.
May 3, 1904
The First Catholic Church in Hollywood
Under the direction of diocesan pastor Rev. Daniel Murphy, construction starts for the first church building on the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard (then called Prospect Ave) and Cherokee Street. The rustic, picturesque Blessed Sacrament church will accommodate 250 people.
September 12, 1904
The first Mass is celebrated at the new church. There were fourteen adults and twenty-one children in attendance.
As the film industry grew in the 1910s, the population of Hollywood increased dramatically. To accommodate the swelling population, the farms, and orchards south of Hollywood Blvd. were purchased and converted into housing developments. High-rise buildings started to spring up along Hollywood Blvd. alongside banks, restaurants, clubs, and movie theaters.
August 13, 1914
The Jesuits Arrive at Blessed Sacrament
Ten years after the first Mass, Bishop Conaty transfers the care of the parish to the Society of Jesus, installing Fr. William Deeney, SJ as pastor. The Jesuits were already running St. Vincent’s College which would later become Loyola College, and ultimately, Loyola Marymount University. Fr. Deeney’s following role was president of Loyola College (1914-1915).
Fr. Hugh Gallagher S.J. arrives and is charged with launching a parish school without any funding. Fr. Gallagher had previously been Treasurer of Santa Clara University.
February 1, 1915
“Gallagher’s University” Opens
Blessed Sacrament School opens with seventeen students across four grades. Affectionately called “Gallagher’s University,” the little school is founded under the direction of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart (IHM) with Mother de Sales named as the school’s principal.
Rev. George B. Butler S.J. becomes Pastor of Blessed Sacrament. He later goes on to become the Director of University Chaplaincy (later Campus Ministry) at Loyola College in 1929.
The Flood and “The Little Bungalow School”
Extended heavy winter rains flood the entire property, including the Church Hall. Fr. Butler needs a space to continue educating the children, so he sends 500 solicitation letters to the Hollywood community, yielding $1,200 in donations. With these funds, he builds a 3-room open air school that would serve as Hollywood’s “Little Bungalow School.” As its reputation for providing a quality education spreads, the school’s enrollment will eventually outgrow its capacity.
Rev. John Hayes S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
World War I Ends
Rev. Hugh Gallagher S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
Blessed Sacrament Grows
The parish and school community outgrow the church’s 250 person seating capacity such that the overflow of parishioners into the vestibule and garden was common. The school’s enrollment was already at 140 children with just three small rooms to teach inside the “Little Bungalow School.”
Hollywood Helps Blessed Sacrament
Father Daniel J. Stack S.J. is appointed pastor and has to address a growing parish on a minimal budget. Fortunately, Blessed Sacrament has now become a popular location for movie studios, providing new revenue for the parish and school. In fact, Fr. Stack is frequently called in as a technical advisor to evaluate the religious accuracy of a scene. Due to its ties with the parish, Universal, Keystone, Lasky, the Francis Ford Company and Christie Studios help with fundraising efforts.
With approval from Bishop John J. Cantwell, Fr. Stack buys a large tract of land on Sunset Blvd for $75,000 to build a new church and school. The new school would be designed by prominent architect Thomas Franklin Power, who later designed and planed the campus architecture of Loyola Marymount University.
January 2, 1923
The newly constructed Blessed Sacrament School opens with 173 children and is staffed by the IHM Sisters. Designed in the Italian Renaissance Style with twelve main classrooms, five smaller ones, and a large auditorium, the school would soon hold 370 students.
5 year old Francis “Frannie” Elizabeth Kent, later Sr. Corita Kent, IHM, enrolls in the kindergarten class at Blessed Sacrament School.
Fr. John J. McHugh, SJ is appointed pastor.
Planned construction of the church is delayed due to economic reasons. Estimated costs exceed $500,000 ($20 million in current dollars), not including windows, furnishings or equipment. As an interim solution, the school auditorium is used for church services. The Los Angeles Times reports that the church was holding the “biggest bazaar ever held in cinema town, with the cooperation of practically the entire motion-picture industry” to raise funds for the church. Fr. McHugh introduces an innovative method for making parish contributions – the Envelope System, which is still in use today.
March 13, 1927
The groundbreaking ceremony of the new Blessed Sacrament Church is held with the Loyola College Band playing the National Anthem alongside a patriotic flag-raising by the Boy Scouts (which had a significant presence at the school). Thomas Franklin Power turns his attention to designing the new church, which he adapts from the Basilican form of the Italian Renaissance style. The roof, however, will be made of tile instead of the flat roof typical of Roman churches. Power envisions the interior with flanking arches to be reminiscent of the San Paolo and San Clemente Basilicas in Rome. Construction commences at a brisk pace.
June 3, 1928
The new church is dedicated by Rev. John J. Mitty, D.D. Bishop of Salt Lake. With its 223-foot chimes tower, ornate exterior and seating for 1,400 people, Blessed Sacrament quickly becomes a Hollywood landmark. The church would later serve as the home parish for many of Hollywood’s elite including Ann Blyth, Bing Crosby, Irene Dunne, John Ford, Ricardo Montalban and Loretta Young.
October 29, 1929
The Great Stock Market Crash
Though the structure was completed in 1928, completion of the interior decoration and ornamentation is delayed during the Great Depression. $300,000 ($5 million in today’s dollars) is needed to complete the interior, and though close to half a million dollars is raised, the Parish is also $300,000 in debt. Nevertheless, one interior element moves forward – the Stations of the Cross. Noted Italian artist Carlo Wostry, who painted the murals at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Pasadena, is hired to paint the Stations. Wostry begins working on them in Italy in 1930 and finishes them at Hollywood’s Heinsbergen Studio in 1932.
Rev. John C. Ward S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
Rev. Cornelius J. McCoy S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. He had previously been president of Santa Clara University. Fr. McCoy prioritizes building a home for the IHM sisters who teach at Blessed Sacrament School. He will serve for the next 25 years.
1933The First Board of The Screen Actors Guild, AEA (Actors Equity Association) is formed on-site at Blessed Sacrament Church.
Fr. McCoy commissions Thomas Franklin Power to build a convent for the IHM sisters at Blessed Sacrament for $35,000.
Parish spending is reduced and donations were made to the war effort. Blessed Sacrament School becomes a Red Cross Casualty Station. All building and architectural plans are abandoned indefinitely.
June 10, 1940Italy invades France, declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom. Paris falls to the Germans on June 14 and eight days later France surrenders.
1944Despite the financial conditions, Fr. McCoy pays off the church debt.
1946BSS alumnus Sr. Corita Kent, IHM begins teaching at Immaculate Heart College where she would eventually head the Art Department.
Architect J. Earl Trudeau is hired to complete the interior design of the church. Trudeau said he “chose a rather simpler treatment, featuring economy of means both in the artistic and economic senses.” The interior work is finally completed in early 1954.
Rev. Harold Ring S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
Rev. Joseph Carroll S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
Rev. Donald Kolda S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
Rev. Joseph O’Gara S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. During this year the parish hosts more than 3,000 multi-denominational visitors for Hollywood’s first Catholic Church open house, celebrated as “Good Neighbors Day.” It was intended for people of other faiths to learn more about Catholicism and to foster better understanding among nearby parishes.
IHM Sisters leave Blessed Sacrament School.
Rev. Karl Von der Ahe S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. As young families bypass Hollywood to settle in other areas, the average age of parishioners increases with a sizable portion of them living off fixed incomes. Diminished contributions leave the parish financially vulnerable.
Rev. Joseph Keane S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. The first Spanish Mass (1:30) is celebrated in 1980.
Rev. William Thom S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. Rapidly changing demographics of the city of Los Angeles energize Blessed Sacrament with a new parishioner base and a renewed sense of purpose.
Rev. Edward Callanan S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. He conducts repairs and renovations on the church in 1989.
Rev. Robert Frambini S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. By this time the parish reflects the strength of Southern California – cultural tolerance and racial diversity. Approximately 70% are Hispanic with the balance a mix of Filipino, other Asian, African-American and Anglo.
Rev. Anastacio “Tacho” Rivera S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament. Movie & TV fans might remember the church featured in the film, LA Confidential and in an episode of ER, with guest star James Cromwell as a bishop.
Rev. Michael Mandala S.J. becomes pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
- Blessed Sacrament is one of the founding churches of L.A. Voice, an organization that works for affordable housing, health care, safer neighborhoods, and increased voter participation.
Cardinal Roger Mahony presides at the parish’s 100th anniversary Mass, which is celebrated in three languages (English, Spanish and Tagalog). He notes the parish’s long tradition of outreach to the Hollywood community, especially to the poor and the homeless. He praises those efforts: “I am proud of you because you have done this well. It helps us identify with what Jesus is calling us to in today’s Gospel.” Cardinal Mahony acknowledges the Society of Jesus for their long history of service to the parish, and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, whose religious community staffed the school for many decades.
Yolanda Scott Brown, D. Min. becomes the Parish Life Director at Blessed Sacrament.
1) Tracy, Kathy and Dr. J. Howard Cremin. Church of the Blessed Sacrament Parish History Centennial, 2004.
2) 2011 Directory of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament
3) 1992 Directory of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament