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St. Augustine Church (1886)


In the days of the early Spanish settlers, many were Catholic, and they attended Mass either at the Old Soldier's Home at Sawtelle, or they rode to St. Monica's in Santa Monica. Both were considerable trips by horse and buggy.

La Ballona Valley residents grew in number, and in 1883, a prominent landowner, J. Francisco Figueroa, donated acreage to the Diocese of Los Angeles for the construction of a new mission church. That little white wood frame church faced Washington Boulevard, then a dirt road. This new church was served by priests from St. Monica's and was named St. Augustine for the son of St. Monica. Father Patrick Hawe, the pastor of St. Monica's, built the mission church and came to say Mass here. Participants grew in number and Father Hawe began to share duties with priests from St. James in Redondo Beach and St. Clement in Ocean Park. The mission church seated about 200.

Culver City was incorporated in 1917, and two years later, it was necessary to appoint a permanent pastor for St. Augustine Parish, which then became a parish of the Monterey-Los Angeles Diocese. The first resident pastor was Father Thomas O'Toole, starting November 30, 1919. During Father O'Toole's two year tenure as pastor, he built the first rectory (priest's house), which was moved to Jean Place in 1926 for a convent. Each subsequent pastor added something for which he was remembered. In 1922, the pastor enlarged the church to seat 500. In 1926, the little parish hall was converted into a four-room schoolhouse, and a new stucco rectory was built. The Daughters of Mary and Joseph were invited that year to staff the school. They arrived on the feast of St. Augustine, August 28. The staff of six sisters opened St. Augustine School within two weeks with an initial enrollment of 123.

St. Augustine Church
St. Augustine Church


In 1936, a new St. Augustine Church was constructed with a seating capacity of 700, on Washington after the old church was moved back. Erected by noted churchbuilder Don Ely, the birdcage-like steel frame caused a stir as it was woven into a single unit. Ely also built the American Legion Building, now Brotman Medical Center's Glantz Auditorium on Hughes. The new church was dedicated in April, 1937 by Archbishop John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles. The pastor, Father O'Donnell, often acted as a technical advisor to M-G-M Studios across the street. The studio helped the church raise funds by putting up tents for the annual barbecue, and the Machado family cooked the beef.

In 1947, a new school was completed, replacing the old bungalows with reinforced concrete, and the year after, a new convent was constructed. Father James McLaughlin (later Monsignor) became the pastor in 1949, and he not only added to the school, but he supervised the building of the new church. Constructed by Theisen & Co. from Pasadena, that American Gothic design was 14,000 square feet, and it was built to accommodate 1,070 parishoners. He opened the doors as a surprise on Christmas morning, 1957.

The current church was officially dedicated six months later by James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles on June 22, 1958 with standing room only. Throngs of dignitaries and locals attended the ceremony after hearing that a famous radio and television personality, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, was coming from the East to preach. Bishop Sheen and Monsignor McLaughlin attended the seminary together.

The little mission chapel in La Ballona Valley is no longer there, but the second church is used as a parish hall, alongside the new church. In addition to regular church work, the parish sponsors S.A.V.E.S, St. Augustine Volunteers for Emergency Services, a nondenominational entity that helps those in need. Our irregular boundaries include St. Augustine's Church in Culver City, while the school sits in Los Angeles.