St. Monica Catholic Church (Santa Monica, California)

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St. Monica Catholic Church
Saint Monica Catholic Church (Santa Monica, California).JPG
34°1′23″N 118°29′50″W / 34.02306°N 118.49722°W / 34.02306; -118.49722Coordinates: 34°1′23″N 118°29′50″W / 34.02306°N 118.49722°W / 34.02306; -118.49722
Location 725 California Avenue, Santa Monica, California
Country  USA
Denomination Roman Catholic
Founded Parish founded in 1886
Dedicated Church building dedicated July 1926
Diocese Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Division Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region
Archbishop José Horacio Gómez
Bishop(s) Edward W. Clark
Assistant priest(s)
  • Fr. Mark Martinez (assoc. pastor)
  • Fr. Richard Sun Woo (assoc. pastor)
Pastor(s) Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson

St. Monica Catholic Church, one of the largest Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is in Santa Monica, California. The church, located at 7th and California Streets, was erected in 1925 and served as the inspiration for the 1944 film classic Going My Way with Bing Crosby. It is also the home parish of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

The Duval Center, one of several buildings on the St. Monica campus, was designed by Frank Gehry and built in 1998. There are two schools associated with St. Monica Catholic Church: St. Monica Catholic Elementary School for grades TK-8 and St. Monica Catholic High School for grades 9-12, both of which are located on the same site as the church.


The parish was established in 1886. Prior to the formation of St. Monica, the nearest Catholic church was at Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles.[1] The current church opened for Christmas in 1925. At the time, the Los Angeles Times reported: "The opening of St. Monica's Church, ranked in the cathedral class and probably the finest Catholic Church of its kind on the Pacific Coast, will be celebrated with solemn high mass at 5 o'clock Christmas morning. For the first time the interior splendors of this remarkably beautiful and dignified religious edifice will be revealed to St. Monica' parish, and many out-of-town visitors are expected."[2] The church was not officially dedicated until July 1926, at which time the Los Angeles Times reported: "A crowd numbering many thousands surrounded the handsome limestone structure on California avenue and Seventh street, the overflow standing under the towering eucalipti of the city park opposite the church. ... Strains from the great pipe organ of St. Monica's floated to the overflow crowd outside to give at least a hint of the sacred services within."[3]

In 1994, the church itself was damaged in the Northridge earthquake and Mass was held in the gymnasium until repairs could be made.[4]

Frank Gehry, a Santa Monica resident, designed an adjoining hospitality center, the Duval Center, which was built in 1998.[4] In 2002, the New York Times wrote in 2002 the Gehry-designed building "contributes to the outreach efforts that, along with good liturgies and preaching, are parish hallmarks."[4]

In 2007 St. Monica,embarked on an aggressive capital campaign for $27 Million to meet the needs of the growing community and aging buildings. The Pastoral Center was demolished in late 2011 to make room for a new Community Center and Reception Pavilion. Groundbreaking took place in January 2012. Construction was completed in August 2013 with the grand opening celebration on November 3, 2013.

Monsignor Conneally and Going My Way[edit]

Interior of dome at St. Monica's

Academy Award Best Picture winner Going My Way, the 1944 film in which Father O'Malley (played by Bing Crosby) saved his struggling St. Dominic's in New York, was partly inspired by Msgr. Nicholas Conneally, former pastor of St. Monica.[5] The role of the irascible old Irish priest (for which Barry Fitzgerald won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar) was based on Msgr. Conneally.[1] Msgr. Conneally was the pastor of St. Monica for 26 years from 1923 to 1949, when he died at St. John's Hospital after a brief illness.[6] The film's director and writer Leo McCarey was a parishioner and friend of Msgr. Conneally.[7] McCarey recalled that Msgr. Conneally had approached him seeking funds for a new loudspeaker. McCarey made the donation and asked the older priest how he got along with his young priests. "They're nice fellows," the priest replied, "who are figuring on how they can change things around when I die." McCarey recalled, "I didn't know it then, but I was meeting the Barry Fitzgerald character in Going My Way."[7]

When Msgr. Conneally died in 1949, a newspaper wrote: "Mr. McCarey said that the monsignor was a frequent visitor at his home. The priest's many anecdotes about his work in the parish and St. Monica's School gave the director the idea it would make a good film story. It did."[7] Going My Way won seven Academy Awards including best picture, director, original story, original screenplay, song ("Swinging on a Star"), actor (Bing Crosby) and supporting actor (Fitzgerald in the role of the older priest).

Celebrity connections[edit]

In 2004, death penalty opponents, including Mike Farrell and Jesse Jackson, protested at St. Monica's to draw attention to the refusal of Governor Schwarzenegger (a St. Monica's parishioner) to grant clemency to a prisoner scheduled for execution.[8][9] In addition to Gov. Schwarzenegger, other well-known parishioners at St. Monica include Martin Sheen, Brooke Shields, Kelsey Grammer, June Lockhart, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, as well as Chris Farley and Lawrence Welk.[1]

The church was the site of funerals for Lucille Ball in May 1995,[10] and Chris Farley in January 1998.[1] In March 1998, Lucy Lawless of Xena, Warrior Princess married producer, Robert Tapert, at St. Monica's.[1] Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen were married Feb 26, 2009 in a small ceremony.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Churches of the Stars: St. Monica Church". Seeing Stars: The Ultimate Guide to Celebrities & Hollywood.
  2. ^ "CHURCH TO OPEN CHRISTMAS: St. Monica's in Santa Monica Classed as One of Finest Edifices on Pacific Coast". Los Angeles Times. 1925-12-22.
  3. ^ "NEW CHURCH DEDICATED: Catholic Dignitaries Aid in Opening Ceremonies of Santa Monica Edifice". Los Angeles Times. 1926-07-12.
  4. ^ a b c Peter Steinfels (2002-02-23). "Beliefs; An archdiocese a continent removed from scandal, and psychologically perhaps farther still". New York Times.
  5. ^ Susan King and Robin Rauzi (2001-03-22). "Cover Story; The Oscars; Winning Locations; Settings for some well-known Academy Award-winning films can seem exotic but might have been shot just down the street". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Msgr. Conneally, 69, Dies in Santa Monica Hospital: Prelate Noted in Southland Parishes for Building Work and Charitable Enterprises". Los Angeles Times. 1949-03-30.
  7. ^ a b c Christine A. Enright Snyder (2004-05-28). "One family, a century-plus of priests in L.A." The Tidings.
  8. ^ "untitled". Los Angeles Mission. April 2004.
  9. ^ "Execution Foes Rally At Gov. Schwarzenegger's Santa Monica Church: Religious Leaders Call Death Penalty Wrong". 2004-01-30.
  10. ^ "3 Services Pay Final Tribute to Lucille Ball". Los Angeles Times. 1989-05-09.