St. Monica Catholic Church, originally named Saint Monica Parish, was established in 1886 when Santa Monica was still an unincorporated part of LA County and of Ballona Township. Both the city and the church were named for Saint Monica who is remembered for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband and a prayerful life dedicted to the reformation of her son, Saint Augustine.
T he parish was originally located on what is now the Third Street Promenade between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Ave. At the time it was the only parish between Oxnard and Wilmington and downtown Los Angeles and the ocean. Fr. Patrick Hawe served as the first resident pastor until 1923. During his tenure, the church flourished. Fr. Hawe had planned to build a new and larger church, but died on August 30, 1923 before that goal could be realized.
Monsignor Nicholas Conneally, was Fr. Hawe's successor as pastor and served until 1949. Soon after becoming pastor, Father Conneally moved his rectory to a house on Fourth Street near the original church. He then sold the original parish site and the old church was razed. Until the present church was completed in 1925, services were held at a former Protestant church at the corner of Arizona and Lincoln, the site of the present Santa Monica Boys Club. The new Saint Monica's, described as a cathedral in its time, was dedicated by Bishop John J. Cantwell on July 11, 1926. (Pictured above) Its cost was reported to be $340,000. The new rectory was built shortly afterward. Saint Monica experienced explosive growth during that time which included the addition of two schools. For those who are Bing Crosby fans, the movie Going My Way was based on some of Msgr. Conneally's anecdotes about his work in the parish and schools and was also filmed partly at St. Monica.
St. Monica Catholic Elementary School and St. Monica Catholic High School trace their origins respectively to 1899 and 1901 when the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary opened a small school in 1899 near the corner of Third and Arizona Streets in Santa Monica. It initially was an elementary school for kindergarten through 8th grade and was staffed by four Sisters, under the guidence of Fr. Hawe. In 1901, a high school was added and the school was named Academy of the Holy Names. In 1930, the elementary school became Saint Monica Parish Elementary School and was transferred to its present site on 7th Street. In September 1938, the Sisters consented to sell the Academy and staff a high school at Saint Monica's, now St. Monica Catholic High School. The faculty consisted of five sisters and two priests. The first graduating class numbered twenty students--seventeen girls and three boys.
Additional land was acquired and several buildings were built throughout the ongoing years to accommodate the growing community until St. Monica encompassed the entire city block of Lincoln Blvd., California Ave., Washington Ave., and 7th Street. The Gymnasium was built in 1946 and underwent a complete renovation in 2012. The East Wing of the High School was built in 1958. In 1961 a convent was completed for the Sisters of the Holy Names and was later converted into the Pastoral Center, now the location for a new Community Center. The original Annex, built in the 60s, was replaced with the Trepp Center in the mid 90s, and the Duval Center, named after Monsignor Anthony Duval who served as pastor from 1978-1986, was built in 1998.
In January 1994, the Church suffered extensive damage in the Northridge earthquake forcing its closure until repairs could be made. During that time, Mass was held in the Gymnasium. Through the persistent power of prayer, the leadership of St. Monica's pastor, Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson, and the hard work and commitment of staff and parishioners, the restored church was reopened on Holy Thursday, April 13, 1995. Monsignor Torgerson continues to serve as pastor today.
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 of 2013 with the grand opening celebration on November 3, 2013.