Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - for the greater glory of God, the motto of the Society of Jesus whose priests served Holy Family Parish for 90 years, is the motto by which Holy Family’s priests and parishioners have always responded to life.
The construction of Chiesa Italiana della Sacra Famiglia (Holy Family Church) began in 1905. Designed by architect Alberto Porta as a small replica of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the church at the corner of San Fernando and River Streets was developed by Fr. Filippo Magnacco, SJ, to minister to the needs of Italians, and dedicated on October 6, 1907. Fr. Joseph Cataldo, SJ, was the first pastor of the new church, and members of the Sisters of Holy Family began teaching catechism daily until 1972.
Fr. Cataldo, SJ, became pastor in 1907 and gave the parish a link between the pioneer history of the Church and the Society of Jesus in the western United States. He was previously involved in assisting in the Third Council of Baltimore in 1884, and in establishing the first mission among the Spokane tribe, the first Catholic Church in Spokane, Washington, and Gonzaga University. During the leadership of Fr. Aggio Valpolini, SJ, pastor from 1908 to 1916, Holy Family Church was no longer a mission of St. Joseph’s Church, but a National Church. Fr. Serafino Snider, SJ, became pastor in 1917 and was also pastor of another Italian parish, Holy Cross Church. Fr. Ottavio Villa, SJ, was pastor of Holy Family in 1923 until Fr. Snider returned as pastor in 1924. Fr. Aloysius J. Roccati, SJ, oversaw a remodeling campaign and added stained-glass windows after he became pastor in 1927, and founded the Italian Catholic Federation and the Holy Family Dramatic Club that staged plays in Italian to help raise money for the church. Fr. Biagini, an assistant, began working with the Spanish-speaking community. Fr. Harold E. DeLucchi was assigned in 1940. “Alabemos Al Señior,” a radio program and television show, was started by assistant Fr. Jose Peña. Retreats and Missions were given in both Spanish and Italian, with both ethnic groups retaining their special customs and feast days such as Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Frances Cabrini. Plans in 1956 for a 50th anniversary gala celebration were cancelled when Pastor Fr. Roccati suffered a heart attack three days before the celebration. Fr. Roccati recovered and served until 1959 when Fr. Harold E. DeLucchi, SJ, became pastor.
Fr. Aggio Valpolini, SJ succeeded Fr. Cataldo as pastor in 1908. Holy Family Church was still considered a mission of St. Joseph’s Church at the time, but on March 28, 1909, Holy Family was legally declared a National Church completely independent from St. Joseph’s. Fr. Valpolini continued as pastor until 1916 when he was replaced by Fr. Serafino Snider, SJ. This was a time of growth for the church in San Jose. HolyCross Church (formally, Precious Blood) was established as another Italian parish in 1911. Fr. Snider was pastor of both Holy Family and Holy Cross from 1920 to 1923. Fr. Ottavio Villa, SJ was pastor of Holy Family in 1923 until Fr. Snider returned as pastor in 1924.
In the late 1960’s, the church property went into condemnation proceedings due to a 1960 city-scheduled redevelopment project. The last mass was offered in August of 1969. Fr. DeLucchi moved with the few artifacts and furnishings he was able to buy back at a public auction to the church’s present site on Pearl Avenue in South San Jose. In 1969, Fr. Walter Want, assistant, wrote, “We have been given a small territorial parish – ‘out in the sticks’ - in the prune orchards of Robertsville.” The first mass in the Erikson Public School Auditorium in 1970 was poorly attended. In 1970, mass was celebrated in the “Garage Hall” chapel. Construction of the “Parish Hall,” church building began in 1970, and the church and grounds were completed by 1972.
In 1972, Fr. Bernie Brannon became pastor and led a pastoral team of fellow Jesuits, Fr. Frank Murphy, Fr. Gary Smith, and Brother Al Grosskopf, with a vision of building a vital community by sharing time, talent, and treasure. Marilyn Spinner, a lay catechist, and Ruth Spencer, School of Religion administrator, joined the team to implement the changes following Vatican II, with an emphasis on good liturgy leading to outreach activities and many new ministries.
In 1977, Fr. Tom Foster, SJ, became pastor and introduced charismatic renewal. A community center was built in 1981, and, in 1986, the first new Catholic elementary school in Santa Clara valley in more than 10 years opened at Holy Family withkindergarten through fifth grade. One grade was added to the school each year, and the Educational Center graduated its first eighth grade in 1990.
Fr. Pat Doherty, SJ, became pastor in 1987, while Fr. Foster recovered from a long illness. Fr. Gerald McCourt, SJ, pastor from 1988 to 1993, brought a new emphasis on adult faith formation and a vision for the parish’s future. The Ed Center was expanded and negotiations completed for an affordable housing complex with 79 units and a gymnasium shared by the parish, school, and housing complex.
Due to the declining numbers of men entering the Society of Jesus, the last Jesuit pastor of Holy Family was Fr. John Martin, and in 1995 the Diocese of San Jose took over the staffing of Holy Family Parish with Fr. Francis Cilia as the parish’s first diocesan priest, and Fr. Grant Nabbefeld as parochial vicar. Holy Family Educational Center reached full capacity with 660 students, and approximately 400 additional children were involved in the catechetical programs. A parish staff of more than a dozen people offered support to more than 80 active ministries.
In 1998, Fr. Matthew Stanley was named pastor. He focused the parish on ministry, social justice, outreach, enhancement of the celebration of the Liturgy, and technological advances such as a website, www.holyfamilysanjose.org.
Fr. Anthony Mancuso, Fr. Gregory Kimm, and Fr. Anthony Nguyen served as Parochial Vicars at Holy Family between 1996 and 2003. Fr. Hao Dinh joined Holy Family as Parochial Vicar at the beginning of 2003, and later that year, served his sabbatical in Rome for six months.
In 1998, with the permission of the Bishop, the parish initiated the “Restored Order Program,” to restore the original sequencing of the sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist.
It was decided in 2000 to build a new Junior High building instead of seismically upgrading the classroom trailers. The “Bold Visions & Bright Dreams” Capital Campaign was launched in 2001, construction began in 2003, and, in 2004, students and teachers moved into the new building housing an expanded library, state-of-the-art computer and science labs, and junior high classrooms.
In 2001, Holy Family formed a Knights of Columbus Council named “St. Ignatius of Loyola” to honor former Jesuits of the parish.
In 2002, the church began to show its age when one of the main support beams was found to have severe water damage and rot, and the bell tower had to be removed due to deterioration of the supports. The conditions set by the City of San Jose for the repair of the beam and the new building required the parish to upgrade the parking lot through repaving, new lights, and landscaping.
In 2002 a Renovation Committee was formed to renew the church to better serve the community and to bring it more closely in line with the latest liturgical teachings of the Church. The plans are to clean the church inside and out, and place a submersion baptismal font at the entrance to the church.
Begun in 1905 to serve the Italian community in downtown San Jose amidst orchards of nut and fruit trees, Holy Family Parish has provided one hundred years of spiritual guidance and service to the Catholic Community of San Jose. Now, 100 years later, Holy Family Parish sits in the center of Silicon Valley, the world leader in technological innovation, surrounded by thousands of single and multiple family dwellings, serving an extremely diverse community of more than 2400 families. During the past 100 years, the pastors, associates, and all who have served Holy Family did so with devotion and love, and always, as the theme of this 100 year celebration states, “Ad Majorum Dei Gloriam” – For the greater glory of God.