History of our Parish
Our Lady of the Rosary Parish had its start in 1907. Before that time, local Catholics attended Mass in the town of Niles. When the Western Pacific Railroad lines came through town and an influx of people was anticipated, two lots were donated to the Catholic Church. The first Mass was celebrated in a Hall owned by Albert Silva at 10th and “I” streets in April 1907. The Hall was destroyed by fire in 1952. On October 13, 1907, the first Mass at the new Mission Church located at 13th and “H” streets was celebrated by Fr. Dominic Governo of Holy Ghost Church in Centerville. The new church was dedicated to the Holy Rosary, and was thus named “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
The church on 13th and “H” streets remained a mission church for 43 years until Fr. Ralph Duggan became Administrator in August, 1950. In 1951, the land where the parish is currently located was purchased from a local farmer, Teleforo Sanchez. Construction then began on a religious and recreation hall at 6th and “C” streets, largely with volunteer labor. This is the building which is currently our Parish Hall. The Hall was dedicated on October 7th, 1952 – the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Ten days later the church on 13th and “H” streets was destroyed by fire. Fireman Antone Alcosta ran through the burning building to preserve the Blessed Sacrament. The Hall was converted into a Church, and all services were held there until 1960.
Father Thomas Rielly, the parish’s first Pastor, started a building drive in May, 1959 with a goal of raising $200,000 to build our present Church and Rectory. Our present church was dedicated by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Merlin Guilfoyle, on March 13, 1960. The bell tower was added to the church in May, 1964. What is now the Parish Office Building was built in the late 1960’s as a convent for the Franciscan Sisters of Malta, who staffed the parish school until June, 1973.
Seeing the need for some specialized work in the area, the Franciscan Fathers came to the parish in June, 1961. Father Leonard Herzberg was assigned as Pastor, followed by Father Bruce Pardella in 1967. The Franciscans remained until the Diocesan priests were once again assigned to the parish with Father George Crespin becoming Pastor in 1971. After Father Crespin was reassigned in 1979, the parish has been led by Father Ricardo Chavez (1979-1982), Father Thomas McCullough (1982), Father Robert Freitas (1982- 1984), and Fr. Jose M. Leon, who was assigned as Pastor in August of 1985 and continues to serve in that capacity to this day.