Click for more diocesan details - Los Angeles CA
This Information Page is provided as a free service by
This information was last updated on [01/07/2015]

~Click to view Santa Clara Parish Official Website~

Santa Clara Parish
323 S. E. Street
Oxnard, CA 93030
Phone: (805) 487-3891 Fax: (805) 483-4733
A Parish of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles CA

Home Page





Email Comments

Guest Book

Street Map


Elementary School

Santa Clara High

Vatican City

Weather forecast in Oxnard
You are visitor:


Santa Clara Church: A history


By Hermine Lees


Founded: February, 1885
Location: 323 S. E Street, Oxnard
Santa Barbara Region: Deanery 3

The seventh diocesan church established in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (following the California Mission era) is named for a 13th century saint, whose name means "light." St. Clare, who founded the order of Poor Clares inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, renounced the riches of her family to embrace the strict poverty espoused by Francis, and for almost 40 years ruled as abbess at San Damiano. Two years after her death in 1255, she was canonized; her feast day is August 12.

But Santa Clara Church also owes its name to the nearby Santa Clara River, itself named in 1769 when Capt. Gaspar Portola and his expedition explored the area on their pioneer exploration of the state. Father Juan Crespi named the river in honor of St. Clare whose feast day occurred during the time of their journey.

Early settlers to the region known as "New Jerusalem" were the Irish and Germans who traveled the rough road to San Buenaventura Mission for Mass. The pastor of the mission, Father John Comapla, helped them build a small church in the area now known as El Rio (on the northeast side of current-day Oxnard) where the first Mass was celebrated in October 1877. The chapel was served from Ventura until 1885 when Father John Pujol was named the first resident pastor and ministered throughout the area that is now Saticoy, Santa Paula and Fillmore.

On the occasion of the parish`s golden jubilee, Bishop John Cantwell said of the pioneer pastor: "It is a long time since a weary and footsore Franciscan priest trudged over the sun-scorched and treeless valley of the Santa Clara to bring the consolations of religion to the wild children of California`s scattered hills and mesas." For 25 years Father Pujol labored intensely among the growing community until, compelled by infirmity and increased needs of the parish, he asked for an assistant.

Bishop George Montgomery sent newly-ordained Father John Sylvester Laubacher to help out in 1898. The young, energetic priest, realizing a new town was planned about five miles southwest of El Rio, in 1900 secured an extensive piece of property in the heart of what is now Oxnard. The new town`s founder, Henry T. Oxnard, was also the president of the sugar factory and donated the land for the church and school. The first concern for Father Laubacher was building a school and through his efforts St. Joseph`s Institute opened in 1901 under the supervision of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. A large hall on the first floor also served as a temporary church.

In 1904 the new 14th century Gothic-style church opened with an imposing spire that towered over the new township. At the same time the chapel of Santa Clara continued to serve the community of El Rio and the two priests ministered at both sites. Six years later Father Laubacher was named pastor, added a parish cemetery and mausoleum, and in 1914 helped establish St. John`s Hospital under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy. Sadly, he was the first to be buried at Santa Clara Cemetery, victim of the influenza epidemic in 1918.

Father John J. Clifford (pastor, 1918-22) considerably enlarged and renovated the rectory and completed the construction of Santa Clara Mausoleum. During the intense growth of the following 12 years, five pastors --- Fathers James A. Reardon, James O`Neil, J.J. Sheehy, Fred Wekenman and Michael G. Sheahan --- shepherded Santa Clara parish, with a new school built in 1930 to replace St. Joseph`s Institute.

In 1934, a native of the Netherlands, Msgr. Anthony J. Jacobs --- whose first assignment in the diocese had been as assistant at Santa Clara --- was named pastor, overseeing a parish that included not only Oxnard, but El Rio, Port Hueneme and Camarillo. Skilled in architecture and languages (German, French, Spanish, Latin and Greek), Msgr. Jacobs erected Santa Clara High School and was devoted to the chapel in El Rio. Following a 1957 earthquake, he was instrumental in restoring damage to the church. After 30 years as pastor, Msgr. Jacobs died in 1964 at age 69, having served 44 years in the archdiocese.

Succeeding Msgr. Jacobs was Msgr. Joseph F. Sharpe, former superintendent of archdiocesan high schools and colleges, a World War II Navy chaplain and principal of Pius X High School in Downey. During his pastorate (1964-74), he remodeled and doubled the size of Santa Clara Church; renovated the school, convent and rectory; and coped with damage on the church from the 1973 earthquake. He died in 1999 at age 85.

Father Michael O`Shea was pastor until 1978, retired in 1999 and lives in Bellflower. His successor, Msgr. Charles O`Gorman, is a native of Ireland, served in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star medal for service with Marine air units. Pastor for 11 years (now residing at the parish as pastor emeritus), he oversaw the dedication of a new church organ in 1985 and further plans for the chapel at El Rio.

In 1990 Msgr. Peter Nugent --- who for 10 years had assisted on weekend Masses at Santa Clara while on the faculty at St. John`s Seminary --- was named pastor. An accomplished musician, he left in 2001 as pastor at St. John Eudes in Chatsworth, succeeded by Oxnard native Father Jon Majarucon, appointed administrator and then pastor in 2002. On August 22, Father Majarucon and the parish will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church, newly retrofitted with restored stained glass windows and painting.

Indeed, a church brightened by the kind of "light" its patron saint would know well.


Friday, April 9, 2004
Santa Clara: A deeply rooted parish

By Sister Nancy Munro, CSJ
text only version

As Highway 101 drops down the Conejo Grade onto the Oxnard Plain, strawberry, lettuce, celery and broccoli fields can be seen. Surrounding the fields are housing tracts stretching from Camarillo to Ventura, quick reminders that large numbers of Angelenos now commute from Oxnard.

But many fields remain, another reminder that Oxnard --- population pushing 200,000 --- is still an agricultural community attempting to maintain balance with a commuter world. Santa Clara Church, the Oxnard mother parish with a 119-year history, has remained a deeply rooted parish --- rooted in the earth and family farms of the community, rooted in faith, tradition and love of parish community.

In a recently opened time capsule from 100 years ago, names like Oxnard, Laubacher, Camarillo, Carroll, Wolf, Maulhardt, McGrath and Freidrich are inscribed in a small black book. The same names are still found in the parish registry, alongside others like Gonzalez, Luna and Delgado --- second and first generation parishioners. Newcomers continue to arrive at Santa Clara, a parish where tradition neatly melds with the new.

Eleven Masses are celebrated each Sunday between the downtown parish church on E Street and the parochial mission (or "El Rio Chapel") adjacent to Highway 101. Only two of those Masses are in Spanish. Santa Clara is a giant among parishes with 10,000 families, 7,000 at the main church and 3,000 in the chapel.

The parish never rests with its liturgy, youth and prayer groups, Bible study and organizations like Men of Promise, St. Vincent de Paul (with its Truck Sundays and Thrift Store), Young Adult Diners Club, Families of Nazareth, Legion of Mary, Health Ministry and Bereavement, and religious education.

"This parish is alive," says Father Marco Ortiz, associate pastor, "and it has a great spirit."

"They`re incredible," adds Father Jon Majarucon, the pastor, who should know ---he grew up in Oxnard. "Coming home" has been a great experience for him. His parishioners reflect his attitude and admire the respect he has shown the parish, and love what he has done.

"He`s really rooted," says Santa Clara School principal Dorothy Massa, "rooted in Oxnard and rooted in the faith." Parishioners especially love what he has done to return the church to its former beauty with gleaming fresh paint and renovated details in the ceiling and around the altars.

Many former parishioners have returned to see the renovations, too. One recently said that just being there brought back memories of farming, the harvest moon in October, the rhythmic sound of the thrasher, the flying straw --- all of it brought back on her visit to the restored church.

Some things do not change. For all the growth in the area, Santa Clara Parish is still at heart a small town parish with deep roots.



Home Page | Staff | News | Calendar | Bulletins | Email Comments | Guest Book | Street Map | Links | Elementary School | Santa Clara High | Vatican City | Bereavement

The information contained herein is not to be used for commercial purposes. Site © Liturgical Publications Inc 2875 S James Drive, New Berlin, WI 53151. Churches retain copyright for their own information.