From Mass in private homes . . .
The parish had its beginnings in the citrus-picking barrio located in east Claremont during the 1920's. Initially, visiting priests from neighboring parishes served the Spanish-speaking community by celebrating Masses in private homes.
To a new hall . . .
In 1934, construction began on Sacred Heart Church and hall. These small structures were dedicated January 15, 1939, and were designated a mission church. As the population of Claremont boomed after the Second World War, the need for a larger facility to serve a growing multi-ethnic community was realized.
To a new parish . . .
On May 13, 1947, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles created a separate parish for Claremont whose Catholic population was now one-third Anglo. In the summer of 1948, a citrus grove at Berkeley and Bonita Avenues was acquired as a site. In January 1951, construction of a new church began and the first Masses were held in it on October 28 of that year. Cardinal McIntyre formally blessed the completed church on January 2, 1952 under heavy rains that drenched all present.
To a new name . . .
When that small Roman Catholic Chapel was established in Claremont, it was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eventually, the congregation became too large and the archdiocese received permission to establish a parish church in the city on Bonita.
This was realized in 1951, and the question of what to name the parish needed to be decided. Two factors were considered. There already is a Sacred Heart Parish in our deanery, located in Pomona, so there was a problem on how to differentiate them if the name of the Chapel was transferred to the new parish. Another consideration was the fact that the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven had just been promulgated in 1950, and there were not many churches with that name. Thus, voila - it was an easy solution to the dilemma of two parishes with the same name in the same area.
So, in 1951, the parish on Bonita was dedicated as "Our Lady of the Assumption" following a procession with the statue of the Sacred Heart from the old Chapel to the new Church. Today, you can still see that original statue in the candle room of our church. We move it to the front of the church every June, the month that honors the Sacred Heart.
Most of the property on which the chapel stood was used by the city when Claremont Boulevard was put in; the remainder was donated to Habitat for Humanity to which built homes for low-income families there in 2005.
Therefore, our patronal feastday is now August 15 rather than the Feast of the Sacred Heart which occurs the third Friday after Pentecost. But, God makes no mistakes. The people of Claremont were meant to have Mary as their mother and guide. This solemnity like so many days in the Church calendar replaced a pagan harvest festival, on which crops were blessed. In many rural areas today, priests will bless the produce of the parishioners. For many generations, tradition held that as Jesus was the first to raise from the dead, his mother, Mary, was the first to be received into eternity (body and soul). Thus as the produce of the land is our gift to our heavenly Father, Mary is the first gift received into heaven after the resurrection.
As we name our children after special people (saints) to ask for their guidance and protection, so we name our parishes. We have been named after Mary - the Mary who is the first, most perfect disciple of her Son.
View the carefully researched Church History Narrative (1997) assembled by Norm and Pat Bortscheller. Please be patient, it takes a minute to process, but it it's worth the wait!