In 1965 on property purchased at Acacia St. and Melody Lane, Monsignor John Sierbert of St. Mary’s Parish in central Fullerton opened a new community known as “St. Mary’s Annex.” The parish was later dedicated by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as St. Juliana Falconieri in August 1965. The parish grammar school, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, CA, opened that same month. Monsignor Terence O’Brien was the first pastor and Sr. Mary Louise served as the first principal.
Wanting good preaching for the parish community, Msgr. O’Brien sought the help of the Passionist religious community who staff Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, CA. Those preachers provided Sunday Mass supply to St. Juliana Parish from November 1965 until 1982.
Fr. Robert Vidal succeeded Msgr. O’Brien in 1981 first as parish administrator and in 1982 as the second pastor. Fr. Vidal was assisted by several diocesan pastoral associates including those who would become pastors in the Diocese of Orange; Fr. Ted Olson and Msgr. Don Romito. Fr. David Kondik, OSM, a member of the Servite Community of Servite High School in Anaheim also supplied with Sunday Mass assistance. During the administration of Fr. Vidal, St. Juliana Parish more than doubled in size.
During Fr. Vidal’s leadership, an increased enrollment at St. Juliana grammar school swelled the school halls and classrooms. Dedicated lay teachers joined the faculty providing a solid foundation of Catholic educational excellence. In 1987 the Sisters of St. Joseph withdrew from the school. Mrs. Mary Santoni, a long time teacher became the first lay principal and remained so until her retirement in June, 2012. Mr. Manuel Gonzales, Jr. succeeded her. Today Mr. Gonzales and Vice-principal Mrs. Janet Donnelly over-see a school of 297 students and a faculty of twenty-five.
By 1993, the Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites) was well known in North Orange County. In 1958 the brothers and priests founded Servite High School in Anaheim and St. Philip Benizi Parish in west Fullerton. While St. Philip was a prior general of the Servite Order, St. Juliana was the foundress of the Servite sisters. There was good reason in 1993, for Bishop Norman McFarland to offer the parish of St. Juliana to the pastoral leadership of the Servites.
Fr. Jude Herlihy, O.S.M. a native of Ireland and already a competent and popular pastor at St. Philip Benizi (1966-1973) and other Servite parishes was installed as pastor of St. Juliana Falconieri Parish in 1993. He led the parish through his 50th anniversary of priesthood until his sudden death on March 6, 2007. It was Fr. Jude who planned the up-grading and expansion of the parish facilities, the forming of many groups and organizations to serve the spiritual and fiscal needs of the parish.
Fr. Luke Stano, OSM, parochial vicar at the time of Fr. Jude’s death, became pastor and continued to lead of the parish from 2007-2009. Fr. Luke, a native of Michigan is known for his kind spirit and compassionate pastoral talents. While he was pastor in 2008 Bishop Tod D. Brown dedicated the Parish Center. During the winter of 2009, Fr. Luke was elected to the office of assistant provincial of the USA Province of Servites which demanded his move to Chicago. Fr. Paul Gins, O.S.M. provided interim pastoral care until Fr. Frank Falco, O.S.M. arrived from Chicago to become St. Juliana’s fifth pastor.
Fr. Falco was assisted by Fr. Paul Gins, O.S.M. and Fr. Patrick Donovan, O.S.M., and in 2011, when he completed his term as assistant provincial, the return of Fr. Stano, O.S.M.. Fr. Falco, a native of Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica on Chicago’s west side brought the “windy city of broad shoulders” to Fullerton’s east side. Fr. Falco dedicated a new church organ, and initiated many spiritual groups of the Servite Tradition including the Servite Secular Order and St. Peregrine devotion. While Fr. Frank was pastor the parish celebrated Fr. Stano’s 50th anniversary as priest as it had celebrated Fr. Jude’s – with a festive Mass and meal.
When, in 2014, Fr. Frank returned to Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, Fr. Michael Pontarelli, O.S.M. became the sixth pastor of St. Juliana Parish. Fr. Mike taught at Servite High School for many years and was seasoned in parish ministry at Mission Basilica Parish, San Juan Capistrano. Many of his former students are parishioners of St. Juliana’s. Having been raised in Anaheim, he knows many families of the parish. Together with Fr. Luke, the parish is served well. In 2015 the parish celebrated its own Golden Fiftieth Anniversary with a festive Mass and meal.
During these years five deacons and their wives have served the parish community. They are Deacons Jay Milam, Bill Schlater, Gerhard Stadel, Chuck Doidge and Pete Lauder who was ordained deacon on October 17, 2015. One Servite Brother, Philip Eikmeyer, O.S.M. was assigned as St. Juliana’s best friend and rose grower. We have been well served by many priests of the diocese and religious orders of the Church.
The history of a parish is never limited to the succession of its pastors, priests, deacons, or visits by our bishops. Our history is not about our buildings, fields, or landscape. For fifty years this parish owes a huge debt of gratitude to the countless dedicated men and women who serve the community. Not mentioned here are the secretaries, book keepers, facilities personnel, housekeepers, school teachers, religious educators, music ministers, ushers, communion ministers, lectors, bereavement ministers, St. Vincent DePaul staffers, Knights of Columbus members, finance, pastoral council, and school board chairs and members, gala members, Fall Festival volunteers, soccer moms, and etc. with those I am sorry I left out. Together we become the Body of Christ and St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Community is our address.
Our history is about becoming the Body of Christ. Our vision, along with the Cross of Christ is St. Juliana our patroness. Our success is always our relationship with and our faithfulness to Jesus and the way we imitate his command to love others as he loves us.
NOW WE CELBRATE THE FEAST OF THE EUCHARIST … WE BELIEVE Christ is among us and blesses our community