THE FIRST 25 YEARS
St. Edward the Confessor Parish was born out of the needs of the people of God who lived on the coast of southern Orange County.
In the 1940’s, Father Ozias B. Cook was the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente. He began approaching members of this parish who lived in what is now Dana Point and Capistrano Beach about the possibility of building a chapel to serve the people of that particular area because many Catholic residents were too far away to come to church.
Mrs. Edward Doheny, who was a close friend of Father Cook, also recognized the need. She graciously donated the funds to pay for the building and along with the generous donation of land from Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Bucheim, St. Edward Chapel (now known as San Felipe de Jesus), was built and then dedicated in 1950. At the request of Mrs. Doheny, as a remembrance of her late husband, the chapel was named after St. Edward the Confessor, the pious King of England who founded Westminster Abbey. The Doheny Estate continued to subsidize the Chapel monthly.
Father J. Augustine O’Gorman was the interim priest at St. Edward Chapel for a short time in 1951. He was succeeded by Father Michael J. Carlos, the priest who resided at Our Lady of Fatima. Fr. Carlos was appointed to be in charge of both sites.
The Baltimore Catechism was taught along with the traditional prayers in the early days as the parish formed. Daisy Winterbourne was known as the “jack of all trades” at St. Edward Chapel. She was the coordinator of the Altar Guild, Choir, Religious Education, and helped anywhere else she was needed. Vera Kutcher assisted Daisy in her efforts as well as many other dedicated individuals. In 1958, Anita Enzweiler moved to Capistrano Beach. She recollected that there was only one Sunday mass at 9:30 a.m. and one weekday mass at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Parish membership was sparse then – a mere handful. The women became the working force in the Chapel, holding rummage sales, bake sales, and fashion shows to cover expenses. Anita, along with the other volunteers, started a religious education classes for children at both St. Edward Chapel and Our Lady of Fatima. Shiela Ott came to Anita’s aid as secretary and was joined by May Eddo and two teachers from Our Lady of Fatima who volunteered to assist them. Classes were held at a variety of places – in the church, the patio, in homes of parishioners, even in their cars. Fr. Paul M. Martin (later pastor of Mission San Juan Capistrano), coordinated the Confirmation program for the combined churches and the Chapel.
In the early 1960’s, Cardinal James McIntyre, then of the Los Angeles Diocese, relieved Father Carlos from his charge over St. Edward and placed it under the Mission, which at that time was pastored by Msgr. Vincent Lloyd – Russell. Members from the Chapel met with the Cardinal and it was decided that Father John V. Ryan would be the interim priest specifically for St. Edward. He came to Capistrano Beach with his mother, who acted as housekeeper and cook while they lived in a rented house on Granada Drive. Fr. Ryan served for a year and a half. Next, Father Dunstan Reilly came for a very short time. At the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1969, held at Palisades School, Father Louis Knight was first seen in the procession. The community soon learned that he was to be the first pastor of St. Edward.
Bishop William Johnson, the first Bishop of Orange, sent Father Louis Knight (who came from Ascension Parish in Los Angeles) to Dana Point in 1969 when St. Edward Chapel received the canonical status of parish. He moved into the house on Granada Drive and later rented a home on Calle La Primavera in Dana Point, close to the building site for St. Edward Church. He developed a twenty-five year plan for the fifteen acres of land overlooking Dana Point Harbor. The design of the first church was practical and considered temporary until a bigger structure could be built. The multi-purpose building was constructed with adjustable partition walls to accommodate classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, as well as mass. During construction,between 1969-1971, mass was held at the Chapel in Capistrano Beach and the Monarch Bay Theater. The first mass in St. Edward Church (now known as Knight Hall), was on Christmas Eve in 1971, and the dedication was March 5, 1972.
THE NEXT 25 YEARS
In 1975, the rectory was completed. The population of the Dana Point area continued to expand and although the need for a permanent church was pressing, Fr. Knight turned the church community’s attention to the need for a Religious Education building. The building, opened in 1980, served the religious education needs of the parish, including the only Catholic preschool in south Orange County, an elementary school serving approximately 620 students, grades K – 8th, a religious education program serving 800 public school students from preschool through high school, and many other adult formation programs. The building was blessed April 1, 1984.
Father Knight worked tirelessly to create a parish that truly emulated the Documents of Vatican II, based on the principle of collegiality – shared responsibility for leadership by lay people. The Parish Assembly, that met once a month, included interested parishioners who acted in an advisory capacity to the pastor.
In January 1981, St. Edward Parish consisted of about 1400 parishioners. The Dana Point area grew rapidly and so did the population of the church. Over the next ten years, it became obvious to everyone that the “temporary church” was truly just that. The capacity of the building was over-flowing. In fact, mass was often held outside on the bluff’s stone altar during the warmer months to accommodate more people. Fr. Knight brought the need for a larger, more permanent church before the people. The community response to the fund-raising needs of the new church was tremendous. It was not long before the choice piece of land on the bluff overlooking the ocean was being transformed into a modern architectural wonder. The church was designed by John Bartlett of Bartlett Associates Architects of Arcadia.
Their aim, in conjunction with Fr. Knight’s vision, was to utilize the environment, taking advantage of the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Built by McDaniels Builders, the church is 14,000 square feet with a seating capacity of 1,000. The ground-breaking ceremony for the new church was April 5, 1992. The church was dedicated by Bishop Norman McFarland on December 11, 1994. Unfortunately, Fr. Louis Knight’s death in November 1994 prevented him from ever seeing the completion of the new church. Sadly but fittingly, the first mass celebrated in the new church was his funeral mass. In July, 1995, St. Edward parish welcomed a new pastor who embraced the challenges of Fr. Knight’s legacy and worked with the community to face the needs of the future.
In 1999, the parish began a capital campaign to purchase 2.5 acres of adjacent property for additional parking, expand and renovate the religious education building, and replace the old church building (Knight Hall) with a functional parish center. The first two phases of construction, the parking lot and Religious Education building expansion, were completed in 2001. With the 2005-2006 school year, St. Edward the Confessor parish school reached its full capacity of two classes per grade level, Kindergarten through eighth grade.
EMBARKING UPON ANOTHER 25 YEARS
In 2001, Fr. Steve Sallot, the rector at Mater Dei High School, was appointed as temporary administrator at St. Edward the Confessor. In 2002, Bishop Tod Brown asked that he leave Mater Dei behind to become the pastor of St. Edward the Confessor.
In addition to serving as pastor of St. Edward, (now called St. Edward the Confessor at the request of Bishop Brown), Fr. Steve became the administrator of our neighboring parish, San Felipe de Jesus in Capistrano Beach (the original St. Edward Chapel) in June 2004, after Fr. John Bradley retired.
In December 2008, Bishop Tod Brown amended the status of San Felipe de Jesus to “station”, or better known as “chapel,” of St. Edward the Confessor parish. San Felipe is administrated by the pastor, associate priests and staff of St. Edward the Confessor and the two churches merged to form one community with two locations.
Fr. Steve Sallot was named Vicar General for the Diocese of Orange in July, 2013, by Bishop Kevin Vann. At that time, another priest was appointed the Pastor of the Parish.
As of December 2018, Fr. Philip Smith was appointed by Bishop Vann as Administrator and Fr. Philip is ready to facilitate the continued works of the Parish, including the future construction of our proposed Pastoral Center.