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St. Gabriel Parish celebrates 75th anniversary
September 12th, 2016
By Roger Gargano

The parish of St. Gabriel the Archangel in San Francisco’s Sunset District came into being on June 28, 1941, when Archbishop John J. Mitty appointed Father George J. Bedford as its founding pastor. The new parish stretched from 30th Avenue in the east, west to the Pacific Ocean, and north from Pacheco Street south to Sloat Boulevard. The new parish community celebrated its first Mass Aug. 3, 1941 in what was known as Frank McHugh’s Hardware Store at 44th Avenue and Taraval Street. A Building Fund Committee was organized to raise the necessary funds to construct the permanent St. Gabriel Church.

The present church in the neo-Spanish style was begun in November 1941, and dedicated by Archbishop Mitty on May 31, 1942. Since that time the original church has been enlarged twice and accommodates 800 people. Between 1948 and 1954, the rectory, convent, and auditorium-gymnasium were completed. St. Gabriel School was opened in February 1948, under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy of Burlingame. Each year classrooms and grades were added until the school was completed in 1958. At that time, with an enrollment of 1200 students, St. Gabriel was the largest Catholic elementary school in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Presently close to 500 students attend the school which is well known for its academic excellence. It is currently under the able leadership of principal Gina Beal who succeeded longtime principal Mercy Sister Pauline Borghello.

Msgr. George Bedford served as pastor of St. Gabriel until his death in 1970. He was succeeded by Msgr. Francis Quinn, who was appointed bishop eight years later. In 1978, Msgr. James B. Flynn became pastor, and he was succeeded in 1987 by Father Carl Schipper, who was succeeded in 1992 by Father David Pettingill. In 1994, Father Harry Schlitt became pastor, and in 1998 he was succeeded by Father John Ryan. Since 2008, the parish has been under the loving stewardship of current pastor, Father Thomas Hamilton.

Over the years many parish organizations and ministries have been established to meet the spiritual and social needs of the parishioners. Among the current groups at St. Gabriel are Sodality of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Adult Education, Right of Christian Initiation for Adults, Religious Education, Peace and Justice, Respect Life, Asian Community, Vocations Committee, Youth Ministry, Parish Athletics Program, Pastoral Council, Men’s Club, Liturgy Committee, Choir, School Parent Organization, School Board, School Alumni, Homebound/Elderly Outreach, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Legion of Mary, Young Ladies Institute, Charismatic Prayer Group, and Welcoming Committee.

While the parish had a basic core of Irish families in the beginning, today there are approximately 1,450 families in the parish, representing cultures from all over the world. The parish of St. Gabriel has a remarkable spirit: It is a warm, loving, welcoming parish family.

All friends, alumni, former parishioners, current parishioners and neighbors are invited to attend 75th anniversary festivities planned for Sept. 18-25. Festivities start Sunday, Sept. 18, with a parish picnic to be held at Pine Lake Park in San Francisco. The picnic starts at 11 a.m. and the cost is $7 for adults and $2 for children. Saturday evening, Sept. 24, a dinner will be held in Bedford Hall, 41st Avenue and Ulloa Street, at 6 p.m., with dancing to follow, and a silent auction; $75 per person. The dinner ticket order form is on the St. Gabriel website. An anniversary Mass will be celebrated Sunday, Sept. 25, at noon, at St. Gabriel Church, 40th Avenue and Ulloa Street, with a reception to follow in Bedford Hall. For more information contact the Parish Center at (415) 731-6161.

Gargano is a St. Gabriel parishioner.

From September 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.

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