From Bob Bresniker School History Book
One of the early Baptisms - 1888
- at the small church was that of parishioner May Brown Magnuson
. May was born in Los Gatos on Santa Cruz Ave on Dec 5, 1887
– four months after incorporation of the town – one of eight children of Elizabeth and James Brown.
Her father was one of the teamsters hauling redwood from the Santa Cruz mountains. In the period of 1982-1992 St. Mary’s school mom Sheryle Bresniker
(Tracey, Jill, Kirk and Marc - Mother’s Club Pres. 1978-79) took Holy Communion to May at her home on Johnson Ave. In 1986
at the age of 99 May recalled her days in Catechism at the little church
I can remember making my First Communion in the first little church. We went to Catechism every day after school for a year before we could make our Communion. We would sit in the church and some little Irish women would teach us. The kneelers were so hard, but the women told us it would be good for our sins to kneel on such hard benches. We went to confession every week even though we didn’t commit any sins … maybe hit each other. And we sang in the choir a lot … songs like ‘Tantum Ergo’ and ‘Oh, Lord, I Am Not Worthy’.
People used to come to church with their horses and buggies. … the church was so small. I don’t think it held 100. The rich people sat on the left and the rest of us on the right side.
When we were young, we were all taught that we were going to hell. They don’t tell you that anymore. I can’t believe we go to hell. I think God loves all of us. May Magnuson, 1887-1993
The St. Mary’s Los Gatos Oak
The giant Live Oak in front of Hofmann Center was at the center of St. Mary’s Parish life from the beginning - and 55 years of St. Mary’s School history. It was old before Jim Farwell enrolled for the new school in 1954. It was there when the parish was established in 1912. It was there before May Magnuson was baptized in 1888 and later attended St. Mary’s Sunday School Catechism - before the Town of Los Gatos incorporated in 1887 - before the Catholic settlers of El Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos and Jesuits from Santa Clara College built the Immaculate Conception mission church in 1881 - before Graziano Nino dreamed of a homestead near Los Gatos Creek, by Roberts Road, in 1868 - before Forbes Mill was on the creek in 1854. It was there while 55 years of St. Mary’s students - perhaps 3,000 - walked by everyday, and went on to even greater things. Like May Magnuson – who lived to 105 - and Jim Farwell who passed away at only 48 - the Oak has passed on too. There is a fitting memorial there now.
But all the history has taken root and lives on in the parishioners and children of St. Mary’s of Los Gatos. How many have picked up an acorn from this giant tree?
Graziano Nino came to the Los Gatos area from Italy in 1868 – joined later by his bride Sofia – and was part of that pioneer community. Years later, Fr. Curtis – 4th pastor of the ensuing parish – would refer to “Mr. and Mrs. Graziano Nino” as “Outstanding local pioneers associated with early history of the church.” Graziano and Sofia were undoubtedly pleased with the Italian-speaking Jesuits – especially in their early years. May Brown Magnuson’s father was one of the teamsters, who hauled Redwood from the Santa Cruz mountains (as related by May to Sheryle Bresniker a century later). Perhaps some of that lumber was used to build the Nino’s barn of “solid Redwood” (Kathleen Nino) off of Roberts Road – about a mile from Forbes Mill. The Browns and Ninos shared the same religious community that was nurtured by the Jesuits in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Descendants of Graziano Nino attended SM School: Kathleen Grace Nino
graduated with the Class of 1980 – one of the nine (9) children of Ed and Grace Nino
enrolled at St. Mary’s from 1960 through 1988. (Nicholas Nino
– son of Ed
(‘71) was the last grandchild to graduate from here in ’99.... Sr. Nicki). In 1997 Katheleen wrote an article that appeared in the Los Gatos Weekly Times of July 9 1997, “The Ancestors Would Have Approved
”. The skilled and loving article harks back to the arrival of Graziano Nino
from Italy in 1868
. He later brought back a young bride, Sofia
– “the couple lived in a small house – across from (now) Vasona Lake
…” Graziano preceded Sofia in death by 41 years. The 1944 LG newspaper carried the Obituary of Sofia– reflecting on her perseverance as matriarch of the Nino clan. The Fisher and Van Meter
schools now occupy some of the homestead – on both sides of Nino Avenue
. In 1953, Highway 17
sliced through the land; it was later
re-united with the building of the Blossom Hill Rd bridge
. The 1880’s home has now been preserved on top the hill in the recent Summerhill Homes development off Roberts Road
near the old Bridge, and now there is a historical plaque on the old Nino home. A new home was build close by in 1895 - and can be seen today at the end of ‘Nino’ Way
– by (yes) ‘Nino’ Ave
. One of the St. Mary’s Stained Glass windows is a Nino commemoration – it’s on the wall in Library Acolve near the front entrance.
REV FATHER PATRICK J. O'HARA
History of Santa Clara, Sawyer, published 1922
When ever the historian shall address himself to the delightful task of penning the history of Los Gatos, he will not fail to record the life and labors of the Rev Father Patrick J O'Hara. and in the recording thereof find inspiration. He was born at Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland, June 17, 1871, the son of Francis and Susan (McWilliams) O'Hara, both natives of County Tyrone descended from ancient Irish families. Francis O'Hara was a prominent merchant in Omagh. He passed away at the age of ninety years and his widow survived him one year, she, too, being almost ninety years of age at the time of her death. This worthy couple were the parents of ten children, all living, of whom Patrick J. is the fifth. He attended Christian Brothers' College in his native place until he was twelve years of age, when he entered the Jesuit College of Clongowes Wood, where he made his classics and philosophy. Next he studied at the American College at Louvain, Belgium. On completing his course at Louvain he came to San Francisco, Cal. in 1899, and soon afterwards he made his way to St. Paul. Minn., where he was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral in St. Paul by Archbishop Ireland for the diocese of San Francisco.
His first appointment was as assistant at St. Patrick's Church, San Francisco, under Rev Father Cummings; and he continued to discharge that responsibility for five years. then he served as assistant pastor at other places in the dioceses. His first pastorate was at St. Mary's Church, Cotati, Sonoma County, where he officiated for two years. During this time Father O'Hara built the new church and this and parochial residence at Cotati and brought the parish to a successful and sound financial basis. In 1917 he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic church, at Los Gatos. He has a large territory to to look after, stretching from the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains to Campbell, and including about 400 families, but he is untiring in his arduous work as shepherd of his flock, and is esteemed and beloved by all who know him. He takes a deep interest in civic affairs, and he is particularly active in the Knights of Columbus. With the same zeal and ardor, he is building up the parish and has materially reduced the indebtedness placed on it by the erection of the beautiful church and rectory. St. Mary's parish was established by the Jesuits about eighteen years ago, but they relinquished the parish in 1913 and Father Barshab was the first pastor to take the helm, until his transfer to Sausalito , when he was succeed by the present incumbent.
While attending the American College at Louvain, Father O'Hara's vacations were spent in travel, having visited every county on the continent. He had the pleasure of visiting Rome and was fortunate in having an audience with Pope Leo. In 1902, and again in 1906 he made trips back to Ireland, where he visited his parents, who were still living at the old home, and in later years he also traveled over the British Isles. However, on his return to his beloved adopted home in California he was more pleased than ever to get back to his favored section of the world.
History of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
From parish archives
In 1878, the Jesuits of Santa Clara erected a small wooden church on Santa Cruz Avenue made out of wood in a simple rectangular style. St. Mary Mission was elevated to parish status in 1912 when the Jesuits turned the mission church over to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
After acquiring property at the corner of Bean and Tait, construction of a new church began in 1912. The church seated 286 people when it opened in 1914. Improvements to the buildings and property continued as the city and the population of Los Gatos continued to grow. Many years earlier talk began regarding a parish school, but it wasn’t until 1954 that ground was broken for the school.
By 1960 the original church building was in need of replacement in order to accommodate the growing parish community. The first mass was celebrated in the present church on December 8, 1962 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The new St. Mary’s Church seated 958 and was designed in contemporary mission style architecture.
From the St. Mary’s 75-year program:
According to hand scripted notice dated January 1890, Masses on Sundays were said at 7 and 10 am. Starting in that month the rosary was said before the 10 am Mass. An announcement was made that he feast of Epiphany, also known as the Manifestation of Our Lord, was no longer a holy day. Church services were important enough for coverage in the paper of the day. As early as Christmas, 1891, the paper reported: The services at the Catholic Church were of unusual interest Sunday. The decorations were of ferns and flowers. The choir was assisted by students from the Novitiate. The sermon was by Fr. Rev Vincent Chiappa. Subject—He that hath found a friend hath found a treasure.”
Parish finance records note an income of $40 and expenses of $48.35 for the month of January 1899. The annual budget balanced that year with $1,110.95 in expenses equaling the same in receipts. The plate collection was $276.16 and pew rents $141. The ladies of the Altar Society contributed $94.59.
Fr. Pere Henri Tomei
Fr. Pier Henri Tomei was born in 1908 in Marseilles, France. In 1933, he was ordained in the Archdiocese of Marseilles. For forty years, thirty in his homeland, Marseilles, and 10 in California, eight of which were here in Los Gatos, he was the faithful dedicated priest - servant of God. He spent his life in the priesthood bringing men to God and God to men.
Fr. Tomei was a man of many talents. His extraordinary talent in so many fields, French literature, Music and other arts, enabled him to illustrate God's message of salvation in so many exciting and marvelous ways. Fr. Tomei was an outstanding musician, organist-pianist composer - much of his priestly life in Marseilles and here in California was devoted and dedicated to the development and projection of Church music. As Director of the Cathedral Choir of Marseilles, and its famous Boys Choir, which he accompanied on tours of Europe, Fr. Tomei was ever an inspiration. He was also a leader of youth in his capacity as Director of an orphanage - always a confidant of the troubled and frightened. He molded these through his musical skills into outstanding citizens and success in the world of song. Those who came under his influence never forgot him. His outgoing personality, his kind and gentle manner, his keen sense of wit and wisdom, so akin to his childhood idol, Maurice Chevalier, endeared people to him. Father Howley, former Pastor here at St Mary of the Immaculate Conception, recalled in his farewell homily at Fr. Tomei's funeral, how on many occasions that former members of his choir, now grown and successful career men, called upon him here in Los Gatos to pay their respects.
Father Henri knew the horrors of war, devastation, privation and want, having lived through two world wars: one as a child in an orphanage and later as a priest in World War II when he served on two separate occasions as a Hospital Corpsman. Somehow, what he did in the war reveals his deep religious sense and passionate love of country. This is expressed in his beautiful composition song the "Virgin of Peace". He wrote this song following a three hour bombardment of Marseilles, during which time he and his fellow soldiers took shelter under an Army truck. When the bombing had ceased, and it was learned that no one had been killed, He hurried to the nearest church, sat down at the organ and composed this song of thanksgiving to Our Blessed Mother, whose refrain and final verse sums up his life of love:
"Virgin of Peace, till my life shall cease
I shall raise my voice to praise you
My praise shall ring, for you I will sing
With my childlike love, O Maria.
On the Sea of Life, be our guide
Be that star, which shows the way
And Lead us all safely to Heaven
For the splendorous and Eternal Day".
In 1962, sought asylum in the United States. Following WW II, he had established two orphanages for children whose parents had been killed in the war, and he became and outspoken opponent of the involvement of France in the War. He came to San Francisco when he learned that he was on the French “hit list” because of his public views. Archbishop McGucken assigned him to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Redwood City because the pastor was French speaking. In 1964 Fr. Tomei was transferred to Los Gatos because in the town was a “French Club.”
On All Souls Day in 1972, Fr. Tomei was at the dining room table for lunch with the pastor, Fr. Richard Howley, when the doorbell rang and the man at the door asked to have a priest hear his confession. It was Fr. Howley’s “duty day,” but because he was still eating and Fr. Tomei had already finished his lunch, Fr. Tomei insisted that he would go to the church to hear the man’s confession. After more than an hour, Fr. Tomei was found dead in his confessional, having been stabbed multiple times. News of this murder was reported in newspapers coast-to-coast and on national radio and television broadcasts. His assailant, the man who had requested the confession, was eventually found guilty of this and other murders in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and remains imprisoned today. A shrine in Fr. Tomei’s memory was built to replace the confessional in St. Mary’s Church for this Martyr of Santa Clara County
Bon Voyage, Father Tomei. We pray eternal rest be yours forever in the Choir of Heaven.