We are Saint Raymond!

Sixty years ago Downey became an incorporated city, Disneyland opened and St. Raymond Parish began. The year was 1956 and I was living in Lynwood and in third grade. It seems like such a long time ago, but in the history of the Catholic Church it’s fairly recent.


St. Raymond Nonatus is our Patron Saint. He was born in Spain and was delivered by cesarean when his mother died in labor. He grew up and joined the Mercedarians, an order which devoted itself to working against slavery and freeing slaves in North Africa. He was working in Algeria when he ran out of money and ransomed himself to set slaves free. The Muslim Algerian slave holders thought they could get a lot of money for a Priest, but they were disappointed. St. Raymond preached Christ in prison and was tortured for doing so. The slaveholders commanded him to stop, but he would not, so they pierced his lips and put a lock through the piercing. That’s why we have a lock hanging above his statue. He continued to preach and was finally ransomed and returned to Spain. The Pope heard of his story and he was named Cardinal, but in 1240 he died on his way to Rome to receive this title. He was canonized in 1657. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives and our patron saint as well. He reminds us to never give up preaching Jesus. His feast day is August 31st.


When Fr. Pat Cleary was assigned as Pastor to St. Raymond there was only an empty field with a small house on the property. He immediately went to work and with the help of the Sisters of the Holy Faith and Catholics in south Downey and Hollydale he organized the construction of the School and the current Church, with plans to build a bigger, more suitable Church later. The Convent and Rectory were added and St. Raymond Parish began to flourish. Many Priests have served at St. Raymond, including the next Pastor, Msgr. Bob Gibson, Bishop David O’Connel (then Fr. Dave), Fr. Tom O’Hanlon. Fr. John Higgins is the current Pastor and has been here since 2003.


The hard work and dedication of the people of St. Raymond is evidenced not only by their great sacrifices in building the Church, School, Rectory and Convent but in the fairly recent construction of our Parish Hall and the refurbishing of the original Crucifix, which was rehung in 2006 and of our Sanctuary in the Church with a new Altar, Stand for the Tabernacle, Ambo, Baptism Font and a new floor. But those are just physical things. What is more important are the many sacrifices and work done for the people of our parish, from the youngest infant to the most senior parishioner. So many people have been so generous in supporting our school and other ministries that St. Raymond has a great reputation for being not only very active, but very open and friendly. This doesn’t mean we have no faults, but that we realize that God calls us, even when we have faults, to serve Him.

It is out challenge, in this our 60th Year, to not only remember our history, but continue to be people of sacrifice. The people 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 years ago made huge sacrifices so that we may enjoy what we have today. We cannot let that fall into disrepair or disrespect. We too must commit to the support of this, our parish, our home.

So, how can we do that? By recognizing who we are. We are God’s children, brought into His family by Baptism and our Faith. We must live that commitment made for us by our parents if we were Baptized as infants, and by us who were brought into the faith as adults or by our Confirmation and each time we receive the Holy Eucharist. We are one Parish, not many different groups. We are one Church, not just many different Parishes. We are part of something much bigger than the Church Jesus and that is ourselves established in His own Blood. We are the Body of Christ here in Downey. Each one of us is as important as the rest. Therefore let there be no excuses of “I’m not important” or “What I do doesn’t mean much.” Each and every one of us is responsible for this parish because we love Jesus Christ, but more importantly He loves us, as a Church, as a Parish and individually.

So, let this year be the year of “We Are St. Raymond!”


From our Pastor

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