Revelations from the East Side – Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Revelations: Highlighting East San José
Many are unaware that prior to the 1950s, most of San Jose’s East Side was unbroken farmland. It stretched toward the eastern foothills. Its residents were mostly migrant farm workers. They lived in a patchwork of rural neighborhoods with no sewers, sidewalks, or streetlights. The East Side was the area of the city that many turned to because they were able to find affordable housing or due to gentrification, they were forced to go to this side of the city.
Due to these contributing factors, very little has been mentioned about the East Side in San Jose, its history. The San José Public Library’s California Room would like to highlight the East Side of San José with a series of blogs featuring individuals, businesses, and community organizations associated with the East Side.
doing this series of blogs in addition to collecting materials in preparation for the creation of an exhibit chronicling the social, economic, and political development of San Jose’s East Side. The California room is also establishing a permanent archive collection in the library. ventura churches of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Origins of the Heart
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, roots are defined as “the basic cause, source, or origin of something.” When I think of how this definition applies to the east side, sutory, I automatically think of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the heart of every community is a place that brings people together and shapes their journey forward; for those who grew up in the East Side Mayfair/Sal Si Puedes neighborhood, that place is Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
Beginning in the 1920s, large numbers of Spanish-speaking minorities moved to Mayfair/Sal Si Puedes; Restrictive housing covenants prevented them from renting or owning property in most other areas of the city. At the time there were no places of worship in the Mayfair area that offered services in Spanish, which resulted in some members of the community holding Masses in their homes. In the 1940s, there were only two places of worship offering Spanish-language Masses in the Santa Clara Valley, and neither was anywhere near the East Side.Starting with a chapel
As the East Side’s minority population continued to grow, so did the need for a church of its own. In the 1950s, the people of Mayfair sent a letter to the Archbishop of San Francisco, who oversaw Catholic institutions in the area. The letter, requesting that a church offering services in Spanish be established in Mayfair, had more than a thousand signatures. His request was denied. The Archbishop was of the opinion that people could simply attend services in existing nearby parishes.
It was not until 1953, through the efforts of Father McDonnell, a priest who had previously been assigned to work in Santa Clara County for the archdiocese, that a church was finally established. Father McDonnell obtained 9/10 of an acre on Kammerer Avenue from the Mayfair Packing Company and worked with community members to move the old St. Martin Church building to the new lot.
On October 18, 1953, the first mass was held in the “Chapel of the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” But it wasn’t until the appointment of Father Anthony Soto on June 30, 1962 that the Guadalupe Mission Chapel would officially become Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. However, the archbishop did not allow the parish to be recognized nationally, and the scope of his influence remained limited by Bayshore Highway, Story Road, Capitol Avenue, and Maybury Road.Built by his own congregation
The new chapel was too small to accommodate all those who wished to attend its services. Together, the community and the church worked on a solution. Land was purchased between the existing chapel on Kammerer Avenue and East San Antonio Street. The church paid for the construction materials and the community provided the labor. On March 2, 1967, the ground broke on the site of the new church.
Completed in November 1967, the church was only the third in California built by its own congregation. The old mission chapel building was converted into a sutoric and renamed McDonnell Hall after the man who had given the people of Mayfair their first place of worship from him.
Community members gather before the Danny Treviño march at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Photo: Courtesy of Ramon Martinez.
Become the heart of the community
More than just a church, Our Lady of Guadalupe became the heart of the community. It was the default location not only for masses, but also for community services, festivals, weddings, etc. It was the nexus of organizing and activism on the East Side, the birthplace and meeting place of numerous organizations that benefited the East Side community, such as the Catholic Council for Spanish-Speakers, the Community Service Organization (CSO), the Patrol of Community Alert. (CAP), the Center for Industrialization of Opportunities, the Friends of Guadalupe and many others. Here we see the often unnoticed dimension of the church gathering. It facilitates enjoyment, communion, relationship and friendship, which is an overflow of the communion we have with God the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. Just as a musical concert is best experienced in a crowd of fans, the gathered church is the place where we enjoy, treasure, and have a deeper communion with Christ.