A HISTORY OF ST. MARK PARISH

1965 – 2015

Created for the Jubilee

 

From God’s Garage… 

 

To God’s Glory!

 

From God’s Garage to God’s Glory: A History of St. Mark Parish – 1965 – 2015

 

St. Mark Parish was established by Archbishop Joseph McGucken effective 9/1/1965.

 

The congregation was formed by parishioners from Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) and St. Gregory’s. Those parish boundaries were changed and the parishioners east of El Camino were told they were to become part of a new parish – which initially had no physical location or name.

The first pastor was Fr. William Flanagan and since the parish needed a place to hold services, he found an automotive garage at 785 Old County Road to use. Folding chairs were set up and the confessional was put in the garage office. The first mass was said on September 12, 1965, and the parish became St. Mark’s.

 

Sunday masses were held at 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:15 AM, 11:15 AM, and 12:15 PM.

 

The first social gathering was a Halloween dance and it gave the parishioners a chance to get to know each other. The group bonded immediately and St. Mark’s became a family.

 

In 1969 Fr. Flanagan was transferred to St. Patrick’s church in San Jose. Everyone was sorry to see him leave and amid tears, fond farewells, and a stirring rendition of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”, he left, and Fr. David Walsh became pastor in his place. Of course, there was still no church or rectory, so mass continued in the garage, and Fr. Walsh resided in a home in Sterling Downs. In that same year, Redwood Shores also became part of the parish.

Everyone had to keep their sense of humor during those early “garage” years. There were birds in the rafters, so there was always one or two flying around during mass. After standing for the gospel, it was always necessary to check your chair first before sitting. In the summer it was very hot and in the winter, rainwater would flood the entrance. But to the parishioners, it was their place of worship and was fondly referred to as “God’s Garage”.

 

Music was a big part of the parish right from the beginning. A guitar group was formed that would later become the folk group. A variety of subsequent choirs has truly made music a key part of St. Mark’s liturgy.

 

After a couple of years, the parish learned that St. Gregory’s old church was to become St. Mark’s new church. On 11/8/1966 the building was actually moved to the Marine View lot, but unfortunately, after the move, the fire marshal deemed the building unsafe and in April 1970 it was used instead for fire department training. The resulting fire created quite a stir as smoke billowed and was visible for miles.

So, it was left to the parishioners to build a new church. After numerous and varied fundraisers and many meetings with the Belmont City Council, approval was received. On June 27, 1970 ground was broken and the new church was built.

 

It was formally dedicated on October 17, 1971, at a mass celebrated by Archbishop McGucken with blessings sent by Pope Paul VI.

     

The rectory was begun in 1982 and completed in 1983.

   

Fr. David Walsh continued as pastor until he became ill and retired. He died in 1999. Fr. Flanagan, who had returned as co-pastor, once again took charge. He was the pastor until he too retired. He continued to live at the rectory, actively participating in parish activities until he passed away in 2004. These two priests, who spent years of faithful service, are greatly missed.

St. Mark’s has since been fortunate to have had other very dedicated pastors. They built buildings and started programs and spiritual traditions that continue to this day.

 

Msgr. Floro Arcamo (1993-2001)

 

Rev. Al Furtado (2001-2014)

 

Msgr. James Tarantino (2014-2018)

 


Monsignor Heuring, although not “officially” assigned to our parish was an integral part for over 20 years, until his death in 2010.

 

In 1991 the parish celebrated the ordination of Father Joe Bradley – one of its own

 

and in 2012, another parishioner became our own Deacon Jerry Quinn.

 

Twice St. Mark almost ceased to exist.

In the 1970s just as the church building project was going out to bid, the developer L.C. Smith expressed an interest in re-purchasing the property. The Archbishop sent a letter expressing an interest in making the sale and moving St. Mark elsewhere. Plans were put on hold for a month while Fr. Walsh wrote a letter outlining the case against such a sale. His arguments were persuasive and saved the day.

In the early 1990s when the Archdiocese of San Francisco was experiencing a priest shortage, declining mass attendance, and many buildings requiring seismic retrofitting, St. Mark was again in danger as it was identified as one of the possible churches to be closed or merged. Talks with parish representatives and the Church of Our Lady of Lebanon in Millbrae commenced but were unsuccessful. The parish proved its spirit, vitality, and viability in appeals to the Archdiocese and was approved to remain open.

 

THERE HAVE BEEN PHYSICAL CHANGES OVER THE YEARS AS THE PARISH HAS EVOLVED AND GROWN:

In 1976, to celebrate the bi-centennial, Belmont schoolchildren, families, and other residents painted all the hydrants in the city as historical characters. Our own Friar was a fixture until 1996 when all were repainted.

The church itself actually started as a multi-purpose hall and the current workroom was a kitchen. Besides church services, it was used for religious education classes, meetings, dinner dances, an annual rummage sale, and weekly bingo games as well as all other parish functions. These events required taking down and putting back the folding chairs that served as church seating a logistical nightmare!

For bingo, which started when the offsite location closed, it also involved covering the statues.

Major transformations began starting in 1998 which changed all that. About six acres of surplus land were sold to a developer which gave the parish the funds needed to build a new hall as well as make some additions and upgrades. After many meetings and town hall discussions concerning the needs of the parish, decisions were made and the ground was broken on 6/27/99 for a new Parish Center.

 

 

In 2000 the building was completed, but the city wouldn’t sign off until the concrete in front was replaced by landscaping. This was done and the building was blessed by then Archbishop Levada, although the formal dedication as Father Flanagan Hall didn’t happen until 3/17/2006.

In the Church, pews replaced the chairs and new carpeting was installed on the altar and eventually down the center aisle. The confessionals moved from the chapel to the church.

 

   

 

In 2007 the church got another facelift. Devotional areas were created for Mary and Joseph on either side of the church and a new roof added new lighting and a stained glass cupola.

 

 

 

 

 

A parishioner artist drew an outline of Our Lady of Guadalupe and over the course of several weeks, individual parishioners could go and paint their “little section”. Dozens participated and the finished painting is now in the chapel.

The beautiful new front doors were installed in 2008

In 2015 the baptismal font was moved to the entrance and the church and chapel were repainted.

The original tabernacle, which had been in the chapel since the beginning, was replaced with a new tabernacle that was placed in the church itself.

      

 

THE PARISH – DONATIONS AND GIFTS:

In addition to the buildings and structures, St. Mark has added many beautiful furnishings due to the generous donations of parishioners and parish groups. Some have been as memorials, some as gracious gifts, and some as donated labor. ALL are greatly appreciated.

This list is extensive, not complete, and some are now gone, but includes:

Church: Altar chalices, Processional cross, Candelabra-large and small, Vestments, Altar bells, Book of Gospels, Ambry (niche containing the oils), Oil Vessels, Mary and Joseph devotional niches, Votive lights, Organ, Grand Piano, Christmas crèche, Carpeting, Front doors

Rectory: Rectory dining room set, Grandfather clock, 2014 remodel

Hall: Grand piano, Refrigerator, Window shades

Outside: Benches.

This past history of buildings, structures, and furnishings gave us the framework of a parish. But the true history of St. Mark is not in the buildings but in the history of its parishioners. From those early members of “God’s Garage” came traditions rich in love, dedication and service which have made, and continue to make, St. Mark the warm, welcoming, vibrant parish it is today.

 

THE PARISH – MINISTRIES:

A parish really takes life from its parishioners and St. Mark is no exception. Starting originally with a Ladies Guild and a Men’s Club, St. Mark has grown into a very active parish with many groups and ministries, combining spiritual, religious and social aspects to offer a multitude of ways to support the parish.

These include:

Lectors, Ministers, Ushers, Greeters, several Choirs, the Rosary Group, and an Altar Society whose members beautifully maintain the church;

Religious Education, Faith Formation/RCIA, and an active Youth Ministry;

The Rosary Group prays the rosary daily, the Patricians aid us in knowing our faith and the Legion of Mary brings outreach through family and sick visitations;

St. Vincent de Paul offers assistance to those in need and the SOS (Sandwiches on Sunday) group feeds the hungry monthly;

Ladies Guild and Knights of Columbus offer spiritual, social, and outreach to the parish, and the Finance and Parish Councils keep everyone on the right track.

 

THE PARISH – ACTIVITIES:

Over the years, the parish has offered many spiritual options and opportunities as well as assorted fun events and fundraisers. The various groups have and continue to sponsor and support these many different activities. Some are no longer active, but over the years the list has included:

Spiritual:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help weekly novena, Retreats, Devotions to our Blessed Mother, Lenten Soup and Scripture, Lenten Holy Thursday meal, Santo Nino de Cebu celebration, All Saints celebration, Simbang Gabi Novena, Bible Studies, Renew, Social Justice.

   

Events and Fundraisers:

Parish Fellowship, Parish Picnic, Rummage or “antique” sales, flea markets, bingo, dances – for all holidays, (including one with a midnight buffet), carnivals, parish cookbook, bake sales, holiday boutiques, fashion shows, casino trips, pancake breakfasts, youth “souper bowl”, a variety show and a cruise on the “St. Mark Flanagan”.

The parishioners of St. Mark are all extremely proud of our parish and all that has been accomplished in the past 50 years.

On September 13, 2015, the church will celebrate its jubilee with a mass in our beautiful church to be con-celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone.

A reception in our Father Flanagan Hall will follow.

We look forward to continuing the fine traditions of the parish and to creating new memories and more “history” in the coming years.

HAPPY 50th, St. Mark Parish!!

 

Saint Mark Catholic Community Mission Statement:

We the People of Saint Mark promote the living Gospel of Jesus Christ, through our actions of welcome, outreach, hospitality, and prayer. By the grace of God, we strive to live the universal “Call to Holiness”.

 

From: “A Remembrance of the Opening – September 12, 1965”

 

O, God, from whom everything good takes its origin and
receives its steady and full growth, grant, we implore you,
that what we are starting to build for the glory of your name may,
by the ever-present aid of your fatherly wisdom, be brought to completion.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

ST. MARK PRAY FOR US