By Peter Bradley
In the February issue of the Inland Catholic Byte, we studied three closed parishes from San Bernardino County. Here, we will study three closed parishes from Riverside County.
Sacred Heart Parish, Beaumont
With the influx of Hispanics into southern California following the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), the Diocese of Los Angeles–San Diego responded by opening many new parishes. One of these parishes was Sacred Heart Parish in Beaumont. It opened in 1930 and was named Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, serving the Hispanic community in Beaumont and Banning. Many of the parishioners worked on the nearby railroad.
The church was located at Olive and “B” Street in Beaumont, south of Highway 60 and west of Beaumont Avenue. For over 25 years it was a mission of San Gorgonio Parish in Beaumont and Precious Blood Parish in Banning. A second church was built in 1956 and it was renamed Sacred Heart Parish. Rev. Felix Callymore was the first pastor (1956-1962) and lived at San Gorgonio Parish because there was no rectory at Sacred Heart Parish.
Rev. Andre Begeron would serve two pastorates at Sacred Heart; several months during 1962 and then from 1963-1964. The pastoral life of the parish was minimal and the Sunday collection totaled $8. Fr. Begeron had to seek outside monies to support himself and the parish. He lived at nearby Boy’s Town of the Desert (youth institution) due to the absence of a rectory at Sacred Heart.
An additional factor was the completion of a new church at San Gorgonio in 1958. The new church attracted people from Sacred Heart Parish. Finally, the consultors for the Diocese of San Diego decided to close Sacred Heart Parish on March 5, 1964. The church was eventually sold to a local Catholic family for $4,000.
St. Augustine, Eagle Mountain
The church is called to evangelize and serve where people gather, this includes a small company town. One such community was Eagle Mountain that was begun in 1948 by the noted industrialist Henry J. Kaiser to support the nearby iron mine. Iron shipments were sent from Eagle Mountain to operate the steel mill in Fontana.
Located halfway between Coachella and Blythe, the desert town was 12 miles north of Interstate 10 at Desert Center. At its peak, the town had over 4,000 people, all of whom were connected to the mining operation in some way. The mining company provided numerous amenities that included a shopping center, auditorium, swimming pool and a sports park.
Church services began in 1952 with visiting priests from Coachella Valley. The Diocese of San Diego opened a parish at Eagle Mountain in 1965, with Rev. James McNaughton as the first pastor. There were nine baptisms the first year.
Ten pastors served the parish from 1965–2001. The high point of sacramental activity was 1981 when there was 30 baptisms. The pastor that year was Rev. Gerald DeLuney, who is the current pastor at Corpus Christi Parish in Corona.
By 1980, increased environmental concerns led to a reduction in iron output. The next year, Kaiser announced the phasing out of the Eagle Mountain Mine Operation over the next several years. In 1983, the post office closed and the last class graduated from Eagle Mountain High School.
The parish location in Eagle Mountain closed in 1982 and was relocated to Desert Center by the Interstate. Bishop Phillip Straling made a parish visitation at St. Augustine, Lake Tamarisk on December 4, 1983. The last resident pastor in Lake Tamarisk was Rev. Ed Franklin (1990-1996). St. Augustine officially closed in 2001.
St. Ignatius Parish, Riverside
During World War II, the assignment of African American troops at March Air Force Base challenged the Catholic Church to minister to them. Many of these troops lived on the east side of Riverside. Bishop Charles Buddy from the Diocese of San Diego asked Rev. David McAstocker, SJ, to start a new parish in 1944. The parish named St. Ignatius was located just a few blocks from Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Riverside.
The new church, rectory and hall were built under one roof. It was dedicated by Bishop Buddy in the fall of 1947. Bishop Buddy was very appreciative of the good work done at St. Ignatius Parish. He wrote the Jesuit provincial in Oregon: “Permit me to assure you of the deep consolation which our beloved Father David McAstocker has recently afforded us in the completion of Saint Ignatius Church... in Riverside, California.”
St. Ignatius was never an exclusive church for one racial group. Since the Eastside community was a mixed ethnic community, the membership of both churches reflected that composition. Fr. McAstocker, who had recurring illnesses, overextended himself at St. Ignatius and left as pastor in 1948.
Eleven pastors served the parish from 1944–1963. With the retirement of the B–47 aircraft from March Air Force Base in 1963, the subsequent reduction in the base population affected St. Ignatius Parish. The parish became a mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine from 1964 – 1972, when it finally closed.
For more information on the closed parishes and missions in our Diocese, please contact the Archives Office at 909-475-5399.
Peter Bradley is the Archivist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.