By Peter Bradley
The East Highland Orange Company had many acres of rich orange groves in the east end of the San Bernardino Valley at the base of the hills during the early 1900’s. The laborers in these groves were both Hispanic and Catholic. The same community hall (El Salon) on Greenspot Road gathered people for dancing on Saturday night and then church services on Sunday morning.
Priests came each Sunday from San Bernardino and Redlands to celebrate Mass.
There are many descendants today living in the San Bernardino area from those early families: Ybarra, Perez, Ramos, Padilla, Delgado, Medina, Resendez, Terrones, and Ballesteros. A decision was made to build a Catholic church for this small community to call its own in the late 1930’s.
Through the generosity of the East Highland Orange Company, a donation of land was made for the church on Merris Street. The church was built using the stones from the nearby Santa Ana River bed. The builders of the church came from the local community; they included Tomas Ybarra, Francisco and Ramon Perez, Donicio Ramos, Jesus and Antonio Padilla, Vicente Delgado and Reyes Terrones.
The new church bell was donated by the Santa Fe Railroad Company. The church pews came from Sacred Heart Parish in Redlands (now closed) and St. Joseph Parish, Bryn Mawr (today located in Loma Linda). The Sacred Heart and Virgin Mary statues were a gift from Sacred Heart Parish, Redlands. The sand used in the cement came from Norton Air Force Base.
The confessionals were a donation from the Del Rosa Council of the Knights of Columbus. The first church linens were made by Consuelo Ballesteros and Dombitila Rodriguez and were maintained by Carmen Lopez, Celia Perez, Blanch Coronado and Lila Duarte.
Today, people know St. John Bosco as a mission connected to St. Adelaide Parish in Highland. However, St. John Bosco was a parish for over 20 years. Here is a list of pastors assigned to St. John Bosco Parish: Rev. Carmen Porro, CR (1948-1951); Rev. Tullio Andreatta (1952-1953); Rev. John Reinke, SJ (1953-1954); Rev. Pietro Bianchi, CHSP (1955-1959); Rev. Peter Nolan, SJ (1960-1961); Rev. William Mooney (1961-1962); Rev. Patrick Meagher (1963-1964); Rev. Anthony Lozinksi (1964-1965); Rev. Michael O’Duigan (1965-1969) and Rev. John Gorman (1970-1971).
After 1971, St. John Bosco returned to mission status, initially connected to St. Mary Parish in Redlands (now closed), then later to St. Adelaide Parish in Highland. In 1993, the City of Highland would designate the church as an official historic site.
St. John Bosco celebrated its 75th Anniversary at a festival on August 27 as the oldest active mission in San Bernardino County.
Peter Bradley is Archivist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.