Parish History

Our Parish – Now and Then 

Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourself with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievance one has against another; Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.
From the Letter of Saint Paul to the Christian Church in Colossae

Total Parish Area Demographic

— 27,565 people, 10,875 households, and 7,645 families
— Racial characterization: 94.51% White, 0.38% African American, 0.7% Native American, 2.35% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 1.54% from other races, 3.16% from two or more races; and 5.55% are Hispanic or Latino
— 31.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.2% are married couples living together, and 12.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average family size is 2.89, with 7.1% of the population below the poverty line.

The Pastoral context

The Parish of SS. Joseph & Teresa of Avila is a unique ecclesial community. This uniqueness is firstly manifest in the configuration of two churches and a mission, which itself was the site of original parish church. While many parishes have multiple sites for which the local community is responsible, it is a singularly rare pastoral experience when the size of each site involves the complexities and obligations that are normally attendant to an independent parish structure.

Much of the emotions and pride in the Auburn community related to the Catholic churches, most especially St. Joseph Church in downtown Auburn, are grounded in the rich history of the region. This history is part and parcel of the very history of the state itself, from the European settlements of the Spanish, and later Mexican, influences, to the American incursions from the east in the pre-Civil War migrations.

The parish history is almost synonymous with the history of the beginnings of the Catholic dioceses in the State of California. Bishop Joseph Alemany was consecrated the first bishop of California (Diocese of Monterey) in June of 1850. In July of 1853, the Monterey Diocese was split into the Archdiocese of San Francisco (northern California) and the Diocese of Monterey (southern California). In June of 1858, a church mission was dedicated under the patronage of St. Joseph in Foresthill, and elevated to parish status on July 14, 1861.

St Teresa circa 1890In September of 1859, with a Catholic parish founded in Folsom, a mission was established in Auburn, and dedicated under the patronage of St. Teresa of Avila. Thus, Auburn’s first church was dedicated on October 15, 1859; it was elevated to parish status in July of 1886. It would be formally closed in 1911, when the parish of St. Joseph’s was created.

With the creation of a third diocese in California, the Vicariate Apostolic of Grass Valley (a church division used for missionary dioceses), with its cathedral in Marysville, the church in Auburn and the church in Foresthill found themselves under different bishops! (The vicariate would become the Diocese of Grass Valley, with the cathedral moved to Grass Valley, in 1868; and subsequently became the Diocese of Sacramento in 1886, with the see city the capital of California.) Foresthill, the principle Catholic Church in Placer County, had its own church, on a two-acre parcel, a separate parish school (begun in 1861), and a cemetery east of town (opened in 1858) on three acres of land. The parochial setting in Foresthill would remain unchanged until 1903 when its parish status was formally suppressed, due to declining population and the inability of the community to support a resident priest. Furthermore, another significant event affecting the Catholic region was the loss of this church by fire in February of 1952, whereupon the Foresthill Catholic community began to worship in a rented chapel maintained by the American Legion.

St. Joseph Church – Auburn
(December 17, 1911)

Present Day St Joseph CHurchWith the transfer of the parish to Auburn from Foresthill, and the related ministries, the newly-erected parish took the name of St. Joseph. The mission of St. Teresa of Avila ceased to function. With a presence in downtown Auburn, immediately across the street from city hall, down the street from the courthouse, and central to all business, St. Joseph Church (built and dedicated in 1911) was and remains a well-placed and powerful witness of Catholicism to the civic life and community of Auburn. The church is on Lincoln Way, the main thoroughfare of historic Auburn. Built on the brow of a hill, it is a church building in the classic cruciform architecture, adorned with stain glass and statuary (now on marble side-altar alcoves), remaining as endearing St Joseph interiorfeatures of the church (pictured here as it was in 1948). Located on six acres of land, the parish also eventually built on this site a cement block school of four classrooms in 1947, which was established in cooperation with the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters had come to the Sacramento metro area in 1854 and eventually founded a provincialate motherhouse in Auburn in 1857, and the current retreat center in 1940. As well, a two-story rectory was erected on the property (in 1924, remodeled in 1982 and extensively in 1985), and remains the residence for the priests to this day.

Even before attention was given to the remodeling needs of the rectory, and the conversion of the erstwhile school building to become the parish offices, St. Joseph itself experienced significant remodeling over the years. This work was done to address critical maintenance needs. (Picture to the left is how the church currently looks.) For example, beginning in the 1950's, the following work has been done: the rear stain glass windows on the side of the sanctuary were cemented in, which had the sad result of darkening the sanctuary environment; wood paneling was employed to obscure the earthquake retrofitting deemed necessary at that time, and facilitate the use of central heating and air conditioning, which hide the original pillars; the three chandeliers were removed, and florescent sconce lighting was introduced on parallel lines to the nave of the church, along with florescent down-lighting lamps instead of incandescent ones; the rectangular interior roof line was replaced by a curved plywood half-cylinder, for which dormers were created for the upper stained glass windows; the original marble altar and altar railings were used to create the ambo and current standing altar; and the tabernacle has been moved more than twice, from the center point to a position on one side (or the other) in the sanctuary. The church seats 250 people.

St. Teresa of Avila Church – Auburn
(July 1886, suppressed 1911; November 20, 1994)

Parish HallIn 1975, in the northern part of Auburn (in Placer County), six miles from the downtown church, fourteen acres were purchased perpendicular to Atwood Drive. The land was gradable, despite the presence of a creek which bisects the property, leaving approximately six acres orphaned on the south side of the property, and which remain undeveloped to this day. The rationale for this purchase was to afford the parish the benefit of developing the community through the building and use of a parish hall, due to the fact the St. Joseph property in downtown Auburn provided for no real room for growth and development despite the two acres which had been used for the school field. (The parking downtown was, and it remains, very limited.) In April of 1976, the parish hall was dedicated, and Mass was celebrated twice a Sunday in the Parish Hall (from 1976 through 1994) due to the increasing need for space in facilitating the worship and social needs of the parish. This may be appreciated when one takes note of the fact the parish has experienced significant growth over the years: under 300 families in 1968, to 400 in 1972, to over 1,500 in 1980, and 2,000 in 2000.

St Joseph SchoolIn October of 1981, a new school building was built and dedicated on this land, near the center of the property, which consummated a twenty-year vision of the Sisters of Mercy and priests who had served Auburn: either a grammar school with classes for each grade, K through 8th grade; or the erection of a secondary school. (The need to facilitate the latter vision was accomplished over twenty years ago by the use of a school bus, dedicated solely for the purpose of providing transportation of Placer County students to one of the Catholic high schools in the Sacramento metro area.) With the new buildings, St. Joseph Parish School now had a future in serving the Catholic education needs for an entire grammar school curriculum. (The school was augmented to include a pre-school program when a center was dedicated for this purpose in August of 1994.)

St Teresa of Avila ChurchBeginning in the late 1980's, consummated with its dedication, a new church was identified as a critical need and eventually built. On November 20, 1994, the church, which seats 800, was dedicated. Utilizing the available topography, recognizing that most of the useable acreage was to the south, and away from the road, the church itself was built closest to the northern edge of the property. The architecture is rectangular, with a suffuse of natural light, which is facilitated by taking advantage of its east-west centerline. A Eucharistic chapel was designed into the building, and had provided a worship space of approximately 150 people. The main body of the church is entered through one of four doors at the corners of the church, two of which form twenty-foot square narthexes at the east corners of the church. The narthexes both front the wide plaza, St. Teresa interiorwhich is directly east of the chancel part of the church (which occupies the west part of the church). There are also six doors which open directly onto the plaza, at the eastern end of the church. They are now routinely opened after every Mass, to accent our responsibility as the People of God to go forth and make holy the world with Whom we have received... Holy water is dispensed from a baptismal rock, itself quarried locally in Meadow Vista, which was subsequently cut and sized just for our church. It serves to draw God’s People to the center line of the nave, thereby facilitated a majority experience of everyone blessing themselves from the same place before taking their place in the assembly.

The designed worship space in 1994 had a balanced equity between the two “altars” — the altar of sacrifice and the altar of God’s Word (the ambo). Each occupied its own respective quadrant in the sanctuary, with the presiding chair on the center line. Eventually, the tabernacle was moved from the Chapel of Adoration and Reservation unto a wooden tabletop, a former credence table, in the center of the sanctuary space. The altar (composed of wood and quite moveable) was relocated to the center, and the ambo (also composed of identical wood and moveable) was moved to the opposite side where it had been, and back from the altar.

Parish Names

A word needs to be made regarding the name of the parish. With the suppression of St. Teresa of Avila, and with the naming of the newly-built church in Auburn after the patron saint in Foresthill, for much of the last century, the parish has long been identified as “St. Joseph Church.” The parish school was relatedly identified as “St. Joseph Parish School,” which bespoke the identity desired between the parish and the Catholic school, even when the school relocated to a distance far from the parish center. During much of this same period, the Foresthill community was structurally related to the parish, despite the loss of their church by fire in 1952, though they maintained their own identify by continuing their worship together.

With the construction of St. Teresa of Avila Church, the parish went through a series of names, inter alia: St. Joseph/St. Teresa of Avila Church, St. Joseph & St. Teresa of Avila Parish, St. Joseph/St. Teresa of Avila Parish, Catholic Community of Auburn, and lastly (and currently), SS. Joseph & Teresa of Avila Parish. Canonically, the parish constitutes three sites: the “parish church” under the patronage of St. Joseph, a “station” under the patronage of St. Teresa of Avila, and a mission. In April of 2004, the diocese was petitioned to change the formal name of the parish to “Saints Joseph & Teresa of Avila Parish.” The rationale for such a petition is based on the long history of both patrons related to the Catholic presence in the Auburn area, and our reverence for a history of two functioning parish churches, and our mission.

Summary of the Parish Life –
“... manifestation of the Body of Christ in the local community”

The Catholic community of this parish worships in one of three locations: St. Joseph Church in downtown Auburn; St. Teresa of Avila Church in north Auburn, 6 miles away; and St. Joseph of Foresthill, 22 miles from downtown Auburn. Each worshiping community has its own unique history, which serves to facilitate (more accurately, gives birth to) the development of a unique charism, predominate spirituality, and foundational ecclesiology.

Total families currently registered in our parish: 2,489

Mass Schedules Historically

Throughout the history of the parish, all in an effort to meet the worship needs of this community, many different schedules have been used. The very number of Mass schedule changes itself serves to enhance the importance of the place of worship, as opposed to the time for the Mass commitment. This inconstancy is highlighted with the necessary absence of the parish priests from each parish, even when one is not presiding, precisely due to the different parish church sites. Note these schedule highlights:

At the beginning of 1990, the schedule was as follows:

St. Joseph Church: 5:30pm (Sat.), 7:30am, 12pm
Parish Hall: 8:30am, 10:30am
Foresthill: 4pm (Sat.)

At the beginning of 1994, the schedule was as follows:

St. Joseph Church: 5pm (Sat.), 7:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am
Parish Hall: 8:30am, 10:30am
Foresthill: 4pm (Sat.)

With the dedication and opening of St. Teresa of Avila, on the First Sunday of Advent in 1994, the schedule was:

St. Joseph Church: 6pm (Sat.), 9:30am
St. Teresa Church: 5pm (Sat.), 8am, 10:30am, 5:30pm
Foresthill: 4pm (Sat.)

In the summer of 1997, the Mass schedule was:

St. Joseph Church: 5:30pm (Sat.), 7:30am, 10:30am, 5pm (Spanish)
St. Teresa Church: 5pm (Sat.), 8:30am, 11am, 5pm
Foresthill: 3pm (Sat.)

This schedule will be modified on at least three formats, including a summer and winter model. By 2002, the schedule was:

St. Joseph Church: 5:30pm (Sat.), 7:30am, 10:30am, 5pm (Spanish)
St. Teresa Church: 5pm (Sat.), 8:30am, 11am
Foresthill: 3pm (Sat.)

This schedule was modified in November of 2003, to this:

St. Joseph Church: 7:30am, 10:30am, 5pm (Spanish)
St. Teresa Church: 5:30pm (Sat.), 8:30am, 11am
Foresthill: 3pm (Sat.)

And now, we have our current schedule:

St. Joseph Church: 7:30am, 10:30am, 12pm (Spanish)
St. Teresa Church: 5:30pm (Sat.), 8:30am, 11am
Foresthill: 4:30pm (Sat.)