History of San Agustin
The Church of San Agustin, nestled in the hills above Santa Cruz, is named after the original Mexican Land Grant, “San Agustin Ranchero,” which comprises all of the Scotts Valley area. The parish was established in 1969, five years after the small community of Scotts Valley incorporated into a city. In 1970 the first Mass was celebrated in a field next to where the rectory is today, and then moved into the old converted barn/garage on the property until the multipurpose building was completed.
For the next seventeen years, the parish was shepherded by three different Irish priests; Father Michael McDonald for a little over one year, Father Joe Leonard for eight years and Father Martin McDonald also for eight years. Under their guidance, the small community began to grow and changes were made to the building to enhance the worship space, provide for religious education classrooms and parish social events. The original 30+ families grew to over 150+ during these years. Early on the meeting room was used for many years by the city as the first Scotts Valley City Council and Planning Commission chambers. Father Joe used to threaten the members with trips to the Confessional if they didn’t get along. Father Joe also called the women of the parish to organize an Altar Society to help keep God’s house in order. The group was formed and they also dedicated themselves to the Blessed Mother by erecting the Mary’s Grotto and a Rose Garden in her honor behind the rectory. Both are blooming today.
The next eight years brought even more changes with Father Mike Adams as pastor. The Pope visited the Monterey Diocese in 1987 and many parishioners took part in the Liturgies during this historic event. A St. Vincent de Paul Conference was established to help those less fortunate in our immediate area. Skylights were installed in the sanctuary along with a 150 year old pipe organ. Outside, the parishioners created a playground below the rectory and dedicated it to Father Joe Leonard. When the Loma Prieta earthquake shook our area on October 17, 1989, people came to the church to seek refuge. Many spent several nights feeling safe in God’s house. Miraculously, the building only had minor cracks in the floors. The rectory wasn’t so lucky. The warm community spirit continued as more families came to worship.
In 1994 Father Matt Pennington came to shepherd the flock in Scotts Valley. For the next twelve years, under his guidance, the parish community grew by leaps and bounds to over 600 families. Father Matt continued to bring the Spirit of God to live among us. His knowledge and love of Liturgies is still reflected today, as at least one third of the parishioners actively participate in them as well as in the many other programs and activities. The building and grounds were upgraded, a parish office built and the Sanctuary changed again temporarily to make everyone feel a part of the Liturgy.
In 2005 under Father Matt’s direction, the parishioners rallied with their input to create the “Lift up our House to the Lord” campaign and raised one-and-a half million dollars to update the church to be an environmentally beautiful welcoming place for all who seek God. The plans were drawn, construction started, and the roof raised by installing a dormer roof. During the construction, the parish rented the Scotts Valley Community Center from the city and worshiped the weekend services there. The project was completed in October 2005. Soon after, Father Matt had to say his Good Byes.
So in 2006 the Irish priests came back to attend the flock. Father Derek Hughes was appointed Administrator and guided the parish for a year whereupon Father Jerry Maher was appointed pastor. The famous Saint Patrick Dinner Dance was resurrected in full Irish style. Even with the bad economy, the community pulled together as a family ready to help anyone in need. Father Jerry’s Irish wit and loving and compassionate personality helped us to sustain our community and spirit of faith.
In 2010, the Catholic Community of San Agustin celebrated its 40th Anniversary! Father Jerry Maher left to follow a new calling, so we welcomed, Father Seamus O’Brien as our 6th Irish priest. Under his direction, our annual San Agustin Golf Tournament was born. His fatherly guidance also helped us to make progress in continuing to pay off our building debt and balance our budget.
After three years, Fr. Seamus was moved south and our community received and welcomed our current pastor, Fr. John Griffin. Fr. John came to us from Carmel Mission where he served as pastor for twelve years. Fr. John brings a background and of love of music and architecture. He has inspired and encouraged the reconfiguration of our worship space during the various Liturgical seasons to enhance the sense of community during the Mass. Today our parish is comprised of about 550 registered individuals and families. Although considered a small parish, San Agustin is flourishing with new ministries, community outreach, parish activities and faith sharing. We look forward to celebrating 50 years in 2020 and welcome all who come here to serve and worship the God who lives among us.