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Saint Joseph of Cupertino
Parish History

The parish of Saint Joseph of Cupertino had its origin in a small wooden chapel at the Villa Maria retreat located in Stevens Creek Canyon. Villa Maria was the country home of the Jesuit fathers of Santa Clara University, who purchased the 320-acre tract in 1871. Shortly thereafter, Brother Tom Cunningham cleared the land for orchards and vineyards and built a simple frame chapel of redwood, 18 feet by 25 feet, in the mission style, with buttresses and towers.

This was the first home of organized Christian worship in the Cupertino district. A vineyard was planted for altar wines to be used at mass and a winery was erected in 1875.

Father Anthony Cichi, SJ, the first pastor, officiated for 22 years and was succeeded by Father Jerome Sextus Ricard, SJ, later a famous weather scientist, who used Sun Spot theory as part of his long range weather forecasts. Father Jerome celebrated mass there for eight years. He was followed by Father Henry Gabriel, who assumed charge in 1902.

By 1907, the larger portion of the attendance was coming not from Montebello, as formerly, but from the west side of the valley where the population was increasing, so Father Gabriel asked permission to build a church in the center of Cupertino and to close the chapel. A Cupertino citizen, Alexander Montgomery, donated an acre of land on the road then known as Saratoga-Mountain View Road for the church. The groundbreaking for this first church was held on October 11, 1907. The building, which seated 180, served the parish for nearly 46 years.

Father W. McMillan served as pastor from 1908 to 1911, then Father Gavriel returned for the last two years that the mission was operated by the Jesuits. In 1913, Archbishop Patrick Riordan transferred control of Saint Joseph’s church from the Jesuits to diocesan clergy.

Father Thomas O’Connell was appointed as the first pastor of the parish under the Archdiocese of San Francisco and was also the first resident priest of Saint Joseph’s Church. His successor, Father William J. Lande, was appointed by Archbishop Riordan in August, 1915, and served as pastor of both SJC in Cupertino and Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga. He was followed in Succession by Fathers Michael Crotty, P.J. Bresnan, James Doyle, Patrick Galvin, and Monsignor Philip Ryan, who was appointed pastor in 1951.

It was apparent at this time that the church building was becoming inadequate to accommodate the rapidly growing congregation. Additional adjoining acreage was purchased and plans made for a larger church. With the object of raising $160,000 for the purpose, an intensive fundraising drive was conducted on Sunday, July 27, 1952, by about 200 people of the parish. They succeeded in obtaining the major portion of the required amount.

The cornerstone of the new structure was laid on Sunday, April 12, 1953 and the splendid new church building completed in July of that year. The cost of the church and parish hall was $140,000, plus an additional $50,000 for the interior fixtures. The first mass was celebrated in the new church on August 2, 1953. After the new church was completed the chapel was torn down and the lumber recycled into the Bell hardware store on Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road (Today's De Anza Blvd).

In the years since, the parish has seen a succession of pastors: Father Chester Thompson. Father John Tierney, Father Joseph Milani, Father Leo Rooney, Monsignor Joseph Milani (acting), Father Bob Hayes, and our current pastor, Father Gregory Kimm. Parish boundaries have been changed several times to accommodate new parishes. St. Joseph of Cupertino School was built and enlarged, a new rectory completed, and a convent added and later converted to a home for retired priests, which it remains today. In addition, periodic improvements have been made to the church and its adjacent buildings.

In January 2002 a large stained glass window was added to the front of the church, completing the original design and at the same time bringing seismic safety to the structure. In 2004 our new Parish Community Center located next to the church building opened for use in Adult Religious Education and other events. As always St. Joseph of Cupertino remains a vibrant, active place of worship.