Founded just nine years after the incorporation of the City of Beverly Hills, the Church of the Good Shepherd has a long and rich history and holds a prominent place in our city’s ties to the entertainment industry.
The following history of the parish is taken from our 75th Anniversary booklet, published in 1998.
From its humble beginning in a cozy neighborhood apartment to its current status as a venerable community landmark, the Church of the Good Shepherd has been a fixture in Beverly Hills for more than 70 years [Note: Today in 2010 it is now nearly 90 years].
Above: View of Beverly Hills in 1918, from the USC Digital Library.
The parish was founded December 12, 1923 in a small nine—year-old suburban community that would, before long, be synonymous world-wide with the rich and famous. In 1923 though, the Church of the Good Shepherd was merely one of 18 parishes founded that year in the newly established Diocese of Los Angeles San Diego; the busiest such year in diocesan history
Bishop John J. Cantwell designated the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Bedford Drive as the site of the new church, and assigned Father Michael J. Mullins as pastor. With an eye toward the burgeoning film industry Bishop Cantwell asked Father Mullins to establish the Catholic Motion Picture Guild. The Guild and Good Shepherd Parish itself were soon populated by such film notables as Jackie Coogan, Neil Hamilton and Ben Turpin and in later years would include the likes of Ray Bolger, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas, Loretta Young, Gene Kelly, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne, Ricardo Montalbano, Bob Newhart, Jack Haley and MacDonald Carey.
The first Mass of the new parish was celebrated in the Windmere Apartments just south of the current church site. The growing community soon moved its Sunday Mass celebrations to a small rectory on Camden Drive and then to the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Meanwhile, throughout 1924, the mission-style parish church and rectory — designed by J.J. Donnellan — were constructed, and on Feb. 1, 1925, Bishop Cantwell presided at the dedication ceremonies of the new frame-and-stucco building. The church was subsequently renovated in 1959, with the addition of a new marble main altar and two side altars. Sealed in each altar were the relics of Ss. Felicitas and Perpetua, and St. Vibiana, patroness of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
On Sept. 8, 1930 the brand new Good Shepherd Parish School at Linden Drive and Charleville Boulevard opened. The next year, a residence at 504 N. Roxbury Drive was acquired and converted into a convent for the sisters, and in 1947 the church received a long-awaited church hall. (The Holy Cross Sisters served the parish and school until 1975, when they were succeeded by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.)
When Father Mullins was re-assigned in November of 1938, Father (later monsignor) Patrick J. Concannon assumed the pastorate of the Church of the Good Shepherd, and ministered faithfully and enthusiastically for nearly 20 years, as the parish grew to more than 1,500 families. His service ended April 29, 1958 when, at the conclusion of Mass, he fell dead of a heart attack at the foot of the altar.
In his place came Msgr. Daniel F. Sullivan, who — as a member of the Archdiocesan Building Commission— oversaw the 1959-1960 church renovation. Msgr. Sullivan served as pastor until his retirement in December 1982, the longest tenure of any pastor in parish history. Among the most memorable highlights of that time, he once noted, were the occasions that President John F. Kennedy attended Mass.
“Beforehand, members of the Secret Service would survey the church,” he told an interviewer, “and designate the pew in which the president would sit. A special phone was installed in a room off the vestibule for any emergency calls from Washington D.C.”
Msgr. Sullivan was named pastor emeritus after his retirement. He was succeeded as pastor by Msgr. Peter C. Healy, who had been the first director of the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese. Msgr. Healy was in turn succeeded as pastor by Father Colm O’Ryan in Sept. 1991.