Welcome to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, served by the Augustinian Fathers. We are located at 185 St. Thomas Dr. Ojai, CA 93023.
History of our Parish
Just thirty years after Wheeler Bloomberg marked the opening of his famous two-story hotel and birthed of what is now downtown Ojai, this newest settlement in Ventura County was judged to have a sufficient population of Catholics to warrant mission status. Father Henry O'Reilly of Mission San Buenaventura was first to travel to Ojai to celebrate mass. The following year, 1904, Father Gerald Gay of St. Sebastian's Parish in Santa Paula inherited the responsibility for the Catholic faithful of the Ojai Valley. It was Fr. Gay's successor Father Thomas King, who built the first Catholic church in the valley on land donated by Thomas Clark.
This wooden structure, located on the corner of Blanche Street and Ojai Avenue in was then Nordhoff, served 15 families as well as a number of seasonal migrant workers. Fathers Henry O'Reilly, Eugene Sugranes, and John O'brien continued as part-time pastors until the appointment of Father Emil Ylla as the first full-time pastor in 1914.
The great fire of 1917 burned down the wooden church and adjacent rectory as well as a good portion of the village of Nordhoff. For a year and a half the parish celebrated Mass at the Isis Theater located across the street from the church property. Edward Drummond Libbey, the Toledo financier of Libbey Glass fame, approached Father Ylla ad offered his help in rebuilding the church. Libbey hired architects Frank Mead and Richard Requa to design a church a rectory in the Mission Revival style. It was the parishioners themselves who raised the money for the building, although Libbey later financed the landscaping as well as the wall surrounding the structure. The church was completed in 1918 and was dedicated on February 23, 1919 by the Most Reverend John J. Cantwell, Bishop of Los Angeles. It was this time the St. Thomas Aquinas Chuch was designated as an independent parish.
The Reverend Fathers Killian, Verhallen, and Moclair succeeded in Father Ylla, shepherding the flock until 1924 when the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas was canonically entrusted to the Augustinian order as part of their agreement with the Diocese of Los Angeles and San Diego to found a Catholic boarding school for boys. Villanova Preparatory School, which admitted students this same year, became the center of parish activities. Until 1944, the pastor of the church served as headmaster of the school as well.
In 1951, under the leadership of Father Phillip Holland, O.S.A., the rectory/parish hall was built; St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School was constructed in 1955; the convent to the house the Sisters of Bethany was added in 1958. The center of church activities thus shifted from Villanova to downtown Ojai.
By the 1950's, the Catholic population in the Valley (700 families) had outgrown the little church. In 1958, therefore, Father Holland purchased ten acres of land in nearby Meiners Oaks on which to build a larger church. His successor, John F. Blethen, O.S.A. assumed responsibility for the building program. Ground was broken in 1962 and the new church, with a seating capacity of 700, was dedicated on August 25, 1963.
The little church that had served the Catholic community of Ojai so well for half a century was known as St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel and remained so for thirty years until it was sold to the City of Ojai in October 1992. The final mass was celebrated in December the same year. Today the old chapel now houses the Ojai Valley Museum, Ojai Valley Historical Society, and the Ojai Valley Museum Research Library.
Today our congregation has grown to more than 960 families under the leadership of our Pastor, Rev. Thomas Verber, O.S.A. and Associate Pastor, Rev. Fernando Lopez-Castillo, O.S.A.
After celebrating Mass in my chapel today, I thought I’d share with you some reflections on this 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the miracle of the sun in Fatima. It is also the last opportunity to receive the special indulgence of offering a special Marian prayer in front of an image of Our Lady of Fatima. Come pay a visit to our Lord and Lady today!
ncregister.com Let us heed Our Lady’s message, let us grant her requests, in order to hasten the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
kofc.org Honoring Our Namesake
If you're a young adult in your 20s or early 30s, let Pope Francis know what you think. The Vatican online survey is a great way to share your thoughts, realities, and concerns with the Church. Check it out:
There’s a reason why in the her most recent apparitions, the Blessed Mother has asked us to pray the rosary everyday. It’s because it’s a very powerful prayer that will help us get close to her and our Lord Jesus! In this month of the Rosary, if you’re not already in the habit of doing so, pray the rosary daily or even weekly this month. You’ll be glad you did!
The Blessed Mother is back on the Memorial to the Unborn! A very big and heartfelt thank you to Cel and Larry Hickok for donating this beautiful statue and donating the funds to have it installed which one can see took some redesigning of the existing memorial. May our Lord reward you and yours with His tremendous blessings for your generosity!
In times like these when we see such a grave evil being done we often feel powerless against it. We often feel like our prayers are not enough, that we need to do more.
Our prayers are strong and we need to continue to storm heaven with them, asking God that His love may be a source of comfort, strength, and healing for those who were injured and for the families of those who were killed, and for the blessed repose of the souls of the innocent who lost their lives.
Let’s also take this opportunity to conquer this terrible evil with love. Let us love one another more generously and more deliberately today and everyday, to stand up to evil and to not let it consume us.
Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas, Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy. He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.
St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel is a former Catholic chapel located in Ojai, in Ventura County of southern California. It now houses the city's museum, research library, and historical s...
page for Religious Education of St. Thomas Aquinas Church