strive to be a community of Faith, Hope, and Love. By recognizing our baptismal call we are
committed to follow in Faith the teaching of Jesus Christ, by uniting our community through
Evangelization, Education, Service, and Worship.
In November 1950, Father Louis Buechner was appointed pastor of the newly established parish of St. John of God, Norwalk. Father Buechner led the church through its amazing growth until his retirement in 1972. he made his home at the Rectory of Holy Family Parish in Artesia. Fr. Buechner began offering Sunday Masses at the Norwalk Theater on Firestone boulevard near San Antonio Drive. The first masses ever celebrated in Norwalk took place on December 17, 1950, with nearly 1,000 people attending.
In 1951, the parish constructed an auditorium to serve as a temporary church with a smaller structure serving as a social hall. Although not yet finished mass was celebrated in the auditorium on Christmas Day. The temporary church was dedicated on March 9, 1952. 1953 was a year of expansion for St. John of God. The parish rectory was completed in March and a week later there was a groundbreaking for the school. That September the school opened with 460 students in the first, second, and third grades. The school was staffed by The Sisters of The Holy Faith who arrived from Ireland on October of the same year.
Enrollment increased considerably over the years, necessitating a second school structure. Over the years religious training at St John of God was extended to include Catholic children who attended public school. The religious education department includes children from Pre-K to High School as well as an adult education program.
As the St. John of God parish continued to flourish, it became apparent that the temporary church could no longer accommodate the crowds. In 1967, plans were made for a new church to seat 1,200 people and for additions and alterations to the Rectory. The new church was completed in 1968 and dedicated in 1970. The dramatic increase in Norwalk’s Hispanic population led to the celebration of mass in Spanish in 1970. Father Thomas Doyle served as pastor from 1974 until 1984.
In 1984, Father Bernard Leheny became pastor. Fr. Leheney brought a new energy to the parish. Programs that minister to youth, adults and seniors, were vastly expanded as were ministries involving the laity. Fr. Leheny understood the importance of developing respect and understanding amongst the different ethnic groups that compromise the parish.
Recognizing the tremendous involvement of parishioners in all facets of parish life, Fr. Leheny envisioned a parish center so various groups could meet in a comfortable setting. The center was completed and dedicated in October 1996. The new parish center has many meeting rooms and offices and has become a hub for parish activity.
Fr. Edward Dober, followed as pastor after Fr. Leheny until 2016 when he retired. In 2016 Fr. Raymond Decipeda, MMHC became pastor. He and the Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross have pastored the parish since then and continue to take on projects to help parishioners continue to build their faith.
John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers. Having given up active Christian belief while a soldier, John was 40 before the depth of his sinfulness began to dawn on him. He decided to give the rest of his life to God's service, and headed at once for Africa, where he hoped to free captive Christians, and possibly, be martyred.
He was soon advised that his desire for martyrdom was not spiritually well-based, and returned to Spain and the relatively prosaic activity of a religious goods store. Yet he was still not settled. Moved initially by a sermon of Blessed John of Avila, he one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life. Committed to a mental hospital for these actions, John was visited by Blessed John who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart, and shortly after left the hospital to begin working among the poor.
He established a house where he wisely tended to the needs if the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. But, excited by the saint’s great work and inspired by his devotion, many people began to back him up with money and provisions. Among them were the Archbishop and marquis of Tarifa. Behind John’s outward acts of total concern and love for Christ’s sick-poor, was a deep interior prayer life which was reflected in his spirit of humility. These qualities attracted helpers who, 20 years after John’s death, formed the Brothers Hospitaller, now a worldwide religious order.
John became ill after 10 years of service but tried to disguise his ill health. He began to put the hospital’s administrative work into order and appointed a leader for his helpers. He died under the care of a spiritual friend and admirer, Lady Anne Ossorio.
13819 S. Pioneer Blvd Norwalk CA 90650 | (562) 863 - 5721
St. John of God Catholic Church