In the 1940’s, Father Ozias B. Cook was the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente. He began approaching members of this parish who lived in what is now Dana Point and Capistrano Beach about the possibility of building a chapel to serve the people of that particular area, as many Catholic residents were too far away to come to church.
Mrs. Edward Doheny, who was a close friend of Father Cook, also recognized the need. She graciously donated the funds to pay for the building, and along with the generous donation of land from Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Bucheim, St. Edward Chapel (now known as San Felipe de Jesus), was built and dedicated in 1950. At the request of Mrs. Doheny, as a remembrance of her late husband, the chapel was named after St. Edward the Confessor, the pious King of England who founded Westminster Abbey. The Doheny Estate continued to subsidize the Chapel monthly. However, while many interim priests came and left the new chapel, a Pastor was not assigned, and it was not elevated to the status of Parish.
In 1969, a new priest was seen in the procession during the celebration of sacrament of Confirmation. The community would soon learn that this man, Father Louis Knight, was being moved from his Parish in Los Angeles to be the first pastor of St. Edward.
25 Year Plan
Fr. Knight developed a twenty-five year plan for the fifteen acres of land overlooking Dana Point Harbor. The design of the first church was practical and considered temporary until a bigger structure could be built. The multi-purpose building was constructed with adjustable partition walls to accommodate classrooms, offices, and meeting rooms, as well as mass. The first mass in St. Edward Church, was on Christmas Eve in 1971, and the Church was dedicated the following spring.
A rectory was soon to follow, and in 1980, the St. Edward School building was complete. This building not only housed an elementary school, as well as the first Catholic preschool in south Orange County, but also gave space for religious education programs to thrive within the parish.
A New Church
The Dana Point area grew rapidly, and so did the population of the church. Over the next ten years, it became obvious to everyone that the “temporary church” was truly just that. Fr. Knight proposed building a more permanent church to celebrate Mass in, and the parish community agreed. The funds were quickly raised, and groundbreaking began in spring of 1992.
The plans were to build a 14,000 square feet sanctuary with seating for over 1,000 parishioners. The design would utilize the environment to take advantage of the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
The Church was completed at the end of 1994, being dedicated by Bishop Norman McFarland on December 11th. However, Fr. Knight was not in attendance, as he had passed away only a month prior. Sadly but fittingly, the first mass celebrated in the new church was his funeral mass.
The next 25 years
In 1999, the parish began a plan to purchase 2.5 acres of adjacent property for additional parking, expand and renovate the school building, and replace the old church building (now known as Knight Hall after the parish's first founder) with a functional parish center. The first two phases of construction, the parking lot and school building expansion, were completed in 2001. With the 2005-2006 school year, St. Edward the Confessor parish school reached its full capacity of three classes per grade level, Kindergarten through eighth grade
In 2008, the former St. Edward Parish Church was amended in status to San Felipe de Jesus Chapel, and made a part of St. Edward the Confessor Parish.
Where we are now
After the parking lot and school expansion projects were completed, not enough funds were available to complete the pastoral center. For the next 20 years, the parish community repeatedly attempted to fundraise the necessary funds to resume building the pastoral center, but repeated economic stressors arose. In 2017, the parish community attempted their latest fundraising effort, which would end successfully.
On June 19th, 2021, with Bishop Timothy Freyer looking on, Fr. Philip Smith broke ground on the new pastoral center, beginning the last leg of finishing a project 22 years in the making.