By BILL QUINNAN     3/19/2022

Parishioners from St. Joachim Catholic Church in Costa Mesa gathered Sunday, March 13 to celebrate a historic milestone for the parish. Sunday marked 75 years almost to the day since the first Mass was celebrated at St. Joachim on March 16, 1947.

Bishop Kevin Vann presided over a bilingual Mass marking the occasion, with 10 fellow priests concelebrating, including current and former pastors and parochial vicars of the parish. The Mass was preceded by a procession honoring the numerous ministries serving St. Joachim and followed by a reception in the parish hall.

St. Joachim’s current pastor, Father Michael Hanifin, noted that the parish has changed significantly since its founding, when Costa Mesa was still a largely rural area known for its lima bean fields.

Among the visiting priests was Father Kevin Sweeney, currently the pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, who attended St. Joachim school and parish as a child.

“This has always been a home to me, and that’s why I keep coming back for events like this,” Father Sweeney said.

A parish committee dedicated to the 75th anniversary celebration has planned a number of initiatives to highlight the occasion throughout the year. The parish kicked of its celebration during Advent with commemorative Christmas ornaments and will offer additional keepsakes throughout the year. In February, the parish hosted a free concert featuring its Spanish- and English-speaking choirs as well as a variety of instrumentalists.

The parish introduced a monthly “Hero” feature in its bulletin in January, honoring the legacies of past parishioners. Thus far, honorees have included St. Joachim’s founding pastor, Monsignor Thomas Nevin; Judge Frances
Munoz, who was active in promoting educational opportunities and citizenship services to immigrants; and Huo Chung, an immigrant from Hong Kong who served as the parish’s custodian for nearly 30 years.

The parish launched a “75 for 75” campaign at Sunday’s celebration, asking families to donate $75 toward new restroom facilities throughout the parish.

The story of St. Joachim Catholic Church begins with that of Monsignor Thomas Nevin, who had emigrated from Ireland as a young priest in 1930. Monsignor Nevin was informed on March 8, 1947, that he was to be the pastor of the yet-to-be-built St. Joachim Catholic Church, which would initially serve the entire city of Costa Mesa as well as parts of Newport Beach.

The parish’s first church building was actually a chapel that Monsignor Nevin purchased and had transferred from the recently decommissioned Santa Ana Army Air Base in time for Christmas Mass that same year.

In 1949, Monsignor Nevin asked the Sisters of St. Joseph to come to the parish to run its new school. As pastor, he oversaw the completion of the school’s construction in 1954 and the current church structure in 1965.

By 1960, St. Joachim had grown so big that a second parish was needed, and Monsignor Nevin oversaw the establishment of St. John the Baptist in Costa Mesa. He served as St. Joachim’s pastor for 35 years before retiring in 1982 and remained in residence as pastor emeritus until he passed away in 1989.

In 2005, the parish received a $4 million grant from the John and Dorothy Shea Foundation, enabling it to perform much needed construction, including that of a new multipurpose facility, named Nevin Hall in honor of the parish’s founder.

Father Hanifin, who has served as pastor since 2014, was originally hired by Monsignor Nevin as the parish’s youth minister. Among the features of the parish that stand out to him is its thriving Hispanic community. He recalled that in the early 1980s, the parish learned that many Spanish-speaking parishioners living within its boundaries were attending Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Ana. St. Joachim soon established a Spanish Mass, its priest knocking on doors to personally invite local residents to attend. Today, about 72 percent of the parish’s 3,000 families are Hispanic.

The parish’s commitment to evangelization is another quality that stands out for Father Hanifin.

“It’s like Archbishop Jose Gomez said: ‘The Church exists to evangelize.’ And we’re committed to evangelizing at St. Joachim’s,” Father Hanifin said.

Parish offerings include an Alpha program for those wishing to learn more about the faith, a large Neocatechumenal Way group, a seniors group, a Knights of Columbus council, a daily Rosary group and a hospitality ministry. Through an arrangement with Hoag Hospital, a registered nurse visits the parish weekly to offer health services that some parishioners would not otherwise be able to afford.

“People come here because they think they are part of a family,” said Kathy Lewis, a St. Joachim parishioner since 1977 and its former faith-formation director. “There is warmth here, caring … I just found it as a very welcoming parish.”