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.
As we get ready to celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy this Sunday, here is the beautiful story of a priest whose life was transformed by this devotion.
Divine Mercy Sunday is just a few days away! Hear from a former drug dealer turned priest whose life was transformed by this devotion. This is one of our favorite episodes from our #MercyStories YouTube series!
Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict!
“My heart is full of gratitude for the 90 years which the good God has given me.”
Welcome! Please join us for Mass! For any questions please call the parish office at (805) 646-4338 or visit our website at www.stacojai.org
The Exultet. The ancient chant heralding the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, sung all over the world tonight including our parish at the great Vigil of Easter!
We wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter!
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises).
(Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.)
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants' hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
A little preview of the beautiful Easter decorations. A very special thank you to Julie Teichert and her team who worked so hard especially during these last weeks of Lent and Holy Week transforming our sacred space to correspond to these special days.
Our Easter Sunday celebrations begins tonight at 8:00pm with the Easter Vigil which will be celebrated bilingually. And continues tomorrow at 7:30am in English, 9:30am in English, and 11:30am in Spanish.
Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the savior of the world!
The veneration of the cross from this afternoon's Good Friday Liturgy.
Facebook page for Religious Education of St. Thomas Aquinas Church