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Parish History


The History of the Town of Rodeo


In 1772, Don Pedro Gages, a Spanish Commandant and acting Governor, accompanied by Juan Crespi, explored the waters of the San Francisco Bay to locate a site for  a mission. This site, completed in 1797, became Mission San Jose.

When the Mexican regime ended in 1830, land grants were given to soldiers. Approximately 17,000 acres were given to Don Ygnacio Martinez. There were large ranches in the area raising cattle and sheep.  Once a year the cattle were gathered from a 50 mile area, sorted and branded by the owners. The focal point of the gathering was given the Spanish name, rodeo, or round up, and eventually the small town that grew up at the sire was called Rodeo.

A line drawing by an unknown artist showing part of John Tormey’s ranch and farm in Contra Costa County, California, as appeared in “Illustrations of Contra Costa County, California”, Smith & Elliott, 1952.

In 1865, heirs to the Martinez family sold off parcels of land. Brothers Patrick  and John Tormey, originally from Westmeath, Ireland, purchased 7000 acres of the Rancho El Pinole from the Martinez family. Patrick held the land hat included the site of Rodeo, Oleum, Selby, and Tormey. John held the land in the Pinole area. Patrick Tormey’s daughter, Mary, served as Rodeo’s postmistress and his son, Patrick Jr. established the first general store in Rodeo.

In 1865, there were only two Catholic churches in the county. One was in Martinez and the other in San Pablo. The Catholics of the area had to walk, ride on horseback, or drive by horse and buggy to get to church services.

Patrick and John Tormey were strong Catholics who traveled by horse and buggy to attend church in San Pablo. The town of Rodeo was growing rapidly. Employment was found in such industries as Union Oil, a flour mill and in nearby Crockett, at a sugar plant.

In 1888, Jeremiah Mahoney came to the Rodeo area and worked for Patrick Tormey. He plowed the first streets many of which were named for officials of the Union Stockyard Co (eg Garreston, Sharon, Harris, and Parker) He also built the town’s first saloon called the Rodeo Exchange, which he operated until 1915 when a fire destroyed what was left of the once thriving town.

In 1907, Sebastian J. Claeys came to the Rodeo area and began ranching. In a town of 67 houses, 3 hotels with a two room school, the Claeys family bought large parcels of land. Sebastian Claeys opened a meat market, served as a school board member for many years,  established the Rodeo Water Works and with the help of others, established the Bank of Pinole.

The History of St. Patrick Church

St. Joseph’s Church in Pinole served as a mission of St. Paul’s Church in San Pablo. Catholics in Rodeo attended Mass in Pinole until 1917, when Father Porta, the pastor of St. Paul, began construction of a church in Rodeo. Two lots were donated by the Tormey family of Oleum, each valued at $600. The lots were at the corner of San Pablo and 3rd St.  The new church was named St. Patrick in recognition of Patrick Tormey, who was so generous with his many donations.  On December 17, 1917, Bishop Patrick Keane, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church, Oakland, laid the corner stone.

In 1918, the new church (seating 196) was complete at the cost of $12,000 and was dedicated by Archbishop Edward J Hanna, D.D. Items donated to the new church were 28 pews from the Portuguese people of Rodeo, 11 stained glass windows donated by Ruth Tormey, Sebastian Claeys, the Nancett family, the Joseph family, Timothy Murphy, James Guthrie, and Jeremiah Mahoney. Each window cost $125.

In 1923, because of the growth in population of the town of Rodeo, Archbishop Hanna decided to form a new parish in Contra Costa County by separating the missions of St. Patrick, Rodeo, and St. Joseph, Pinole from the mother church of St. Paul in San Pablo.

In 1923, Rev. Charles Phillipps was appointed the first pastor of the new formed parish, known as St. Patrick’s. The parish comprised of the towns of Rodeo and Oleum, the mission church of St. Joseph in Pinole and the small township of Hercules.

The pastor lived for a time in a local bungalow. He purchased 2 lots a little distance from the church for $1,000 which were later exchanged for two lots immediately adjacent to the church. The parish house was completed as a cost of $10,000. Additional purchases of furnishings of about $3,500 made the total debt about $15,000.

In 1927, as a means of raising money for the parish debt, Fr. Phillipps built a bungalow in Rodeo, called Villa Patricia. It was raffled off and brought in about $2,500. By the time Fr. Phillipps was transferred to another parish in July 1929, he had reduced the parish debt to $8,500 and Fr. Daniel J. Kelly was appointed to succeed Fr. Phillipps as pastor of St. Patrick. Within 5 years, he invited the Dominican Sisters of Vallejo to teach religion classes which were held on Saturdays. 28 boys and 22 girls attended. He also reduced the debts to $7,250.

In 1934, Fr. Aidan A. Doyle was appointed pastor. He reduced the debt by having different fundraising events like Whist parties. The average Sunday collection was from $30 to $35 with special monthly collection for payment on interest and debt which averaged about $55. The Easter and Christmas collection each brought in about $250.

The Catholic population of St. Patrick Parish numbered about 450 with 125 families. Services offered them were Sunday Mass and Benediction, weekday Masses, First Friday devotions, Saturday Confessions, and general Communion Sunday.

In 1935, Fr. Timothy J, Shanahan became pastor and in 1941 Fr. William B. Flatley became pastor. The parish celebrated the Silver Jubilee of its founding in 1942. Fr. Flatley asked the people to clear the debt of $2,550, in honor of the Jubilee. The people were given envelopes and through their generous donation the debt was paid.The December 1942 census gave the Catholic population of the parish as 854 with an average Sunday Mass attendance at 233. The predominant nationality was Portuguese.

In June of 1955, Archbishop Mitty appointed Fr. George Moss pastor of St. Patrick Church.  The parish had no outstanding debts and had a balance of $34,000 in their Chancery Office Account. Organizations and ministries that were existing were Altar Society, St. Francisca Cabrini’s Young Ladies Institute, the Junior Institute of the YLI, Boy Scouts, Altar Boys Society and the Young Men’s Institute.

In February 1956, Fr. Moss initiated a campaign to secure funds to establish a complete new parish plant to serve the 550 Catholic families of Rodeo. Building a parochial school was given 1st priority and land was donated for that purpose by Mr. and Mrs. Linus Claeys.

Parish Hall         In September 1956, St. Patrick School opened with grades 1-3. Each year an additional grade was added until there were grades 1 through 8. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, provincial house in Tucson, Arizona, have staffed the school since it beginning. Later that year, the convent building was completed and the Sisters who had been living with Mrs. Sebastian Claeys moved to the convent. The first three sisters were Srs. Blanche Marie, Philomena, and Gabriel.

In September 1958, the school and the church/hall facility were completed with the donation of many generous gifts. In 1959, Fr. Thomas E. Kane became pastor. The St. Patrick “Roundup and Barbecue” began as an annual fund-raiser in October with Mel Marcos as chairman. In 1961, St. Patrick School was complete with 8 grades. Mother Dolorosa was Principal. There were 338 students in the school.

Also in 1961, under the guidance of Irons Associates with August Hemenez as chairman a new plan for parish funding began. It was called the Offertory Plan. Out of 525 members on the parish mailing list, 483 signed.

In 1962, the school was given a beautiful baseball field by Linus Claeys and Joe Carone. On June 12, the first 8th grade graduation was held. There were 38 students.

In 1965, Fr. Aloysius Zitkp was pastor. Two organizations were added, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Legion of Mary. In 1966, the new rectory construction was started. it was completed on January 1967. The old property with the old church, hall and rectory was sold to Linus Claeys. In May, as a training session for the Pinole and Rodeo Fire Departments, the old church, rectory, and hall were burned down.

In 1970, Fr. Richard E. Hecht was appointed pastor. During his short stay, he initiated a plan for remodeling the church.

In June 1972, Fr. George Daly became the 10th pastor of St. Patrick. He began a program for the remodeling and beautification of the church along with painting the rectory and school. Many improvements were made and all were completed by the Golden Jubilee of the founding of St. Patrick Parish on October 14, 1973. The Golden Jubilee was held with Bishop L. Begin as celebrant. All former pastors, clergy from neighboring church and priest from Salesian High School were present.

In 1974, Fr. James Cummings was appointed the 11th pastor. During his term, there were many improvements in the school like playgrounds and courts. In addition, the building behind the school was built at no cost to the parish. It was donated by Linus and David Claeys.

In 1980, Fr. Paul Engberg became the 12th pastor. He set his goal to pay the church and school debt.

On April 27, 1982, an arson fire destroyed the entire school. By July, the rebuilding of the school was started. In September, school began in portable classrooms that were set on the field and at the side of the rectory.

On February 13, 1983, the new St. Patrick School was dedicated by Bishop John S. Cummins and students began to use their new school building.

In September 1990, a Kindergarten was added to the school. Two years later, in 1992, the school opened the 7th and 8th grades in the new building behind the rectory. Thank you to parents, other volunteers, school fundraising, and the generous help of Ruth and Linus Claeys. Also in 1992, Fr. Engberg died and Fr. Mel Hary became pastor.


In 1994, the campaign to build a new St. Patrick Church began.

On January 1997, construction began on the new church. The first Mass was celebrated at 9:30AM on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1997, to an overflow congregation.

In 1999, Fr. Larry Young became the pastor of St. Patrick. His first task was to pay off the debt of the new church. He encouraged the people of St. Patrick to come to together and to do fundraisers. With hard work and dedication, they were able to do it and they celebrated by having a Spaghetti Dinner.

St. Patrick Church Pastors

Fr. Larry Young (1999 – Present)

Fr. Melvin J. Hary (1990 – 1999)

Fr. Paul J. Engberg (1980 – 1990)

Fr. James Cummings (1974 – 1980)

Fr. George Daly (1972 – 1974)

Fr. Richard E. Hecht (1970 – 1972)

Fr. Aloysius Zitko (1964 – 1970)

Fr. Thomas E. Kane (1959 – 1964)

Fr. George E. Moss (1955 – 1959)

Fr. William B. Flatley (1941- 1955)

Fr. Timothy Shanahan (1935 – 1941)

Fr. Aidan A. Doyle (1934- 1935)

Fr. Daniel J. Kelly (1929 – 1934)

Fr. Charles Phillips (1923 – 1929)