Our Byzantine Church History

The first step taken in initiating a Byzantine Catholic parish on the West Coast was made on August 15, 1956 when a letter was sent to Bishop Elko requesting a priest be sent to Los Angeles to organize a parish for the faithful who had migrated from the East Coast. Two months later Fr. Eugene Chromoga was appointed to do the organizational work. The first Divine Liturgy took place on November 18, 1956 in Van Nuys at Nazareth House. After an audience with Cardinal McIntyre of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, permission was granted to use the facilities of Our Lady of Zapopon Roman Catholic Church in North Hollywood. This became the center of worship for the next four years.

Land on which to build a church was purchased on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys in August of 1957. The property was deeded on October 1, 1957, the feast of the Patronage of the Mother of God, which became the official parish title. A chapel and rectory were blessed by Bishop Elko in April of 1958 and Father Chromoga was named its first pastor. A beautiful shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help was constructed and in September of 1959 Bishop Elko returned for the ground breaking of the new church. His Eminence, James Francis Cardinal McIntyre and Bishop Elko solemnly dedicated the new church in February of 1961. These years saw much growth in the number of Byzantine faithful coming to Saint Mary’s, which had now begotten two ‘daughter’ churches: Saint Nicholas in Fontana and Holy Angels in San Diego.

In 1969 St. Mary’s became a part of the newly established Eparchy of Parma which had jurisdiction over the West Coast. With the transfer of Father Chromoga to the Chancery Office in Parma, Reverend Paul Fetch became the second pastor. During Fr. Fetch’s pastorate many new parish programs were instituted. This coupled with many fund raising activities led to the burning of the mortgage on February 3, 1974.

On April 1, 1976, Father Eugene Linowski became the third pastor of St. Mary’s. During his pastorate he set out to implement the desires of the Pope and all the bishops as expressed in the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches. He sought to re-order all the liturgical services to conform with the authentic traditions of the Byzantine Catholic Church. In 1978 an icon screen was installed and blessed by Bishop Mihalik.

In March of 1982 the Eparchy of Van Nuys was established and the Most Reverend Thomas Dolinay was installed as its first bishop; Saint Mary’s was now designated as the Cathedral and the first rector was Father Michael Moran who served as the Chancellor. A guest house on the Cathedral property became the first Chancery Office for the young Eparchy. The Cathedral rectory was remodeled. The Shrine to our Lady of Perpetual Help was relocated to a quiet garden conducive for prayer, and an open patio was built for parish gatherings on Sundays and other special occasions. Upon Bishop Dolinay’s elevation to Archbishop of Pittsburgh, the Most Reverend George M. Kuzma was installed as the second bishop of Van Nuys.