Seeing Stars: Churches of the Stars


725 California Street,
Santa Monica, CA. / (310) 393-9287



Saint Monica, a quiet parish church near the beach in Santa Monica, was one location where Paramount Pictures filmed the 1944 classic "Going My Way," which featured Bing Crosby's Oscar-winning portrayal of Father O'Malley, the happy-go-lucky young priest who bumped heads with staid pastor Barry Fitzgerald

"
Going My Way" won the Academy Award as Best Picture of 1944 and led to the popular sequel, "The Bells of St. Mary's." In the film, the church was called "St. Dominic's."

The Barry Fitzgerald role in "Going My Way" was based on the pastor of St. Monica (from 1923-1949) Monsignor Nicholas Conneally, a friend of writer-director Leo McCarey, who patterned the role on his irascible, hard working, lovable friend.

The church exterior wasn't used, but they filmed in the church rectory (the priests' home), and the dining room scenes in the movie featured an exact replica (rebuilt in the studio) of the present dining room in the St. Monica Rectory

In keeping with that Hollywood tradition, various Catholic celebrities help host St. Monica's annual three-day charity event: Octoberfair. Recent fairs have been hosted by superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger (with his wife, Maria Shriver), and actor Tony Danza (of "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss?.")

      

Other parishoners at St. Monica include Martin Sheen, Brooke Shields, Kelsey Grammar, June Lockhart, and Los Angeles' Mayor, Richard Riordan, as were the late Chris Farley and Lawrence Welk.

Renowned architect Frank Gehry is Jewish, but his wife is Catholic, so he sometimes attends Mass with her at St. Monica. When the church needed a to build a new parish meeting hall back in 1998, Gehry donated the design.

In March of 1998, St. Monica was the scene of the wedding of 'Xena, Warrior Princess' herself, Lucy Lawless, a ceremony also attended by other cast members of the show, including Xena co-star Reneé ('Gabrielle') O'Connor.

(Ironically, her on-screen partner, 'Hercules' actor Kevin Sorbo, was married just a few miles away, and just two months earlier. The site of that celebrity wedding was a small, rustic chapel at the Aldersgate Retreat in nearby Pacific Palisades, located at 925 Haverford Ave, Pacific Palisades - just south of Sunset Blvd. Kevin and his bride are members of the Four Square Church in Eagle Rock, and their minister from that church performed the marriage.)


At the 1997 Octoberfair, comic Chris Farley ("Saturday Night Live") served as a celebrity Chili Cook-Off judge (just two months before his untimely death).  Ironically, they held the memorial service for Chris Farley here at St. Monica on Jan. 12, 1998. Tom Arnold gave the eulogy, and other celebrities in attendance included Jay Leno, Gary Busey and Jim Belushi.

Back in 1989, the memorial service for Lucille Ball was held here.


   

Established back in 1886, the St. Monica parish predates the city of Santa Monica (which is, of course, Spanish for "Saint Monica"). A that time, the nearest Catholic church was at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. The current church building dates to 1926. It was damaged during the recent big earthquake, but the damage has been fixed, and the church looks better than ever.

Getting there: The church is located on California Street, between Lincoln Boulevard (on the east) and 7th Street (on the west) in Santa Monica. The entrance to the festival grounds is just to the right (east) of St. Monica church. / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway west, take the Lincoln Blvd exit, then go north on Lincoln Boulevard to California Street. Turn left (west) on California Avenue to 7th Street.  


[You can access St. Monica's official website at: http://www.stmonica.net.]

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