Saint Ignatius Church
From the beginning, Saint Ignatius Church and Saint Ignatius Academy were intertwined on a multitude of levels: a shared vision and mission, key individuals whose roles overlapped, and significant events that concurrently shaped both institutional histories. Nevertheless, Saint Ignatius Church has an identity apart from the Academy that eventually became the University of San Francisco.
Saint Ignatius Church was founded by the same man, in the same year, and at the same location as Saint Ignatius Academy. Anthony Maraschi, S.J., whose life has been described in vignette #4, secured the approval of Archbishop Joseph Alemany to build the first Saint Ignatius Church in San Francisco among the sand dunes west of what was then the main part of the city, on what eventually became Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. That area of the city was then charitably known as St. Anns Valley, a desolate stretch of sand and coastal scrub vegetation. The first Saint Ignatius Church, built for $4,000, was a small wooden frame building 75 feet long by 35 feet wide, with a plain gable roof. The inside walls were plastered, and on the floor were fitted pews that could seat 400. At the rear of the church was a small seating gallery. St. Ignatius began as a parish church, whose limits were set by Archbishop Alemany in consultation with other pastors in the city. Fr. Maraschi was officially appointed pastor of Saint Ignatius Church by Archbishop Alemany on July 14, 1855. Fr. Maraschi continued as pastor after Saint Ignatius Academy opened its doors in a small wooden building next door to the church, and the busy Jesuit priest concurrently served as the Academys president, treasurer, and instructor of Latin and Spanish, even as the Academy grew and became a thriving college in 1859.
The first Saint Ignatius Church was dedicated on July 15, 1855, exactly three months before Saint Ignatius Academy opened its doors to its first students. Archbishop Alemany performed the dedication ceremony and blessing. He was assisted by Fr. Maraschi and several other Jesuits, including Fr. John Nobili, who along with Fr. Michael Accolti had been one of the first Jesuits to come to San Francisco in 1849. In 1851, Fr. Nobili became the first president of Santa Clara College. At the dedication ceremony, Archbishop Alemany praised the Jesuits for their work in California and expressed his hope that the founding of Saint Ignatius Church was the beginning of a great future for the Jesuits in San Francisco.
A local newspaper covered the dedication ceremony and the mass that followed. The article noted that Archbishop Alemany delivered an impressive discourse in which he spoke in the most eulogistic terms of the zeal and labors of the Jesuits in propagating the gospel throughout every part of the world, but more especially in California. The writer also observed a large attendance on the occasion, a considerable portion of whom were ladies, and that the service was accompanied by very fine music. The article concluded that in the future Mass will be celebrated in the church every morning except Sunday at 6 and 7 1/2 oclock and on Sundays at the usual hours. Vespers will be sung every Sunday at 5 1/2 in the afternoon. The pastor, Father Maraschi speaks the English, French, Spanish, Italian and German languages.
The dedication ceremony and accompanying mass marked the beginning of the first of five Saint Ignatius churches in San Francisco. The ceremony also inaugurated a church identity and history that is separate, yet interwoven, with the history of Saint Ignatius Academy, Saint Ignatius College, and the University of San Francisco.
Bibliographic note: The history of the founding of Saint Ignatius Church is described in The First Half Century: St Ignatius Church and College by Joseph Riordan, S.J., in Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 18491969 by John McGloin, S.J., and in The Fifth St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, California, 19101950 (an unpublished USF masters thesis) by Terrance Mahan, S.J. Michael Kotlanger, S.J., USFs archivist, also supplied several important details about the church during its early years.