On January 1, 2004, the Diocese of San Diego had its first new parish in twenty years. The Most Reverend Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, established Mater Dei Catholic Parish by a decree issued and signed by him on December 9, 2003. On New Year’s Day, 2004, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, the Bishop, with the founding pastor, Father Jovencio D. Ricafort, other priests from the Diocese, and more than 150 lay people, gathered at the site of the future parish church buildings for the dedication of the grounds and the blessing of the first cross, which is now on the wall inside the parish place of worship. It was a truly festive occasion with food and fellowship. Another festive occasion took place on the site exactly two years later, on January 1, 2006, with the groundbreaking for the construction of the Parish Office Building and the Pastoral Center, again presided over by Bishop Brom.
The parish is located in the Otay Lakes area of Chula Vista adjacent to State Route 125 and Mater Dei Catholic High School. From its location, one can see the mountains, the ocean, Point Loma and many other geographical features of the area. It is truly a beautiful place. The parish had the following original boundaries: North – Heritage Road east along Telegraph Canyon Road/Otay Lakes Road to Otay Lakes; South – Otay River from Heritage Road to Otay Lakes; East – Otay Lakes; and West – Heritage Road from Telegraph Canyon Road to Otay River.
In July 2011, with the closure of St. Jerome Parish, the Mater Dei Catholic Parish boundaries were modified as follows: North – Heritage Road east along Telegraph Canyon Road/Otay Lakes Road to Otay Lakes; South – Otay Mesa Road west from Alta Road to Ocean View Hills Parkway; East – south along the western shore of Otay Lakes to the southwest corner of Otay Lakes, then south on a line to Otay River, then south on a line to Alta Road, south to Otay Mesa Road; and West – Ocean View Hills Parkway from Otay Mesa Road to Palm Avenue, west to I–805, north to Otay River, east to Heritage, north to Telegraph Canyon Road.
In his homily, Bishop Brom told those who were present to sing Mary’s song and be Mary’s hands on earth. Our founding pastor, Father Ven, got right to work. He did not start with the buildings, but with the people whom he inspired to share his vision for Mater Dei. In that regard, Mater Dei Catholic Parish has grown beyond expectations, with 1,155 registered families, and continues to grow every week.
This inspiration was the foundation of the Parish and its ministries, starting with the Hands of Mater Dei, which serves as the Council of Ministries. Others followed, such as the Extraordinary Ministry of the Eucharist, the Ministry of Readers, the Service Ministry, the Altar Servers Ministry, and the Voices of Mater Dei (collectively, the “Liturgy Ministry”). Then, there were added the Catechetical Ministry (known as Parish Religious Education Program), Parish Staff and Support, the Capital Campaign Ministry (which acts as a Parish Finance Council), the Youth Ministry, and the Faith and Culture Ministry. Then, there came the Ministry of Healing and Comfort and the Young Adult Ministry. More recently, the Health Resource, the Information Technology (IT), and Detention Ministries were formed; and during Christmas time, the Christmas Caroling Ministry. Besides the ministries, a network of Rosary Clusters was established in the different neighborhoods of the parish for grassroots devotion and faith formation.
The first Masses were held in private homes, and the first one was at the home of Jesus and Aissa Mercader. After meeting in several homes for Masses, the parish was able to hold its Sunday Masses at the Eastlake High School Cafeteria. Then, in April of 2004, the Parish acquired its first building, a house which became the Parish Rectory, and which also served as a place for daily Masses, with office space in the kitchen.
In May 2004, as the parish grew, the parish was able to use the Otay Ranch High School Gymnasium for Sunday Masses and its classrooms for its Religious Education Program with the support of Jose Brosz, the school principal.
In 2007, the Parish was able to build an Administration Building and a Pastoral Center. These two church buildings gave us adequate office space and religious education facilities, as well as space for Masses for up to five hundred parishioners. The first Mass in the Pastoral Center was celebrated on September 2, 2007. By this time, because of the rapid growth, we needed three Sunday Masses and a Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. These were accommodated in the new Pastoral Center, except for the 11:00 am Mass on Sundays, which was held at the Mater Dei Catholic High School Gymnasium. On May 28, 2010, the parish was blessed with its first deacon, Fred Swingle III. In November, 2012, the parish paid in full the loan for the Rectory. To accommodate our increasing growth, in May 2013, a new canopy was built, and all masses are now celebrated at the Pastoral Center. And, on November 3, 2013, a Sunday 5:00 pm Mass was added.
A church building is really needed to accommodate our growing parish, and this is everyone’s humble longing of faith. The parishioners have made a commitment through their stewardship to make this happen. The Church Building Fund Collections are taken every first and third Sundays of the month. Major fundraising events for the Building Fund are also held throughout the year, namely: golf tournaments, car raffles, the Mater Dei Birthday Dinner-Dance, the Dance for a Cause, the Parish Luau, the Parish Bazaar, and Christmas Caroling & Christmas Baskets. These events and the extraordinary effort of the parishioners do not only raise money but also enhance faith and community.
The parish is dedicated under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Mater Dei. This is reflected around our buildings and grounds, thanks to the generosity of the parishioners. On December 6, 2007, a beautiful image of Mary, over six feet tall, came to our Pastoral Center, and on December 30, 2011 a brilliant bronze image of Mary, cast in the likeness of the Pastoral Center image, arrived to grace the courtyard in front of the Pastoral Center.
In 2010, adjacent to where the new church building will rise, the parish established the Garden of Gratitude with a large Jerusalem Cross. This is to honor the sacrifices and contributions of the parishioners and friends, whose names are engraved on the bricks surrounding the cross, to the Church Building Fund.
In 2014, Father Ven inspired notable growth and improvement in the name of Mary. Gracing the entry-hall to the Pastoral Center is a giant wooden Holy Rosary framed behind glass, a gift from a parishioner who made the rosary with his own hands. Within the Pastoral Center are large framed Marian pictures showing notable reflections on Jesus’ life and that of His mother, Mary. On the same walls are the Stations of the Cross.
All of these blessings and the hardworking hands of parishioners, Pastor and parish ministers, reflect the Mater Dei spirit leading to the growth and the fulfillment of what Bishop Brom had told us at our founding: “that we were to be Mary’s hands on earth, singing her song.”
On Thursday, October 15, 2015, Bishop Robert W. McElroy, our current bishop, visited the parish. He met with Fr. Ven, Fr. Rey, Deacon Fred, Parish Staff and Support and the Hands of Mater Dei, the Council of Ministries, and Parishioners. He came to know our life and appreciate our journey of faith, stewardship, ministry, service and life of communion, sharing the hope to build our permanent parish church where we can come to celebrate the Eucharist and grow in the Lord. The parish continues its journey and hopes to see its new digital sign that will impart to the community its life, activities and mission.
On March 26, 2016, during the Easter Vigil Mass, the parish was blessed with an additional seven (7) new members, born in water and spirit, three (3) who were received into full communion to the Church, and throughout the year 50 children were baptized. On Easter Sunday, the parish celebrated the feast with great spirit and joy. Two of its Masses (9am & 11am) were held at Mater Dei Catholic High School Gymnasium, and both Masses were filled to capacity or even more.
The early morning Mass, the Parish Easter Sunrise Mass at 6:30am, was held at its usual place – the Parish Garden of Gratitude, and the 5:00pm Mass, at the Pastoral Center. After the Sunrise Mass, the brand new digital sign (marquee sign) of the parish was blessed. The sign is so beautiful, and now, it is serving its purpose!
In April, sixty-eight (68) of the parish youth received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and in May, there were one hundred-ten children in our Religious Education Program (REP) who received the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. The Annual Parish Car Raffle was also held in this month as well as the Parish Year of Mercy Pilgrimage to Poland, and its Annual May Marian Devotion Celebration. The Annual Parish Dance-for-A-Cause was held on June 25, 2016. And for the first time, in this event, the parish introduced its “SUPER GRANDMA MOMENT”. The event went very well, and was well attended! Moreover, it has helped the parish life and ministry as have the various parish fund-raising events.
In the effort of paying off the Parish debt of over $5 Million, on October 26, 2016, the parish paid in full its loan for the two church buildings, namely: the Parish Office and the Parish Pastoral Center. This is in thanks to all Parishioners, Parish Ministers and Coordinators, Benefactors, Friends and our Pastor!
The desire to build our permanent church is building up! On Sunday, September 25, 2016, at all Masses, our Pastor, Fr. Ven, presented to the parish family the Permanent Church Conceptual Design. This design is made possible through the effort of the Church Architect, David Pfiefer, from the Domusstudio Architecture, and the members of the Parish Building Ministry: Dan Archer, Angela Brosz, Mark Caro, Marc Greer, John Korey, Rodel Leyba, Vilma Sevilla, Norma Spaulding, and Fr. Ven. The design was also presented to Bishop Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego.
Following the presentation of the Permanent Church Conceptual Design, a parish planning study was conducted by Guidance In Giving, Inc. (GIG), to determine the thoughts and opinions of the parishioners about the parish master plan. The study came back with a very positive result. Ninety-four percent of the parish families support the plan. The parish family now is preparing to take the next step, and that is, to launch the capital campaign to finance the project in the coming months. At present, the parish continue its life and ministry with the Patronage of Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Mater Dei!