‘I knew someday I’d be the pastor of a parish, but never did I dream I’d be in a founding situation.’
That’s no ordinary estate on the corner of Quiet Hills Drive, just outside Escondido. It’s a Catholic church, a business office, a meeting place for ladies’ tea groups and choristers, and home to Father James E. Rafferty. The young priest has lived in the two-story Tudor-style home since 1985 and is busily forming a new parish. Though a new church eventually will be built a few miles away, the parishioners now meet on weekday mornings in a small chapel that used to be a two-car garage and , on Sundays, at Del Dios Middle School. Times staff writer Leslie Wolf interviewed Rafferty at his home, and Don Bartletti photographed him.
I received the call in 1985 to become founding pastor of the Church of St. Timothy here in Escondido, which at that point had no established boundaries yet. Bishop Leo T. Maher of the San Diego diocese made the decision because of rapid growth in the area. It was a shock to the pastor of the existing parish when it was done. He was on vacation at the time, and he got a telegram or a phone call that his parish was being divided.
When I came here, I was told to find a home that would provide some off-street parking and might serve temporarily as an administration center for the church, as well as my residence. So we bought this house at a real bargain as a fixer-upper. This was really quite a dump when we bought it. It was a two-story ranch house, cream-colored with brown trim. It looked like two sticks of butter stuck on top of each other in the middle of a hilly field. We will definitely turn a profit on the home when it is sold.
We have also purchased some property to build a new church on. Since Highway 15 unnaturally bisects our parish, I wanted a piece of property that was as central to I-15 as possible, in fairness to people on both sides. So we bought a 6 3/4-acre parcel on the eastern side of I-15. The building fund is in place, and we are on the building calendar for 1989. Our first building will be a multipurpose two-story facility that will allow for worship and socialization. There will be a proper sanctuary somewhere down the line. We don’t build any industrial or warehouse-looking churches, because even the outside of the building should lead a person into a sense of the use of the building. So it will be lovely, it will not look like a concrete block house with a few chairs and an altar in it.
Once we have the parish community center on our acreage it would be more prudent to either construct a rectory on the property, while we have all the construction going on, or to buy a residence adjacent to the site for me to live in. Once the offices and administration center are removed from the downstairs portion of this house, my estimation is that it would be far too large for one person to rattle around in. If only we could slice off the top layer of the house and place it on our acreage, that’s about all I would need.
I knew someday I’d be the pastor of a parish, but never did I dream I’d be in a founding situation. There’s no way that, for the most part, an established pastor would choose to bear the burden of founding a new parish, of lovingly wooing the parishioners from the mother parish, getting involved in all of the building, all of the pulling together of the resources of the community. An established pastor would run the other direction. It’s a lot of responsibility for me, but not totally beyond the reach--it’s something that can be handled.
People tend to go where they’re being nourished, where they feel comfortable--their “church home.” Some people, for instance, belong to us geographically but don’t come here because we worship in a school hall, and they need the accouterments of worship, they need to have the surroundings of stained-glass windows and actual pews and such in order to feel properly in a church home. Other people can move into the multipurpose center at the Del Dios Middle School and, when we are there, we are the church. The building is secondary. The pastor may be the one who animates and leads, but no one forms a parish alone. The people of this parish really are the church.