After WWII, the population of Palo Alto began a real expansion to the South of Oregon Avenue where there were many orchards and a lot of open space. In 1951, to accommodate the growing number of Palo Alto Catholic families, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, with the help of Father John Meehan, Pastor of St. Aloysius church on El Camino in Palo Alto, purchased 10 acres of land south of Loma Verde Avenue between Cowper Street and Middlefield Road. Construction for a school and church began.
In September of 1954, the school opened grades 1 through 4 with 200 pupils. There were so many parishioners in the immediate area, that the neighborhood was referred to as "Vatican Valley.
" The school soon expanded to 8 grades. It was opened as St. Aloysius School and became Our Lady of the Rosary parish school when the new separate parish was created in 1959. The OLR School served parish children for many years, but with the decline in school age population of families in Palo Alto, in 1978 OLR School merged with St. Albert's School on Channing Avenue to become the present St. Elizabeth Seton Community School. The majority of students served are from East Palo Alto.
The cornerstone for the OLR church was laid in 1954, and the building was ready for use for regularly scheduled Masses in 1955. It was thought at first that the Church would be an extension of the St. Aloysius parish and was called Our Lady of the Valley Chapel, however, the creation of the new parish in 1959 officially renamed and dedicated the church as Our Lady of the Rosary.
Fr. John Francis Meehan, who came over from St. Aloysius parish, became the first pastor of the new Our Lady of the Rosary parish. He was from Elgin, Illinois, and had earned an Engineering degree from Cornell University. During the construction phase of the buildings, he had made sure that the foundations were set deep in the earth so that in an earthquake, the church would become a sanctuary for those in need. [The recent evaluation and retrofitting of all the churches in the Palo Alto parish to meet current earthquake safety requirements, revealed that the OLR Church building met more of the standards than any of the other buildings in the parish - indeed it ranked among the best built in the diocese.] An early Palo Alto Times article featured Fr. Meehan as ..."among other things, a leading designer of altar vessels. He is a strong critic of the tinselly, the frilly and the flamboyant." He designed many chalices, monstrances and crucifixes, all different. His work was well known in Europe as well as in the United States. The beautiful and original monstrance that he designed for OLR is still used regularly. Fr. Meehan died at age 64.
The second pastor, Rev. John B. Dermody, served at Our Lady of the Rosary and celebrated daily Mass in the church for 24 years; many of the children baptized here received all of their first sacraments with Fr. Dermody as presider. The last pastor before the Palo Alto churches merged into one parish was Fr. Alfred Kelly.
Our Lady of the Rosary Church Succession of Pastors
Rev. John E. Meehan, 1958-1960
Rev. John B Dermody, 1960-1984
Rev. Alfred Kelly, 1984-1987
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Succession of Pastors
Rev. Alexander C. Larkin, 1987-1992
Rev. Dennis Browne, 1992-1994
Rev. John P. Cooper, CSSp, 1994-1996
Rev. Bernard Freyne, 1996-2002
Rev. George Aranha, 2002-2010
Rev. Matthew Stanley 2010-
Though changes have been made in the configuration of the altar and pew arrangements in keeping with post-Vatican II emphasis on more participation of the worshipping community in the liturgies, including the installation of the 7 Sacrament stained glass windows from the now-closed St. Aloysius Church and the addition of six original abstract stained glass windows in place of the opaque glass of the original windows - the simplicity and clean classic style of the building that Fr. Meehan favored, remains intact these 50 years later.
In February, 2006, the parish completed a major sanctuary improvement project at OLR in which the sanctuary was enhanced by a floor of mission tiles, the installation of new pews, new lights, a new altar and ambo (pulpit), and a new projection system for displaying song texts..
Daily Mass is celebrated at Our Lady of the Rosary at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.
On Sundays, the parish Hispanic Community worships at the 9:00 a.m. Spanish-language Mass, and there is a 10:30 a.m. Mass in English.
The Dermody Center is also located on the OLR site, and includes meeting rooms which are used by various parish groups.