History of St. Mel

Bishop Charles Buddy of San Diego established St. Mel, Norco, in January 1959. Before this, the people of Norco had been celebrating Mass at St. Edward Church, Corona or the Chapel at the California Rehabilitation Center. Msgr. Matthew J. Thomson of St. Edward was instrumental in both establishing and naming the new parish. He had been born in the Diocese of Ardagh, Ireland, which was once served by St. Mel. Fr. Samuel J. Engle was appointed Administrator of the parish and celebrated the first Mass in Grange Hall.

Fr. Engle purchased a house and five acres of land on Corona Avenue. Groundbreaking took place in February 1960, and in September, one wing of a new building was completed with an office, storerooms and four classrooms, two of which served as a temporary church and two, for CCD instruction. In 1963 three classrooms were added and bells were installed in the temporary church.

In 1965, Fr. Michael 0'Duignan, who replaced Fr. Engle, engaged the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand, Indiana, to conduct the school, which opened in September 1966. A house purchased on property adjacent to the church served as a convent. The new St. Mel School enrolled 195 students in Grades 1-6. Later an increase in students and the addition of the seventh grade necessitated the building of a church.

The new church building, seating 750, was dedicated on May 5, 1968, and 10 years later, St. Mel became part of the newly formed Diocese of San Barnardino. The Parish is served by two members of the Order of St. Augustine. Fr. Declan Fogarty O.S.A. ADM. and Fr. Patrick Crilly O.S.A.