The “Church of the Visitation” Parish was established in 1943 to serve the growing area surrounding the Los Angeles Municipal Airport, which was built in the 1930s. Father Thomas O’Sullivan, a native of Ireland, bought four acres near Sepulveda and Manchester Boulevards in the middle of an empty field in 1943 and celebrated Mass in a garage until a frame building could be erected. In just four years he completed the school, convent and rectory.
In 1950 a church was erected in a modern adaptation of Italian Renaissance architecture and a solemn Mass was celebrated on Christmas morning. Monsignor O’Sullivan directed the parish for forty-five of the sixty-nine years of his priesthood and fifteen years as pastor emeritus. He died in 1997 at age ninety-two. From Visitation parish were formed the parishes of Saint Jerome and Saint Anastasia.
Below is a video prepared for a 2016 tribute to former Pastor James O’Grady, that includes much of the history of Visitation! See if you can find yourself!
Church Pastors from 1980 to Present
From 1980 to 1999 Father James O’Grady, also from Ireland, served as pastor of the church on 88th Street and retired as pastor emeritus in 1999 when Monsignor Timothy O’Connell became pastor.
Msgr. Timothy O’Connell was pastor from 1999 to 2009, serving 10 years as shepherd of the flock at Visitation. Fr. William Brelsford succeeded him in July 2009 when Msgr. O’Connell retired. Fr. Breslford passed away in 2013 while serving as Pastor.
Msgr. Charles Hill was assigned Administrator Pro Tempore from August 2013 through June 2014 until a permanent Pastor could be appointed.
Msgr. James Forsen was appointed Pastor July 1, 2014, after having served the Archdiocese as Director of Vocations for over 10 years. Msgr. Forsen had previously been Pastor at St. John the Baptist in Baldwin Park. In the early days of his priesthood, he served as an Associate Pastor at the westside parishes of St. Marks in Venice and St. Joan of Arc in West LA, and at Our Lady of Lourdes in East Los Angeles.
About our name “Church of the Visitation”
Many people ask about the name of our church, since they are used to having Catholic Churches named after a particular saint. “The Visitation” refers to the story told in Luke 1:39-56, of the meeting of Mary, mother of Jesus, and her kinswoman Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, who would grow up to be the last prophet of the Old Covenant. After the Angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of Our Lord, Mary went from Galilee to visit Elizabeth.
Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary answered with the beautiful poem which we call the Magnificat, beginning, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Luke 1:42 The story records that Elizabeth’s unborn child John, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb.
This Visitation is commemorated with a Feast Day in the Catholic Church, and is included as one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.