Our Parish History

St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic Church

Our parish history began when our area was still part of Santa Teresita Parish in El Mirage, and of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Sun City West whose pastor, Fr. Moynihan, arranged for the first Masses at Happy Trails Resort in 1988 on Saturdays at 4:00pm. A Sunday Mass was then added at 9:00am in Sun Village, and in 1990 a third Mass at 11:00am in Arizona Traditions. Retired priests took care of the spiritual needs as the three communities started to build the local Catholic Community and raise money for a new parish.

Religious education programs for the children began under the leadership of volunteers in their home, with guidance from Fr. David Kelash, pastor of Santa Teresita Parish.

Most Reverend Thomas J. O’Brien, bishop of Phoenix, chose the name, St. Clare of Assisi and established the parish on July 1, 2000. He appointed Fr. John Coleman as the founding pastor. For ten months, three weekend Masses were held at the Kingswood Parke Elementary School in Surprise. Later, in the summer of 2001, two temporary buildings were placed on 12.5 acres owned by the Diocese of Phoenix at the corner of Bell Road and Cotton Lane. The largerbuilding seated 480 people for Mass and the smaller building became the offices and conference rooms and alsoserved many other purposes including our religious education program.

Fr. Hans P. Ruygt was appointed by Bishop O’Brien to lead the parish on July 1, 2002 and to carry out a building program. Thousands of parishioners rallied together to raise funds and to assess the needs of the parish. They determined that the first need was for a permanent church, and they conducted several capital campaigns.

On August 12, 2006 after the feast of our patroness, St. Clare of Assisi, Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, gathered the parishioners, with Fr. Coleman, Fr. Ruygt, and several others priests and deacons and civic leaders for the Blessing and Groundbreaking for the new church. Site work and grading were completed in 2007, and the parking lot was expanded. Construction on the church began in January 2008.

Meanwhile, the parish numbers grew rapidly reaching 2600 parish families, and over 500 children in the religious education programs for children and teens. Hundreds of people had to sit outside listening to ground speakers for Saturday and Sunday Masses on many weekends because they didn’t fit inside the church.

It was a glorious day when parishioners moved into the new church and celebrated the first Mass on Christmas Eve 2008 at 4:00 pm. We had no permanent furnishings and no tile on the floor, but we finally had a roof over our heads and were able to accommodate the large crowds which often reached 1000+ people. The city limited us to seating 1400 people because parking will need to expand again before we can seat more people.

As the years went by, we continued to add to the adornments of the church interior with and altar, ambo, baptismal font and reredos behind the altar. When the basic permanent items such as the altar were installed we were able to didicate the altar and church. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix was surrounded by many diocessan priests on April 11, 2010, the Sunday of Divine Mercy, the Octave of Easter for the glorious Mass of Dedication. We thank everyone who contributed to the building process and all who have helped to pay down the debt.



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