Parish History

Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church 
Founded 1868

In his own handwriting, Archbishop Alemany wrote these words in the official records of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Our Lady of the Pillar was founded on July 21, 1868 in Spanish Town, now known as Half Moon Bay, CA.

The first church of Our Lady of the Pillar in Spanish Town (Half Moon Bay) was built in 1868 as a frame building without stucco or stone, steel or concrete. The property was donated by the Vasquez family. This church was destroyed by fire in 1875. The bell from the church is now mounted permanently in front of our present church. The site of the first church in Spanish Town became a cemetery and is now know as the Old Pilarcitos Cemetery on Highway 92.

The first mass in our present Church was offered on Easter Sunday, April 18 1954. For over one hundred forty years, people of many backgrounds, ethnic origins, and dimensions of difference have worked together to create our Catholic Community through their involvement, support, and worship at Our Lady of the Pillar Parish.

The Parish today has two missions: St. Anthony’s Church in Pescadero, built in 1868 and Our Lady of Refuge in La Honda, officially established in 1883 — its present church was dedicated in 1954.

Our Lady of the Pillar was the second parish founded in San Mateo County and still remains the largest in size. It is approximately 500 square miles with boundaries of San Pedro Mountains on the north; Santa Cruz County on the south; Skyline Boulevard on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.


The Special Meaning Behind Our Name…

Our Lady of the Pillar is taken from the name given by the early Spanish settlers — “Nuestra Senora del Pilar.” It is named after the famous shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar at Zaragoza, Spain, which is very dear to Spanish people. It is the oldest shrine to Our Lady in the world. Tradition relates the story of the Apostle St. James the Greater, who was evangelizing the word of God in Spain, but had problems converting Spaniards. He became disheartened and planned to give up and leave. Then, Our Lady, standing on a pillar holding the Christ Child, appeared to him. She told him not to give up, for he would succeed in bringing the word of God to the Spanish people. Saint James erected a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady on the place of her apparition. The chapel was enlarged many times, and in the 16th Century, the present magnificent basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar was built on the site.