In 1979, the Diocese of Oakland established the Danville/San Ramon Parish of St. Joan of Arc. The parish was formed from the growing healthy Catholic communities of St. Isidore in Danville and St. Raymond in Dublin.
Rev. Michael Joyce was assigned as pastor of St. Joan of Arc by the Bishop of Oakland, John S. Cummins.
For four years a trailer was used as the Parish and Religious Education headquarters at the church construction site. In addition to programs that provided religious instruction for the children and youth of the parish, several key committees were put into place: Liturgy, Social Concerns, Good Times and Finance.
The parish compiled a list of features wanted for the new church:
- We want it to be bright and to have a flat and open area for the sanctuary
- We want people to have a sense of closeness to the altar
- We want a window so we can keep ourselves connected to this world of ours
This list was submitted to several architects, and a design by Aaron Green of San Francisco, a long-time associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, was selected as the favorite.
Before the church was built, Masses were held in the library of John Baldwin Elementary School in Danville. Each week volunteers would move chairs into the library on Saturday, then move them out again on Sunday after the Masses. Baptisms and weddings were even held in the school library, popularly known by parishioners at the time as “St. John Baldwin”.
St. Joan’s was built on an eight-acre parcel originally part of a 20-acre ranch. The church sits on the site of the old farmhouse, looking out at Mt. Diablo.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 25, 1982, and the first Mass was held in the church on Saturday, October 16, 1983. On December 11, 1983, Bishop Cummins consecrated the altar at the dedication ceremony. The original church had a central seating area that seated 450. An accordion door separated the adjoining multipurpose room and kitchen from the church. The office was in a separate room at the back of the church. The youth center was and is still below the church. Having a “place to call home” allowed the parish to expand its programs to better meet the needs of the parishioners as well as to extend its outreach to touch more effectively the community at large through food drives and other socially conscious efforts.
In 1985, the statue of St. Joan of Arc was commissioned through the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Arizona. Sculptress Heloise Swaback spent 2-1/2 years creating the one ton, 13’9” bronze statue weighing 2,000 pounds. It was cast during an eight-month period at the Artworks Foundry in Berkeley. The bronze of St. Joan has her holding her sword by the blade instead of the hilt, not to express battle, but to show the spirit of God through the hand guard raised to the heavens forming a perfect cross. The statue was dedicated on June 9, 1985. It is a significant contribution to Bay Area Art.
On September 8, 1991, a second ground breaking was held to commence the construction of a Parish Center. The Parish Center, also designed by Aaron Green as part of the master plan, consisted of six pastoral offices with a main office, lobby and workroom, two conference rooms, a religious education office, a library, large gymnasium, four connecting classrooms and a multipurpose room with a connecting kitchen and lawn area for social events. At the time, it accommodated the clerical, educational and social programs of the parish. The church was also expanded to its present size at that time. The construction was completed in the Fall of 1993.
In May of 1994, the parish said good-bye to Fr. Mike and honored him by adding a plaque with his name to the Parish Center. In June, the parish joined in welcoming our second pastor, Rev. Fred Riccio. Under Fr. Fred’s guidance, St. Joan of Arch Parish continued to expand its ministry to its members and to the community at large. Before Fr. Fred’s departure in August of 2008, he saw our church renovated and rededicated on June 8, 2008 by Bishop Allen Vigneron. A plaque honoring Fr. Fred was placed on the frame of the Christos window behind the altar. Fr. Fred was transferred to St Joseph Basilica in Alameda in August 2008. We welcomed Fr. Ray Zielezienski as our new pastor in August 2008 and Fr. Ian Mendoza in July 2010 as our parochial vicar.
During the life of the parish, we have been fortunate to have “weekend visiting priests” who are Jesuits. These were Fr. Tom Lucas, Fr. Bob Niehoff, and Fr. Peter Togni from University of San Francisco and Fr. Tom Powers from Santa Clara University. Unfortunately, we lost Fr. Bob to a College in the Midwest, and Fr. Peter has been ill. Fortunately, we still have Fr. Tom Lucas, the artist who designed and coordinated the refurbishing of the church. In addition to these priests, you may hear some parishioners who have been around a while talk about previous associates: Fr. Larry Stehling S.J., Fr. Declan Deane, Fr. Walter Borkowski, Fr. Herman Leong, Fr. Neal Clemens and Fr. Glenn Naguit. In addition, we have two Deacons, Ruben Gomez and Chuan Hock Oey. Ruben leads many ministries, primarily Prison Ministry. Chuan is head of the Sick and Homebound Ministry and Ministers to the Indonesian Community in the Diocese. Charlie Stanton retired as Pastoral Associate in December 2010. Our Pastoral Ministers are Maureen Tiffany for Religious Education, Bob Cummings for Youth Ministry and Janèt Sullivan-Whitaker for Music.
Our parish is 31 years old. The parish currently has over 2,955 registered families. It is only through the tremendous generosity of time, talent and financial contributions of the St. Joan of Arc parishioners, that the community has been able to accomplish so much and to maintain its original goals of welcoming, spiritual growth and community outreach. Through the ongoing sharing of time, talents and treasure, the parish community will continue to thrive and be able to meet the needs of our ever-growing Catholic community.