Saint Robert's Parish History

Personnel & Organization Statistics

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The History of St. Robert's Parish

From the very beginning, it was clear that St. Robert’s Parish would be a “People Parish” – of and for the people whether they were hill-dwellers and flat-landers.

Situated thirteen miles south of San Francisco, San Bruno was an area of Spanish/Mexican land grants followed in the late 1800’s by flower gardens, truck farms and thousands and thousands of cows. However, with the 1906 earthquake, refugees from The City came to settle the land. St. Bruno’s Church was built on San Bruno Avenue, at first as a Mission, and then established as a Parish in 1912.

During World War II, Father Peter E. Doyle, long time pastor, realized that there would be another period of great growth following the war. He had the foresight to purchase vacant lots along Oak Avenue and Crystal Springs Rd. On this property a school and convent were built with the school opening in 1949 staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee. The population continued to grow, with neighborhoods called Mills Park, Crestmoor, and Rollingwood, displacing crops and cows. In 1955, an ailing Father Doyle welcomed Father Robert J. Hennessy as Administrator of the Parish. He promptly began Sunday Masses in the school auditorium on Oak Avenue to relieve the over crowed St. Bruno’s Church and he began planning for a new church on the corner of Oak and Crystal Springs Road.

On July 14, 1957, ground was broken and on June 8, 1958, the first Mass was celebrated. Only a few months later, on November 5, Archbishop John J. Mitty announced that St. Bruno’s Parish would be split and the school and the new Church would be named St. Robert’s Parish, after St. Robert of the House of God. St. Robert was born in the year of 1000 in France became a priest noted for service to the poor and for establishing monasteries dedicated to the glory of God. His feast is observed on April 17th.

In 1969, Father Hennessy was told that the Sisters of St. Francis, were returning to Milwaukee and it would be necessary to find a new order of Sisters to teach in the school and serve the Parish. After a trip to Ireland, Father Hennessy was able to announce that the Irish Sisters of the Presentation would arrive the following year. Four decades later, one of the original Sisters, Sister Ita Cleary, is still active in the Parish along with Sister Antonio Heaphy, Provincial, Sister Patricia O’Sullivan, Pastoral Associate, and Sister Vianney Buckley, who is in active retirement. Their ministry to the sick, the homebound, the grieving as well as their ministry of prayer is appreciated by all in the Parish. In 2009, the Sisters moved from the old convent on Oak to a home around the corner from the Church. The convent is used by the school for its library and by the Parish for meetings and small events.

The Parish continued to grow in numbers and in ministries under the pastorates of Father Hennessy and his successors: Father Daniel Lynch, Father Martin Greenlaw, Father Vincent Ring, Monsignor Bruce Dreier and Father Roberto Andrey. Fr. Obet, as Father Andrey prefers to be called, was ordained for the Diocese of Lucena in the Philippines in 1983 and was incardinated in the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2003. He comes to us from St. Peter’s Parish in Pacifica, where he was pastor since 2005. Fr. Obet was reassigned to St. Patrick's parish of San Francisco in June of 2012. We are grateful to have Fr. John L. Greene assigned to our parish in July 2012. Fr. Greene was previously the pastor at St. Monica's Parish in San Francisco. Fr. Greene is also the Chaplain of the San Francisco Fire Department.

Fr. John Greene was ordained on May 15, 1976, and served as a Priest for 44 Years. Father was a Pastor of St. Monica's Church in San Francisco for 13 years before coming to St. Robert's Parish. He was Pastor at St. Robert's for 7 1/2 years, Chaplain of the San Francisco Fire Department since 1982 for 37 years, Chaplain of the North County Fire Department for over 20 years, and former AFT Chaplain, retiring in July 2020 from St. Robert's. St. Robert's new pastor is Fr. Arnold Zamora, who was serving as Pastor at Holy Name Parish in San Francisco for 11 years.

In recent years the Church itself was renovated as a result of the liturgical changes called for by the Second Vatican Council. The major changes came in the late 1980’s with the stained glass windows, depicting the life of Christ, being installed. In the 1990’s, Father Ring commissioned the remodeling of the interior. The sanctuary, the Chapel of Mary and, at the suggestion of Sister Ita, the addition of stained glass windows in the wall behind the altar.

In 2001, an ambitious fund raising campaign of 1.3 million dollars was undertaken to build an addition to the school. This provided a computer room, a kindergarten room, as well as a science and art classroom. In 2003, the Presentation Education Center was dedicated. At the same time, rooms of the school were remodeled to provide a Religious Education Center, a faculty lunch room as well as a counseling center.

In 2008, the Parish celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Church. A special Mass was held on Sunday, June 8th with Archbishop George Niederauer. Many of the original parishioners and many more 2nd and 3rd generation families were in attendance. Special badges that read, “I Built This Church” were handed out to all.

On September 2020 the last of our 'Sisters of the Presentation' retired and moved to Texas. The Presentation Sisters came to St. Roberts in 1950 to teach in our parish school. Over the years many Sisters came and used their spiritual talents, not only as principals and teachers, but also to become valued members of our parish staff teaching CCD, adult religious education, including RCIA, Bible and Scripture study with reflection groups. They ministered to the sick in their homes and hospitals. They were always involved in Liturgies with their prayers, music and singing.

We, who call St. Robert’s our Parish, are most grateful to all parishioners, parish leaders and volunteers who have preceded us in ministry. Together we have made St. Robert’s Parish a community where all are welcome as we help each other to follow the example of Christ.

revised: October 3, 2020