ABOUT OUR PARISH
San Secondo d'Asti
San Secondo d'Asti Catholic Church in Guasti, CA, is a church rich in heritage and tradition. Established by the late Mr. Secondo Guasti, founder of the community of Guasti and builder of the San Secondo d'Asti church.
In 1900, Secondo Guasti, an Italian immigrant moved to California and pioneered grape growing in the semi-desert of what is now Rancho Cucamonga. He convinced a group of fellow Italian-Americans to invest in the Italian Vineyard Company, IVC. He bought 1,500 acres of land with $16,000 and planted a hundred varieties of grapes. The vines grew and the company prospered.
By 1917, IVC was the world's largest vineyard, seasonally producing 5,000,000 gallons of wine. The property extended as far as the eye could see with 5,000 acres of grapevines spread along twenty-two miles of narrow gauge railroad. A complete company town named "Guasti" was built including a school, firehouse, post office and a charming country church.
Mr. and Mrs. Secondo Guasti built this church to resemble the 17th century structure from his village in Asti, Italy. In 1924, the Guasti family brought woodworkers and stonemasons from Mexico and Italy to build the church. It was completed in 1926 and dedicated on October 3, 1926, by Bishop John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles.
In 1935 the Guasti family, through the Italian Vineyard Company, donated the church to the Diocese of Los Angeles and San Diego. Since 1978, it has been in the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Since the dedication of San Secondo d'Asti in 1926, the church has practically never been without a pastor. The church has been blessed with admirable and faithful priests. Staring with:
Fr. John Cotta, 1926-1931
Fr. Luigi Conti, 1931-1959
Fr. Elio Zaratti, 1959-1963
Fr. Martin Keegan, 1964
Fr. Emil Melee, 1964-1979
Fr. Ladislaus J. Varga, 1979-1989
Fr. Joseph O'Gara, 1989-1992
Deacon George Schmitt, 1993-1994, appointed administrator for one year.
Msgr. Thomas Meagher, 1992-1997, Administrator
Fr. Louis Marx, 1997-2018
Fr. Stanley Onwuegbule, Current Administrator
Today San Secondo d'Asti registers at about 900 families. Amidst the modern structures and businessess that surround it, parishioners and visitors can find a part of the old world and a quiet place to worship and pray. All who come agree, the same spirit of love that built the church is still evident at San Secondo d'Asti today.
The church is an architectural gem, with its California Mission style, elegant bell tower, and beautiful rose gardens.
Among the rose gardens and landscapes are lovely statues of Our Lady as memorials. Mrs. Lorraine Turner and the Reignborn family dedicated one to the loving memory of Fr. Joseph O'Gara and Tommy Reignborn. Tommy was one of our most dedicated altar boys, who died at the age of 15. Lorraine Turner also paid to have the parking lot paved. The other lovely statue is to the loving memory of Patrick, John and Francis, sons of George and Peggy Trimbach.
At the entrance of the church there is a bronze bust, in honor and memory of its founder Mr. Secondo Guasti, 1859-1927. Mrs. William Orcutt is responsible for the attractive paved entrance, the cement and the terrazzo marble in the shape of grapes, wheat and other landscapes.
The courtyard also features a delightful fountain, which was made in Asti, Italy. The fountain was put in and dedicated to the loving memory of Mr. and Mrs. Guasti's son, Secondo Guasti II, 1891-1933, by his mother-in-law, Mrs. W. Orcutt, in 1961. The fountain depicts a Franciscan Padre and a young Indian boy with grapes andfruit. This fountain symbolizes God's blessings upon their harvest and the closeness between parishioners and pastor.
St. Secundus was a military officer of Imperial Rome. He was a citizen of the town of Asti, in the Piedmont region of Italy. He was a patrician, meaning either that he belonged to a branch of one of the ancient citizen families of Rome itself, or that his family had attained a high position through service to the Empire. He encountered persecution for the Faith when he dared to bury the body of the martyred St. Marcianus of Tortona. St. Marcianus was the first bishop of Peidmont, and is said to have been a disciple of St. Barnabas (the companion of the Apostle Paul). After performing that work of mercy, St. Secundus fled to Asti, but he was arrested and after cruel tortures, beheaded. His martyrdom took place at Asti in the year of Our Lord 119, under the reign of the Emperor Hadrain. The Roman Martyrology gives the date as March 29th.
St. Secundus is the principal patron of the city of Asti, Italy where his relics lie in the cathedral. Due to the fact that his day of death falls within Lent his feast day is typically celebrated on the first Tuesday of May. In Asti there is a separate feast on June 1st for the translation of the relics of St. Secundus.
The east window of San Secondo d'Asti Church shows the saint in Roman military garb, including an officer's cloak. St. Secundus holds in one arm some miniature buildings representing the city of Asti. An angel presents him with the crown and palm of martyrdom.
Inside the Church
The focal point of the church is the tabernacle, where the Eucharistic Lord is present (body, blood, soul, and divinity). Here “Emmanuel” “(God is with us”) dwells (“pitches His tent”—John 1:14) among us. The tabernacle of the ancient Hebrews was indeed a tent, as a tabernacle veil indicating the divine presence may emphatically remind us. Recognizing His continual presence, the Church offers her Lord the homage of a continually burning sanctuary lamp.
That in San Secondo is a hanging lamp of Mediterranean style. But as well, Jesus Christ Himself, the light of the world, is the central flame of the seven-branched lamp (Hebrew “menorah”) in Christian worship. This is presented to the human eye by the tabernacle and crucifix in the center of six altar candles.
Sacred Heart Statue
The main figures of the sanctuary are Our Lord with His Sacred Heart on the south and Our Lady crowned with twelve stars on the north. Our Lord’s image teaches of His Incarnation. The tri-radiant nimbus behind His head (used only for the deity) expresses His divinity, while the heart of flesh shows His sacred humanity (as well as His love for mankind). As true God and true man, Jesus Christ raises His hand in blessing.
The statue crowned with twelve stars represents Our Lady as Queen of heaven and earth. Her downcast eyes show her humility, and suggest her loving attention to the Church (of which she is the purest image). Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is also shown in this church by the copy of the miraculous image of Guadalupe on the south wall near the priest’s chair. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Queen of the Americas and of Mexico in particular. Several figures of the Blessed Mother may be found outside, as well, in San Secondo d'Asti’s gardens. Inside again, north of the ambo, is a portrait of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Lady of Carmel—the sacred mountain retreat in the Holy Land—invites one to prayer either at the altar or in the baptistery “Chapel of All Saints.” This tiny space contains many small statues given by parishioners over the years. These may be replaced by the Christmas Crib in season, or covered during the last two weeks before Easter in sorrowful remembrance of the Lord’s Passion. The intended use of this area is indicated by the shell-like baptismal font on the east wall. Tucked into this space is also our relics collections featuring relics from: St. Louis IX of France, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John Berchmans, St. John Neumann, St. Charles Lwanga and Pope St. Pius X. The relics were donated by the family of Fr. Louis Marx and were from his own personal collection.
The only large statue of a saint in the church is that of Saint Anthony of Padua, standing with his back to the south wall. St. Anthony is quite popular in Italy; he may well stand in the same place at Asti. Here he looks north toward the mountain, which bore his name—Mount San Antonio—in Spanish California. This usually snow-capped peak is now called Mount Baldy. One can only wonder whether the English name speaks affection or derision for St. Anthony’s tonsure.
At the east end of the nave are two signed papal photographs—mementos of the Apostolic Blessing bestowed upon the Guasti family. The placement of these in the church probably means that the Guastis regarded the parish as their extended family—in the Catholic Church, the family of God. That on the south wall was presented to Secondo Guasti by Pope Benedict XV in 1921; that on the north, to Luisa Guasti by Pope Pius XI in 1923.
The window above the choir loft depicts the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. This event was a very recent one when the church was built. At that time, Our Lady’s messages were only partly known, and her requests unfulfilled—as they mostly remain today. Is the window a pledge, on the part of San Secondo d’Asti Church, to do our part in bringing about the reign of Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Heart.