"The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding
the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the
sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead."
—Catechism of the Catholic Church #2447
Prior to 1822, those dying in the Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles
were buried in the cemeteries of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel (est.1771)
or the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana (est.1797). In 1822 the
first burial plot in the City of Los Angeles was established adjacent
to Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, known to many as the "Old Plaza
Church" or "La Placita" at 521 North Main Street. It served
the area for about twenty years. A formal petition was presented to the
Los Angeles Ayuntamiento on August 16, 1839 stating that the old cemetery
was "totally inadequate to the present needs and endangering the
health of the community."
In 1844, a new cemetery was set aside by the "Illustrious Council
of Los Angeles" on Buena Vista Street (now North Broadway) at the
southwest corner of Bishop's Road. Plans were drawn up and Bishop
Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno authorized the local priest to bless
the 12 acre site "as soon as it is properly fenced in."
The new burial ground was blessed on November 3, 1844 by Father Thomas
Estenaga, and formally consecrated twenty-two years later by Bishop Thaddeus
Amat, C.M., under the title of Calvary Cemetery. Old Calvary Cemetery
served the City of Angels for the next six decades, until city expansion
called for a second relocation. "New Calvary Cemetery" was
established in 1896 on Whittier Boulevard just east of downtown Los Angeles.
Now simply referred to as "Calvary", it continues to serve
the community and is considered among the most prominent cemeteries in
The oldest of the Archdiocesan cemeteries in its original location is
the 30-acre Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard. Founded in 1874 during the
leadership of Bishop Thaddeus Amat, C.M., who moved the Episcopal seat
to Los Angeles. Bishop Amat also built the present St. Vibiana Cathedral
Holy Cross Cemetery in Pomona, was founded in 1886 as the parish cemetery
of St. Joseph Church in Pomona, under Bishop Amat's successor, Bishop
Francis Mora. Holy Cross became part of the Archdiocese Cemetery Department in
In 1896, the archdiocese's second cemetery was founded in Santa Barbara
by a Jesuit priest and botanist, Father Stockman. The establishment of
the 20-acre Calvary Cemetery on Hope Avenue, three miles from the courthouse,
coincided with the beginning of the rapid growth in Los Angeles to the
south, which doubled in size during the tenures of Bishops George Montgomery,
(1896-1903) and Thomas Conaty (1903-1915). During that time, more than
100 churches, schools and hospitals were built, and with the development
of new parishes came the need for more burial ground.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI divided the 90,000 square mile Diocese of Monterey-Los
Angeles and created the Diocese of Los Angeles-San Diego. Then, three
years after the final alteration in 1936, which made Bishop John J. Cantwell
the first archbishop of Los Angeles, Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City
was founded. It's site selection, with its rolling hills, peaks and valleys,
have allowed Holy Cross to become one of the most beautiful cemeteries
in Southern California. Holy Cross is the largest of the Archdiocesan
Cemeteries and is comprised of 200 acres.
The 1950s saw a need for more Catholic Cemeteries in the Archdiocese.
All Souls Cemetery, Long Beach, began in 1950, with 78 acres. Two more
cemeteries were founded in 1952: San Fernando Mission Cemetery; with
86 acres, serving the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys; and Resurrection
Cemetery in Montebello, east of Los Angeles, with 97 acres. In 1959,
the 100-acre Queen of Heaven Cemetery, was established on Fullerton Road
in Rowland Heights.
The 90-acre Assumption Cemetery in the Simi Valley was established in
1970. The most recent cemetery in the Archdiocese is Good Shepherd Cemetery
in Lancaster, opened in 1991. In 1985, Pope John Paul II named Roger
Michael Mahony the first native born Angeleno to shepherd the largest
archdiocese in the country. Archbishop Mahony became Cardinal in
1991, and five years later he created these five pastoral regions. Under
the present leadership of Cardinal Mahony, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
has kept pace with the rapid growth of its Catholic population, attending
to all its spiritual needs, including the corporal work of mercy of providing
space for Christian burial. At last count, the Archdiocese serves 4,080,793
Catholics in the three counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura,
which encompasses 8,762 square miles.
Text adapted from work by Msgr. Francis J. Weber, Archivist
Archdiocese of Los Angeles