Our Lady of Good Counsel Church can trace its earliest beginnings to the arrival of the first Catholic priest on the North Coast of California. He was the Rev. Bernardine Sheehan, who settled in the village of Mendocino after being assigned by the Archbishop of San Francisco to minister to the Catholics in the area.
For the next 27 years, priests from Mendocino held
Missions in Fort Bragg, one of the smaller logging towns on the coast. They said Mass in private homes until 1890 when the original Our Lady of Good Counsel, then a mission chapel, was built at Main and Oak Streets on property donated by the Union Lumber Company.
When the first Franciscan Capuchin Fathers came to California, they made Mendocino their residence and headquarters, and served Catholics in the country at churches or missions in Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Greenwood and Ukiah. Within the six decades of their ministry in the community, one of the Fathers, in a revealing letter to his superiors, wrote that “there are now over 150 families in the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area of Irish, Italian and Portuguese descent, but” he noted in an understandable lament of a zealous missionary, “most of them are not practical Catholics!”
n 1930, a disastrous fire destroyed St. Anthony’s Church in Mendocino, burning all church records, the rectory, and the priests’ living quarters, forcing the Franciscans to take up residence in Fort Bragg. Shortly thereafter, Fort Bragg became the parish and Mendocino the mission, to the latter’s lasting chagrin.
The little building at Main and Oak was condemned in the late 1940’s, at a time when plans were already being formed to build a new church on land acquired at Harold and Maple Streets. What is now St. Francis Hall was built at the old site in 1948 to serve as a temporary church. In 1950, construction on the present Our Lady of Good Counsel Church was started and saw its completion after two years..
The OLGC Church is a beautiful structure of contemporary design and built of native redwood at a cost of approximately $45,000. It measures 36 by 86 square feet and seats 230. Within the same year, the rectory was built, with a vision to construct a full-term, 8-year school and a convent for teaching sisters. During the mid-1950's; however, plans were narrowed down and the present five-room school was built in 1959.
Upon the death of Archbishop John J. Mitty of San Francisco in 1961, the Holy See established three new dioceses, and in 1962 Fort Bragg became part of the new Diocese of Santa Rosa. At the present time, OLGC Parish consists of 500 registered families, which multiply to over 1,700 persons.
Historically, the North Coast’s robust and energetic parishioners involve themselves in the life of the community, and that characteristic is reflected in the life of the parish today. The excellent facilities provided by visionary men and women of the earlier generations in OLGC are now used for a variety of activities like Wednesday Soup Kitchen for the Homeless, Al-Anon Meetings, etc.; and the lights in the building burn brightly nearly every evening of the week with regular CCD classes for children, RCIA for both English and Spanish-speaking parishioners, Don Bosco Youth Group activities, Parish and Finance Council Meetings, and the Knights of Columbus. In addition, many social activities such as Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve Fundraising Dinner, Weekly Bingo Games, Springtime International Food Festival, and the Famous Catholic Chicken Barbecue are held throughout the year. While Fort Bragg has grown in popularity as a tourist destination, more visitors attend Mass at OLGC, and many have commented on the friendly warmth and openness of its parishioners.
Looking towards the future, the parish pastoral leadership aims to prioritize the evangelization of active Catholic families (and non-practicing ones back to the fold) in Fort Bragg. This necessitates that husbands and wives, parents and children including our single young adult professionals and senior members be given the tools to further strengthen and deepen family relationships based on their knowledge and experience of a personal God in Jesus Christ. Our vision is to provide a link within OLGC through prayer and liturgy, social activities and religious education, given these challenges and our concrete life of faith. With an expected increase in the number of active parishioners, resources to provide for improvements on old structures and building new infrastructure would become a burden charitably shared by committed members and generous friends of the OLGC faith community.