History of St. Agnes Parish
In 1893, Archbishop Riordan commissioned a new parish to be formed from part of Sacred Heart Parish on Fell and Fillmore Streets. It was founded among the workers of a growing city, in the middle of the present Haight-Ashbury District. The first pastor, Rev. Matthew Lagan (1893-1895) was a native of Ireland as well as the next four pastors.
The original boundaries for the new parish were from Broderick Street to the ocean and from Fulton Street, south to the city limits. In 1893, most of this land now so densely populated, was sand dunes. But in the years to come, beginning in 1904 with St. Anne's, five parishes were to be formed from the original St. Agnes.
In 1907, the present Rectory was built to accommodate the growing number of priests needed to attend to the growing population in the neighborhood after the great earthquake of 1906. In 1948, St. Agnes commissioned Benso Vignolini of Rome to create a baptismal font, which sits on the altar today! The font is shaped like a huge chalice of the cup of life. The sculptures on the three sides depict the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by St. John; the stoning to death of St. Agnes by the Romans; and St. Francis preaching to his brother friars. By neatly depicting the witnessing of the truth by water, blood, and the Word, the font ties Christ, the patrons of the diocese & of the parish together. The four corners of the font are sculptures of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. The font is capped by a huge lid of bronze with a copper design representing the Holy Spirit.
In 1953, the architectural firm, Wilton Smith - John G. Minton completed the new addition of St. Agnes Church. Archbishop Mitty performed the dedication ceremony on September 8, 1953. Along the way, the church was endowed with a magnificent fixed altar made of salmon and white marble from Italy. The current chapel in the church, originally the baptistery room, has marvelous stained glass windows depicting the Holy Family, Christ with his flock, and the Guardian Angel.
The hand-carved Stations of the Cross with simple, yet strong and clear motifs were executed in maple done by Gabriel Lavare of Berkeley, CA. The stained glass windows in the choir loft depict Saint Francis and Saint Patrick, co-patrons of the diocese. They flank the lovely rose window made by Harry Clarke of Dublin, Ireland, which sets off the front of the church.
There are two unique statues in the back of the church: Jesus of the Haight and Mary of the Haight. The Jesus statue represents the Passion and portrays Christ after the Resurrection, having returned to earth pondering the trials of humankind. The sculpture is the work of GIntas Lukosaitis, a young Lithuanian artist. The Mary statue, also sculpted by Lukosaitis, was commissioned in 1999 and arrived in 2000. It stands in solidarity with all those mothers who seek spiritual guidance and help in raising their children, especially those who are homeless and lost.
In the '70s and '80s, St. Agnes saw a sharp decline in parishioners and the Archdiocese asked the Jesuits to come and see if they could help. In 1993, the Jesuits became a part of St. Agnes Parish. Today, St. Agnes is thriving and strives to be an inclusive urban community, rich in diversity of age, ethnicity, gender orientation, culture, talent, and treasure.
(References: St. Agnes Parish book 1893-1968; St. Agnes Mission Statement)