The history of San Antonio Parish can actually be traced to 1769 when Jose Antonio Yorba, a young Spanish soldier of the Portola expedition, first saw what is now Orange County. Yorba later returned as one of the several large landowners who established Ranchos in the area.
On August 1, 1834, one of Jose’s sons, Bernardo, moved across the Santa Ana River from what is now Anaheim Hills, to establish Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana. He built a large hacienda complete with a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. Before his death in 1860, Don Bernardo began the construction on a public chapel made of adobe.
On April 19, 1860, the chapel was dedicated with a Mass for the soul of Don Bernardo and named the Chapel, San Antonio de Padua de Santa Ana.
Originally priests came from the mission San Gabriel to say Mass, but in 1875, after the founding of the St Boniface parish in Anaheim, the little chapel became a mission of that parish. In 1880 a wooden chapel replaced the deteriorating adobe structure and that chapel stood until 1956 when it was torn down.
The chapel’s name would once again come to grace the part of the Santa Ana Canyon know as Anaheim Hills, when Bishop William Johnson created a new parish on June 8, 1977. He appointed the Rev. Seamus A. Glynn as the founding pastor and gave permission for Father Seamus to seek the recommendations of parishioners as to a name for the new parish. On September 1, 1977 the name San Antonio was suggested and forwarded to the bishop. He approved it as San Antonio de Padua del Cañon.
The parish was officially created on September 23, 1977 and the first Mass was held on Saturday, October 1, in the cafeteria of El Rancho Middle School. The parish began with 853 registered families. On February 8, 1981 the first mass held in the new church with over 1100 in attendance. The final piece of the church was added on September 18, 1982, when the bells were installed. By its tenth anniversary in 1987, the parish had grown to 1909 families.
In May of 1995 the pastoral council conducted a needs assessment survey and out of this came a recommendation for the building of a Catholic elementary school. In partnership with St. Martin de Porres Parish of Yorba Linda, a $3 million campaign was launched to build a school on land northeast Yorba Linda donated by the Diocese of Orange. In 1996 Bishop McFarland approved the school project and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School opened for classes in September, 1999.
In our third decade, San Antonio Parish has shown tremendous growth. We have grown to over 4,000 families. Because of all our ministries, dedicated employees, countless organizations, and supportive parishioners we have confident expectations of continued spiritual and physical growth.