A 167-year-old San Francisco church is reaching out to the community for financial support following a drop in its income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Old St. Mary’s Church, California’s oldest Cathedral, has set up a GoFundMe in hopes that the community will help make up some of the income it has lost, Old St. Mary’s priest Father John Ardis said.

“We’re hoping that the GoFundMe will reach out to people and that they will share it with their friends and family and hopefully people who have a love for the ministry or the historical aspects of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, which has served the community since 1854,” Ardis said.

The church used to receive about $3,500 each weekend in collections during services, around half of which was from tourists, according to Ardis. That amount has dropped to about $1,000 for each of the eight weekends during the pandemic it has been able to open for reduced services, he said.

The church “faces the very real possibility of having to close its doors to the community, and to the world,” the GoFundMe description states.

The church also has lost income brought in by its preschool program, which it had to shut down due to a drop in enrollment, and its bookstore.

As a result of the lost funds, the church had to lay off two priests and terminate 20 staff members.

The church will use money raised by the GoFundMe to pay for insurance costs and the Archdiocesan’s Annual Appeal, Ardis said. According to the GoFundMe, the church owes $250,000 in insurance payments.

Ardis said the church was built in 1854, but was rebuilt and reopened following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Because of the age of the building and the cost of insurance, the church hasn’t been able to attend to needed maintenance issues, Ardis said.

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A little history from Wikipedia:

Old Saint Mary’s cornerstone was placed on Sunday, July 17, 1853, at the corner of California and Dupont Streets by the Bishop of Monterrey Joseph S. Alemany. With its dedication by Alemany, now as the new Archbishop of San Francisco, at Christmas Midnight Mass, 1854, it became the first cathedral of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It is the first cathedral in California to be built for the express purpose of serving as a cathedral, although other churches in the state served as cathedrals before it was built.When it opened, it was the tallest building in San Francisco and all of California.

It was used from 1854 to 1891 as a cathedral and was replaced by the first Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, as the archdiocese was in need of a larger space for the growing number of Catholics in the area. In 1891, Old Saint Mary’s became a parish church, still using the same name that it bore as a cathedral. The new St. Mary’s Cathedral was located at Van Ness Avenue and O’Farrell Street.

Under the clock face of Old St. Mary’s appear the words: “Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil” (Ecclesiasticus 4:23). This sentiment was aimed at the men who frequented the surrounding brothels in the 1850s.

Old St. Mary’s remains an active parish of the archdiocese, serving the Chinatown and Nob Hill communities of San Francisco. Old St. Mary’s Church is a California Historical Landmark. The Paulist Fathers have served Old Saint Mary’s since 1901, and continue serving there today.

Visit the cathedral website to give.

Photo: by Michael Rivera / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.