About Us and Our Pastor
From the first store front Mass offered on Oct. 1, 1871, for six Catholic families, to the opening of the first parish church in July 1881, to the bustling center of faith it is today, St. Francis Church has served the Bakersfield area well. The first building committee included its chairman, Col. Thomas Baker, A.R. Jackson, Julius Chester, Bakersfield’s first newspaperman, John C. Fremont’s scout, Alexis Godey and the storeowner Pablo Galtes.
Their plans were completed ten years later in 1881, but a pastor for the new church was not named until 1884. The 1952 earthquake destroyed the 50-year-old church on Truxtun Avenue. Msgr. Patrick Leddy led the effort to build the church and rectory in use today. A new hall was added in 1996. Under native son and pastor, Fr. Craig Harrison, the parish today is growing rapidly in both attendance and property needed to better serve over 6,500 families for the glory of God.
The Mission of St. Francis of Assisi Parish is to provide a safe, welcoming environment of Catholic worship, evangelization & fellowship, living in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Monsignor Craig F. Harrison
Msgr. Craig Harrison has been a Roman Catholic priest since 1987. He was born and raised in Bakersfield, where he and his parents still reside. He graduated from Bakersfield High School and attended U.C.L.A., where he graduated with a degree in Business and Economics, with a minor in Psychology. He also attended the Seminary at St. Johns in Camarillo and received a Master’s Degree in Divinity.
He has been the Pastor of St. Francis Church in Mojave, and St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh. He is currently the Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, his hometown Parish in Bakersfield, CA. He was honored to receive the title of Monsignor by Pope Benedict on May 11, 2008.
In his ministry of over 20 years he has worked closely with families who have experienced the death of a child. He is both a parent and grandparent by adopting children before entering his ministry to the Priesthood.
Msgr. Harrison founded both St. Faustina’s Maternity Home for unwed mothers and St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center in Bakersfield, CA. He serves as a Chaplain for The Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Bakersfield Police Department. He is a foster care advocate and is the 2010 recipient of the Bishops Award for Catholic Charities.
Msgr. Harrison is currently a co-host of “Monsignor Monday,” a radio talk show. He is also the author of “Angel Girl”, a children’s book based on a true story about a young girl who endured two years of cancer treatments and never failed to see the light of God.
The Fresno Diocese and Our Bishop
What is now the Fresno Diocese was once a very sparsely populated desert and forest land that was one portion of the vast Diocese of Guadalajara comprising some two-thirds of the total area of Mexico. In 1769, all of Upper and Lower California were added to it. From a single priest celebrating Mass for a handful of families in Visalia around 1861, the Diocese has grown to comprise five deaneries in eight counties with 86 parishes. In addition, it has more than 40 mission churches and a number of mission stations. However, the vibrancy of the Fresno Diocese consists more than its flourishing numbers. The faith of the people shines iridescent with ministers and ministries fostering the life of the Church in ways that reach out to the secular arena with the message and service of Jesus.Bishop Ochoa was installed as the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno on February 1, 2012.