L.A.’s “Underground Catholics” gain a Cathedral -
but lose a Chapel
by Christine Lehman
(aka Theist Gal)

Most of you have probably heard about the new Cathedral which opened in Los Angeles last month. I go there for weekday Masses and even wrote a nice little essay about it!.

However, here's a sad footnote to the story of the Cathedral -- now that it's opened, a little chapel in downtown L.A. will be closing at the end of the year.

Father James Kolling, who's been pastor of Our Lady Chapel for about 20 years, has decided to retire due to ongoing health problems. Because of the priest shortage - and because most of the tourists in Downtown are now going to the Cathedral, rather than the smaller neighborhood churches - Cardinal Mahony has decided not to replace him.

So -- barring a miracle -- the Chapel will close its doors forever after one last Holy Hour on December 31, 2002.

It's sad, because the Chapel itself has been there for over 40 years. I have seen photos of it - it used to be a department store! And it's always been my favorite church to attend on Easter and Christmas, because I'm a little agoraphobic, and somehow, even when it’s completely full, it never really *feels* crowded!

Last Sunday, Father Kolling joked that he is sure there are people who’ve been attending the Chapel for years and years, but still don’t know his name. Yet, interestingly enough, he has intentionally made that rather difficult. His name does not appear on the weekly bulletins. It’s not even on the nice little grey information cards, which feature a lovely drawing of the Chapel (that's it at the top of the page), along with Mass and confession times.

Father explained it this way: He grew up in a family that ran a restaurant in Indiana. The goal of a good restaurant is to make the customers remember the name of the RESTAURANT - not the name of the waiter or the chef. So he’s applied that same philosophy to the Chapel - he wants visitors, and even regular “patrons” - to remember “Our Lady Chapel” - not Father James Kolling!

But we will, you know. I was chatting with a couple of other ladies there on Sunday and we were laughing about the fact that we will never hear Beethoven's “Ode to Joy” without thinking of Father Kolling. As long as I can remember, at the beginning of the 10:30 Mass every Sunday, Father has told us to turn to hymn 150 -- or perhaps hymn number 110 -- or perhaps hymn number 40 -- and sing it to the tune of “Ode to Joy”! Now, whether that is his all-time favorite tune -- or whether it’s just the only one he knows by heart -- I don’t know -- and at this point, I’m not going to ask him! (P.S. The Sunday after he read this, Father Kolling announced -- in front of everyone, at the 10:30 Mass -- that yes, he DOES know other tunes! He just thinks "Ode to Joy" is the easiest for everyone to remember and sing. So - I stand corrected!)

But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just one of the many funny, sweet, quirky things that we “underground Catholics” appreciate and love, as we live out our Catholic faith in downtown L.A.

Yes, we’ll go on. We’ll find other churches.

There’s the new Cathedral, which is supposed to last for at least 500 years.

There’s the old Mission, aka “La Placita”, near Union Station, which has *already* lasted over 200 years.

Yes, as long as we can find Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we’ll go on, and we’ll be happy.

But as long as we live, there will always be a special place in our hearts for Father Kolling and his little "restaurant" at 8th and Flower!

Back to main page