Churches worth driving to

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, Santa Paula


Name of Church Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Address (on the grounds of Thomas Aquinas College – TAC) 10,000 Ojai Road, Santa Paula, CA 93060

Phone number (805) 525-4417


Mass times Summer: weekdays, 7 a.m., 5:20 p.m.  Saturdays, 7:15 a.m. & 9:15 a.m.  Sundays and holidays, 7:15 a.m. & 9 a.m.  Academic year: weekdays, 7 a.m., 11:30 a.m. & 5 p.m.  Saturdays, 7:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.  Sundays & holidays, 7:15 a.m., 9 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.  First Mass of each day is Latin Tridentine.

Confessions Heard before and after Masses.



Names of priests Father Cornelius Buckley, S.J., Father Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem., Father Joseph Illo.  All priests at TAC/the chapel are orthodox.  Father Buckley is the oldest of the three priests, celebrating his 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2012, and has served the longest at the college, joining the staff in 2004.  Although a Jesuit, he is faithful to the Magisterium, is an academic and author.  Before coming to the college, he taught at the University of Santa Clara, Gonzaga University and the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco.  He served as president of St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School in San Francisco, and later as acting dean of the University of San Francisco. Father Hildebrand is a Norbertine Father of St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California.  The Norbertines are noted for their orthodoxy and professionalism.  Father Hildebrand’s previous assignment was as pastor of St. John the Baptist parish in Costa Mesa, Orange County’s only Nobertine-run parish.  The soft-spoken, good natured priest oversaw the renovation of the parish, which includes a beautiful altar piece depicting the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.  Father Illo’s most recent assignment was at St. Joseph Church in Modesto.  He is a good homilist, preaching what the church teaches, even when it might make some uncomfortable (such as when he talks about the importance of chastity and modesty).  Father Illo made the news after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, when he told parishioners that they should go to confession if they voted for Obama, because he supports legalized abortion.

Music  There are two student choirs, a schola with all male voices, and a polyphonic group.  During the academic year there is a full choir, and fewer voices during the summer months.

Special groups and activities The chapel is used for rosaries, evening prayer and other spiritual functions of the college.

Fellow parishioners  Students and staff of TAC, and some visitors.

Parking No problem.

Acoustics Beautiful, with good amplification.

Cry room No, but there is a vestibule area separate from the church.

Additional observations  Dedicated in 2009 and built at a cost of $23 million, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel is located on the grounds of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.  The college opened in 1971, and is known for its Great Books program.  The chapel was in the school’s original master plan, but a temporary chapel was used for years as other permanent buildings were built which allowed the college to function.

The college’s board of directors chose the architect Duncan Stroik and the early Christian, Renaissance, and Spanish mission-style design.  It is a cruciform structure. Pope Benedict blessed the cornerstone of the church in a ceremony in Rome in 2008.  It has a marble floor (with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict’s coats of arms), marble columns (originally planned to be Indiana limestone like the façade), statues and other art, gardens, a dome, a baldacchino (a canopy over the altar area), and a bell tower.  The chapel is intended for students of the college and is not a regular parish church, but friends of the school are welcome to visit.  The new church has been a “spiritual magnet” for the school, says Peter DeLuca, founder and vice president for finance and administration.



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  1. This is an amazing piece or architecture, obviously designed for another century. For as traditionalist school as TAC, I’ve always been suprised that they didn’t build a church in the Catholic tradition of post VII. I think they missed an opportunity. Who wants to go to a church where you have to sit that far away from the altar? The ancients (pre-VII)will like it, but traditional catholics will find it old fashion. That said, it is a beautiful building. Just not practical.

    • Bob One, when will you get over the fact that not everyone is a total extrovert like you? There have been extroverted saints and introverted saints and saints right down the middle, and each offered something to Holy Mother the Church. There are plenty of people who, tired from working around people all day, would just love to sit in a church like the one above and talk to Jesus in the tabernacle in the silence. There are some people who have worked around others all week and just want to go to a quiet Mass with the lest amount of chatter and away from the front, so unseen they can just regroup. I once took a Reader’s Digest test on personality, and it came out that I was right down the middle, neither an extrovert nor an introvert. Remember even the Lord Jesus had to get away from the “maddening crowd” every now and then.

      • What I am saying, Bob, is that there should be churches and Masses for all types of people, and even sometimes just for the mood we are in. It is neither right nor wrong. The Mass should be according to the rubrics, though.

        • And lest I seem to only pick on Bob, others should not insist on the Traditional Latin Mass for everyone, unless they want it.

          • I love the altar rails and having the choir in the back. I would like a little more color myself, but it does have a strong masculine look to it, which is much need in some of our churches, as all should not be feminized.

    • BobOne is blinded by Obamunism. The Thomas Aquinas College Chapel is one of the most beautiful buildings built recently by Catholics. If you are driving in he Ventura region do go visit this wonderful church and University campus. Open to visitors. It is a wonderful sight to see the bell tower gradually appear through the orange and lemon groves.

      I do not know Fr. Buckley, but Fr. Hildebrand is a Norbertine. They have been a great blessing to all of Southern California helping keep the Faith. Father Illo Blog is very inspiring and it records all his homilies. Father Illo is a very Holy Man, a great asset for the Church. He also helps out offer the Camarillo Sung Latin Mass held every Sunday at 10:00 am at St. Mary Magdalen Chapel in Ventura Boulevard.

      Do not take BobOne or my word on this most beautiful Church. Look with your own eyes how a Solemn Mass looks like at TAC by pressing on the link below. It is like being halfway to Heaven.

  2. “Although a Jesuit, he is faithful to the Magisterium, is an academic and author.”
    Oh, my, who gets to WRITE such fun little insights?
    I’m sure the Holy Father would find this most amusing — rather like someone voicing the opinion, “for a woman, she’s quite sensible.”

  3. What an absolutely marvelous church!

  4. Tom Barbarie says:

    Surely, Bob One has his tongue in his cheek.

  5. I’m sorry, Suzanne, but although there are some fine individual Jesuits faithful to the Church and its teaching authority, as a group their drift from orthodoxy years ago has been well documented. And, although Pope Francis has been in office less than a year, he’s been making many troublesome statements lately. It’s no surprise that Obama said the other day he is “hugely impressed” with Pope Francis.

    • Carol, the secular press picks and chooses what it will report that Pope Francis says. He HAS come out against “same-sex” marriage and abortion, but they never report that part of it.

  6. Maryanne Leonard says:

    Thomas Aquinas College is an absolutely wonderful place of learning and personal growth, where the intellect is enriched and the soul is cared for. Just walking on the lovely campus grounds, I realize that this superb, truly Catholic college is a very special bit of heaven on earth, and truly a blessing to Ventura County in every imaginable way. Students make frequent and excellent use of the serene Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, which honors Our Lady and the Holy Trinity exquisitely and reflects the admirable values of those who have come together to create such a remarkable place of worship. The priests who celebrate Mass here have been well chosen indeed and are remarkable human beings in their own rights.

    Altogether, Thomas Aquinas College serves as a testament to exquisite discernment rooted in traditional Catholic values, and the beautiful Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel is the spiritual heart and soul of the college.

  7. See we can build a church that looks like a church not an airplane hanger or high school gym, Mr. Stroik is truly amazing in his vision of what a real Roman Catholic Church should look like and they have The Traditional Latin Mass the Mass of saints and martyrs to boot!!

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      The late Fr. Harry Marchoski, one of the original founders of St. Thomas Aquinas College is probably rejoicing in Heaven. You see he left there when they would no longer allow him to celebrate the Mass of St. Pious V (Tridentine)!

      A convert from Judaism, Fr. Marchoski, never said the Novus Ordo Mass, and he was a huge influence on the Norbertines and their desires to celebrate the Tridentine Mass!

      May God have mercy on an amoral America!
      Viva Cristo Rey!
      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

      • In fairness to the school, some clarification per Bill Sockey ’75: “…We had the Tridentine Mass and the term “traditionalist” was first coming into existence. When Cardinal Manning asked the College to start using the Novus Ordo in Latin the administration was obedient. Fr. Harry Marchosky disagreed and resigned from the faculty, telling the students the College had lost God’s support (years later Fr. Marchosky was telling students TAC was the best college in the country). . . .”

  8. Am I missing something? I don’t see kneelers.

    • Click on the picture to enlarge it, Barbara and you will see kneelers below the pews on the second to the last row…the last row is probably for those with walkers and canes etc. who can’t kneel. Actually, the pews are so beautiful in and of themselves…rather in the style of Calif. Arts & Crafts or mission. I read the book Catherine recommended by Michael Rose , ‘Ugly as Sin…’ on how our churches have become so hideous and of course, this church is presented as an example of the hope in restoring beauty to our churches and our worship. Though not Catholic, I always enjoy the work of Roger Scruton

      • …I got cut off in mid-sentence. Roger Scruton is Anglican, but his work on beauty is incredibly rich and important to our understanding. “The Aesthetics of Architecture” is just one example. Another important voices are Stratford Caldecott in “Beauty for Truth’s Sake” and ” The Way of Beauty’ courses taught by David Clayton at Thomas More College. Just getting people to desire and recognize true beauty is a step in spiritual growth. Looking at some of the cold and sterile churches built in the past fifty years is visual evidence of the lack of spirituality and understanding and a willingness to forsake beauty for ‘convenience’ and compromise.

        • Paz tecum says:

          If you want to watch a remarkable free movie on beauty and our civilization Google:

          Why Beauty Matters Roger Scruton

          • Yes! The series is great…thanks for bring it up, Paz. Another interesting series though not on architecture was John Rutter ‘s thinking as he composed his Requium Mass .

  9. St. Christopher says:

    Nice building. Too bad it consigns the TLM to the most inconvenient time during each day, including Sunday. Good that they have it, but let’s commit to it. Compare this to the sad chapel at Christendom College, where the TLM is not ever said on Sunday (instead directing parishioners to the local church that has it (and where there is the wonderful Fr. Fasano, who should be bishop). Bishop Loverde (Diocese of Arlington, VA) simply dislikes the TLM and now he has a simpatico pope, in Francis. Bishops should not have this authority. The Church looks so foolish to treat the TLM like the proverbially despised Red-Headed Step-child. The school is fortunate to have an administration with vision, but it is not much more than an any liberal Catholic Church school until it embraces and promotes Tradition, versus only practicing some form of toleration.

    • Well said St. Christopher!!

    • FourMarks says:

      St Christopher- How many places in California, the United States, is Holy Mass offered in the usus antiquior seven days a week? As for the early morning Mass times, have you considered that perhaps TAC is giving the usus antiquior “pride of place” by celebrating it as the first Mass offered every day?

      I imagine this Mass is well attended by students, faculty and staff who want to start their day off right by worshipping the Most High God in the most pleasing way possible. Did you know that all Masses at TAC, including the OF Masses, are said in Latin, solemnly and reverently? Does this raise TAC’s “Catholicity quotient” in your estimation?

      Your disdain for the OF of Holy Mass is clear, but Holy Mother Church has consistently and repeatedly stated taught that the two “Forms” of Holy Mass are co-equal in validity and graces. I think you need to seriously examine your own orthodoxy in light of your personal liturgical tastes and prejudices before criticizing such a great Catholic college as TAC for generously offering both Forms of the Latin Rite Mass to its campus community and the local public.


      • FourMarks says:

        That should read ” …, or the United States…”; and “stated/taught”… 4M.

        • Lovely post, 4 marks. Sometimes I think there is too often a spirit of ingratitude that keeps people from rejoicing for TLM being said first thing each morning or other positive things happening in the Church. May our first thought on waking each morning be that if love and gratitude to our most Gracious Loving Father for being given another day!

  10. If only Mahony could have ordered something like this. . .

  11. Although a Jesuit, he is faithful to the Magisterium…..ooh boy…

    As for “who wants” to go there – long walk to the altar and all – it doesn’t lack for visitors. Maybe Bob1 can explain what practical purpose would be served by more seats closer to the altar. None come to mind. Maybe Bob insists on front row seats everywhere he goes.

    • Maryanne Leonard says:

      It is not that long a walk to the altar, as the chapel is not very large. I’ve attended many churches where the walk is much, much longer – perhaps most of them have been – and I don’t see the problem in that anyway. Where’s the beef?

  12. Oh, and “built for another century” – rich! Sorry, Bob – you must have missed the reference to the 2008 (very 21st century!) blessing of the cornerstone, or maybe you think the 23 million dollar budget could have included a time-machine.

  13. Modern can be beautiful, practical and reverent, but it can become tiresome and boring if all buildings are modern. I love to go to quaint little towns with old fashioned but well kept houses and businesses right along with going to a new modern city. One small town in California wanted to remodel an older building but wanted to keep some of the historical part, so they combined the old architecture with new. When I first heard about it I thought, “Yuck! that is going to look awful,” but I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw it. The combination turned out lovely.

  14. mike magee says:

    Why the wide, apparently empty, aisles on the far left and far right in the picture? Space for future expansion to accommodate expected growth?

    • Maryanne Leonard says:

      Everything seems to me to be in exquisite, appropriate yet ample proportion when visited in person rather than judged from photographs.

      Why so picky? What if something were less than exquisitely proportioned? As it seems so wonderful when visited personally, I’m amazed to read all the nit-picky things people are concerned about here!

      What about worrying about some of the real issues of the world and doing something to make the world a better place, rather than sit around criticizing the most ridiculous things, making snide remarks at the side of beauty created in our times by talented people, for all the right reasons, situated superbly, and much loved, appreciated, and employed in the worship of Our Lord?

      Amazing, the way some people spend their time, all of us knowing it is so limited here on earth, and there is so much to do to make this world a better place for our having been here.

    • No future expansion. If you go to the college website, you can link to several articles explaining the architecture of the building.

  15. St. Christopher says:

    “Four Marks”: Your post is simply nonsensical. The N.O. is a man-made exercise to down-play or eliminate the “Catholic” nature of the Mass in favor of a protestant-lite service. It will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, or should, if you go into many Episcopalian and other protestant worship services and see that they conduct a service that sounds very much like the N.O. All part of the conspiracy. The N.O. Mass is only “valid” because the Pope says it is, pure and simple. It lacks all indicia of any basis in history, while the TLM has elements in it that harken back to the Apostles. This is why so much phony history has been published after Vatican II in an effort to lend some historical credibility to the many simply bizarre worship events in today’s N.O. (And, while saying the N.O. in Latin is nice, it does not make it anything other than the N.O.) You, and most other Catholics, feel comfortable with the N.O. because you have been robbed of your birthright by the bishops that promised to be the protectors of your salvation. Certainly most priests like it because they are like Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate; ground down in their beliefs to make them perfect citizens of the new world. This is the greatness of Pope Benedict. Even though a creature of Vatican II, and though not publicly saying the TLM, Benedict said the obvious, that the TLM cannot be abrogated and cannot be reduced in importance.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      St. Christopher, while I agree that the TLM ought not to be abrogated, I think as a matter of good discipline, it may get curtailed again. The reason is that there are often serious misunderstandings about the spiritual equivalence and historical validity of the NO masses. Your post is just one example of that.

    • FourMarks says:

      St Christopher: Thanks for straightening me out, I thought my post was factual and rather sophisticated and penetrating, and here I come to find it was “simply nonsensical”; well, per St Francis, simplicity is a virtue, so at least there’s that. Now, let’s see-

      “The N.O. is a man-made exercise…” –

      Are you suggesting the TLM/usus antiquior is not man-made [written], but inscribed by the fiery finger of God, like the Ten Commandments? I know about organic development, liturgical evolution over centuries (TLM) vs. revolution (N.O.M. produced over several years by A. Bugnini’s “Consilium”), but both Forms were written by men. The degree of divine inspiration in either is certainly debatable; their canonical validity is not.

      “…if you go into many Episcopalian and other protestant worship services and see that they conduct a service that sounds very much like the N.O. …” –

      I’ve attended Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist services, among others, and of course noted the many similarities in Protestant “order(s) of worship” to Holy Mass. No surprise there, when the Mainline Protestant denominations left the Catholic Church, they modeled their liturgical services, not surprisingly, on Holy Mass. What they were not able to take with them was sacramental validity, so although there may be prayer, singing, and preaching (all, sadly, containing various Errors), the Eucharist cannot be confected, and there can be no sacrament of Holy Communion. Are you suggesting that because the text of the OF of Holy Mass more closely resembles some Protestant order(s)-of-worship than the text of the EF Mass, that the Eucharist is not confected and the faithful do not receive authentic communion? That would be an Error.

  16. St. Christopher says:

    “Your Fellow Catholic”: Good discipline? Your post may be accurate regarding the reality of a future suppression, but this is no different than a totalitarian government suppressing free speech or an unfettered press. There is no “spiritual equivalence and historical validity” regarding the N.O. None. You had better look at the overwhelming literature on these very topics. A TLM suppression is nothing more than that: “I have political power and you do not.” Tell the poor Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate about “discipline” — they were the first to feel the sharp point of the spear from the resurgent Vatican II crowd, now that they have elected Francis. The Pope is either confused, or complicit. And, against all this, look at the Germans. Well, you have to admire their blitzkrieg approach. They are getting ready for next year’s synod on the “family.” The Traditionalists better also be ready — everything will likely be on the table: the TLM, the new missal, homosexual “compassion,” divorced/remarried Catholics and communion, and all that stuff. Oh, by the way, as Benedict said, the TLM has never been, and cannot be, eliminated by the Church. Certainly, as with the FFI (and the FSSP better watch out, too), the Church can make it very difficult to say the TLM, but Francis cannot eliminate it. But, the Angel of Death changes everything at some point or other: Francis will die, the German bishops will die, and Catholic Tradition will live on. It is very unlikely, except as in some sect outside the proper Church, that the N.O. will find a future home. It will go the way of bell-bottom pants, beads, and Kumbaya.

    • St. Christopher, Have you ever been to TAC? It’s as conservative and traditionalist a sect of Catholicism you’ll find in California. Honestly. If you go one step further in the traditionalist direction, you’re in the Holy Family Chapel in Agoura.

      The building is absolutely exquisite, btw. It looks like it’s from the 16th century and situated in a isolated, timeless, picturesque landscape at the foot of the national forest, but it’s brand new, and makes no attempt to appear older than it is, so the effect is slightly disorienting, like traveling back in time.

      I guess I missed the point of the Latin Mass (being born after V2). It has a pretty, ceremonial aesthetic, but Latin is a dead language. It’s not communicating anything if it’s a rote memorization of sounds and some limited vocabulary. Even those who speak it ‘fluently’ wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively if they found themselves transported to ancient Rome. Studying it is great for understanding legal and scientific taxonomy, but why is conducting mass in code more holy?

      • Latin is not a code, but being “dead”, the meaning of its words do not change with time. This is unlike any language, current or past, in popular use, and has long been cited as an aid in preserving the transmission of the Mass through time.

        Judging by the rhetorical question, I doubt you realize that Latin was as “dead” in 1565 as it is now. That is not a bug, it’s a feature!

        • Latin dead?
          Please, let’s not write the obituary too early:
          Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit = To boldly go where no man has gone before.
          Clamo, clamatis, omnes clamamus pro glace lactis = I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
          Cum catapulatae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt = When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults.

  17. Cullinan I says:

    Latin is a precise language…latin says what latin means…their is no ambiguity…this is why the Catholic Church has used it in it’s liturgy and prayers…along with the vernacular prayers, for personal devotion. The TLM is truly edifying…how many…how many holy saints and martyrs worshiped in this modality for centuries… and became sanctified in it as they sought the Kingdom of heaven?….

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