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Living in Faith: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church Much More Than a Pretty Façade

Although a dramatic locale for destination weddings, generous and vibrant parish family celebrates the stages of life centered around beloved church

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 1300 East Valley Road, has been ministering to the Montecito community since 1856. Click to view larger
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 1300 East Valley Road, has been ministering to the Montecito community since 1856. (Frankie Victoria / Noozhawk photo)

You may pass several lovely churches if you drive around Montecito, but none is quite as breathtaking or as prominent as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church at the busy intersection of East Valley and Hot Springs roads.

The current church building, completed in 1939 at 1300 East Valley Road, showcases the best of both Pueblo Indi

an and Spanish Colonial architecture in its façade. And not only is there a great view of the mountains from the succulent-filled campus, but the church provides a sense of intimacy and quiet suitable for a destination wedding that can only be found in the heart of Montecito.

Weddings are quite popular at this particular church, with around 24 booked at the parish office every year, according to church secretary Maribel Jarchow.

“I remember one priest who loved to do weddings,” she said. “That’s sort of how we became a wedding chapel and a popular spot for destination weddings.

“But we also do a lot of baptisms, too,” she added.       

Jarchow has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for more than 50 years. Among the many weddings and baptisms she’s witnessed are the weddings of her own three children and the baptisms of her children and grandchildren.

Her kids also attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, the church’s kindergarten-through-eighth grade parish school, which is rooted in Catholic elementary education.

“There are many people who come in looking to celebrate these different stages in their life,” Jarchow said. “From baptism to confirmation to marriage.” 

Baptism, confirmation and marriage are all sacraments in the Roman Catholic church. If raised in the Catholic tradition, one would receive them as a newborn, a teenager and an adult, respectively.

While Catholics receive these rites as individuals or couples in marriage, Father Steven Downes, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, sees them differently.

“They help us come to know Jesus more and more and how we walk together as a community,” he told Noozhawk. “We are all brothers and sisters, and celebrating sacraments and living our faith together is very important.”

Fr. Downes became pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 2009, and he has seen the community live out that faith during these stages of their life in different ways.

While schoolchildren learn and grow at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and through the church’s religious education program, Sister Kathleen Patrice, director of Religious Education, points out that many families participate in several of the outreach programs she directs.

“Whenever kids are helping out (in a program), I like them to bring their parents,” she explained. “I think in this parish, young people have so much given to them, so what I’ve tried to do with these families is have them reach out to the people who are economically poor.”

Sr. Kathleen directs many outreach programs that benefit those in need. Of these, the most beloved programs at the church seem to happen during the Christmas season. The Giving Tree is a long-running program in which families buy Christmas presents for children in need. The church also holds a Santa’s Workshop for adults and teens to refurbish and wrap gently used toys for children in need.

Along with these programs for children and families, adults are invited to explore their faith in Bible study and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes with Fr. Downes.

With all that is going on, it’s a wonder that anyone gets any praying done, but Fr. Downes assures that the parish grounds are as peaceful as they seem from the outside.

“It’s a very beautiful place and it’s a very prayerful place,” he said. “People come and go at all hours of the day to pray in the church.”

The church setting is definitely a quiet and reflective space, well worth a look around if you are driving by with some time on your hands.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

» Location: 1300 East Valley Road, Montecito
» Denomination: Roman Catholic
» Year Established: 1856
» Congregation Size: 1,200
» Service Times: 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon Sundays

Noozhawk contributing writer Frankie Victoria can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Father Steven Downes, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Montecito, with, at right, Sister Kathleen Patrice, director of Religious Education, and church secretary Maribel Jarchow. 'It’s a very beautiful place and it’s a very prayerful place,' Downes says of the church at one of Montecito’s busier intersections. 'People come and go at all hours of the day to pray in the church.' (Frankie Victoria / Noozhawk photo)
Father Steven Downes, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Montecito, with, at right, Sister Kathleen Patrice, director of Religious Education, and church secretary Maribel Jarchow. “It’s a very beautiful place and it’s a very prayerful place,” Downes says of the church at one of Montecito’s busier intersections. “People come and go at all hours of the day to pray in the church.” (Frankie Victoria / Noozhawk photo)

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