Our History

William Richardson is regarded as the founder of Sausalito. Born in England in 1795, he became the first mate aboard the Orion which arrived in the Bay and anchored off what was to become Sausalito in 1822. William was 27 years old - and when the Orion left the Bay waters he 'jumped ship' and stayed behind. There are many legends and myths about William; but history does record that he had built the first dock in Sausalito and built a thriving business, transporting grain and hides.

By 1870 there was a thriving British and Portuguese community in Sausalito and a Methodist Church was built in 1872 to serve the community. In 1877 there was an attempt to organize a Roman Catholic Parish, but the attempt failed. Four years passed before Archbishop Alemany created Sausalito's first Roman Catholic Parish and Mass was celebrated in a school house rented for the occasion. Fr. Patrick Cummins was appointed Pastor in 1881 and he named the Parish St. Mary's Star of the Sea.

The first Catholic Church was built out of timber in 1881 and stood at Litho & Bonita Streets. In 1888 the first Holy Ghost Festival was held and signaled the faithful association of the Portuguese immigrants and their descendents with the Parish. Some of the most active men and women in the Catholic community came from this group of people.

Adding also to the community were waves of Irish and Italian immigrants. The town of Sausalito flourished and it was felt that a second Catholic Church was needed to serve the people; and so a second building called Holy Family Hall was completed in 1908.

There was great excitement in Sausalito in December 1909, when a train pulled into Sausalito carrying special cargo bound for the Catholic Churches. Two bells cast in copper & tin in Missouri and tuned to the key of 'G' had arrived safely after being transported across country. The larger of the bells bearing the name 'Virginia' was installed in the first Catholic Church and the second smaller bell 'Edward' was installed outside Holy Family Hall. The bells were dedicated on December 12th 1909 by Fr. John Valenti and called the faithful to worship for the first time on Christmas Eve.

All was well until September 1919 when a roaring fire swept through parts of Sausalito and destroyed many of the towns wooden buildings including Holy Family Hall.

Fortunately, it had been thought for some time that the community would be served better by having one larger Catholic Church and construction on a new church on Bulkley Avenue was nearing completion when the fire broke out. The first Catholic church at Litho & Bonita Streets was closed and demolished in 1920 after only forty years of service to the community.

The third Church served the faithful well but during World War II the population of Sausalito increased so much that a new church was needed to serve all those working in the Marin shipyards. The ground breaking ceremony for the present church on Harrison Avenue took place in 1954 and the church was completed and consecrated in 1959. Over the course of his ten years at Star of the Sea, Father Deitch’s dream of establishing a Catholic School was not realized but his significant efforts contributed to the establishment of Willow Creek Elementary school in Sausalito.

In 2004, almost 100 years after they arrived by train, and after periods of being hung, stored, rescued and even neglected - the bells 'Virginia G' and 'Edward' were hoisted aloft and hung in the bell tower of the fourth and present Church - and once again call the Faith Community to worship.

In 2014, the parish started a renewal of all deferred maintenance items. This had a happy effect of coinciding with an increase in ministry (for instance, as of January 2018, there were 130 youths in St. Mary Star of the Sea’s CYO program, whereas before 2014, there were none). With several capital and administrative accomplishments, the parish is embarking on a renewal of its stained glass windows in 2018-2019.