St. Williamís Parish History
The first mass in Atascadero was celebrated by Fr. P. C. Santy on a beautiful spring day on April 25, 1943 in the hall of the old Moran Junior College (current site of the Masonic building next to the National Guard Armory). Up to this time families from the area were going to mass in Paso Robles or at the Mission in Santa Margarita. Fr. Santy was the pastor of Holy Angles in Santa Margarita. The Catholic population of Atascadero grew during the war years to the point where a mission in Atascadero became part of the Santa Margarita parish responsibilities under Bishop Scher of the Monterey-Fresno Diocese. (The Moran College link above will take you to the Frank Wykoff pages; an Olymic medalist who taught at Moran College.)
The enthusiasm of the people indicated that they wanted to build their own church in Atascadero. A building fund was immediately started. In the mean time, the site of celebrating mass was changed to the La Moda Theater on El Camino (later to become the Atascadero Bowl) in July 1944. With several fund raising activities and generous donations, enough money was available to purchase over an acre of land on Santa Lucia which included most of the land owned by the parish today.
Msgr. Anthony C. Stuhlman, who had replaced the retired Fr. Santy on June 6, 1949, continued with the building plans for the new parish which would become St. William's. Since building supplies were scarce, the parish bid for one of the Army Chapels at Camp San Luis (Chapel No. T-1802). The purchased chapel was dismantled, piece by piece, and brought to Atascadero where it was carefully reconstructed in its original form. The first mass was on July 17, 1949. In October of that same year, Msgr. Stuhlman moved into the new rectory. (The picture is of Msgr. Stuhlman after the 1958 First Communion service.)
The official blessing of St. William's occurred in 1950 dedicated to those who gave their lives in World Wars I and II. The mortgage was paid in full the following year with a mortgage-burning on January 30, 1951. (The picture is of the High Altar in the old church, now the Parish Hall. Later Alpha and Omega symbols were added to either side of the cross.)
Parish life included parish missions, and religion classes with volunteer teachers. The first Confirmation of 29 youths was held in Jan. of 1950 with Bishop A.J. Willinger officiating. The rectory was also blessed by the Bishop during this visit.
In 1962, Fr. Declan Murphy became the new pastor on Msgr. Stuhlman's retirement. He found a parish that was already outgrowing the church. Plans were again started for the building of a new church. The first church would become the parish hall. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Sept. of 1968. The church was opened and blessed on June 15, 1969 and on Dec. 7, 1969 Bishop Harry Clinch, Bishop of the new Diocese of Monterey, formally dedicated the new church. With the construction of the new church, the old church began its transformation into the parish hall. (The picture to the left is a picture  of the current church finished in 1969.)
Fr. Harry Freiermuth became the pastor of St. William's on Oct. 19, 1971. His tenure here saw the parish continue to grow in faith. Fr. Harry began the adult religious education programs and the prayer groups. He was also instrumental in encouraging ecumenical growth with the townspeople and other churches. In 1977 he initiated Sam's Cupboard, named after San Leonard who first stocked a rectory cupboard with food for the needy. In 1981, Fr. Freiermuth was reassigned to the Nativity of Our Lady in San Luis Obispo. (The picture to the left is of Fr. Freiermuth [right] and Fr. Hercek, the previous St. William's pastor, taken in January 1981. [photo by Peg Healey])
Rev. Joseph R. Hercek, came to Atascadero on Jan. 9, 1981 after being transferred to the parish from Madonna del Sasso in Salinas. Fr. Hercek began our Neighborhood Program of St. William's Family Concerned. Under his pastorship our parish experienced tremendous growth with the parish serving more than 800 families. Ministries under his direction encouraged a strong prayer life, a commitment to parish families, a sacramental life and an appreciation of each others' time and talents; as well as a deep gratitude for those families who over the years have contributed to the history and tradition of the parish.
Our current Pastor, Rev. George Batchelder, came to our parish on Oct. 21, 2006 after being transferred from Mission San Juan Bautista and spending the prior twelve months at the Santa Rosa parish in Cambria.