What started with services being held in parks, private homes and garages has grown into one of the Victor Valley's largest church communities, and Holy Family Catholic Church is throwing itself a birthday party to celebrate.


In 1961, when Holy Family Catholic Church first opened its doors, Deacon Santos Aguilera said the area was mostly a retirement community.


As the congregation grew, the church's facilities did too, with services moving into a larger building in 1996. Today, it serves more than 4,846 active parishioners at seven masses of up to 1,400 worshippers at a time, with services conducted in English, Spanish and Korean. The church also hosts services in Tagalog conducted by outside priests.


"The Spanish masses, forget it standing room only," Aguilera said. "You can pass by this church, it can be any day of the week, and there's always something going."


Despite its size, the congregation is still like a small town in many ways, the deacon said.


"If I want to misbehave, I have to go to Canada or Mexico," he joked. "These people are everywhere!"


"The people are wonderful," said Jean Bitonti, who has been a member of the parish for 24 years. "To me, that's my home. I love it there."


"I can't think of any other church that I'd want to go to," said Betty Bryant, a parishioner for 25 years.


The diocese of San Bernardino is likely to build a new Catholic church in Oak Hills some day.


"If we were able to build another church on the other side of town, the Catholic population (of Hesperia) would grow a lot faster," Aguilera said.


The Holy Family parish is also working on a 20-year plan for its own growth.


"What this community needs is more examples for the people," Aguilera said.


Holy Family Catholic Church's 50th anniversary mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The church is located at 9974 I Avenue, at the corner of I Avenue and Mojave Street. Call (760) 255-9180 for more information.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.