The journey of Sta. Maria della Strada to become a parish started in the late 1970s, when the churchgoers of the St. Joseph Church on Aurora Boulevard and the Ateneo Campus chapel had swelled in numbers. The needs of the vast area covering 14 barangays as well as that of a large transient student population from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, Maryknoll (now Miriam College) and St. Bridget’s school—had to be served.
A group of Loyola residents, acting upon a suggestion by Fr. William Kreutz, S.J., about the possibility of creating a new parish, held a series of community meetings starting in January of 1979. An earnest prayer drive led by the members of the Family Rosary Crusade began to gather support for the idea from the community. In April 1979, a group of representatives from Balara Filters, Pansol, Varsity Hills, Xavierville, La Vista and Alta Vista, accompanied by the parish priest of St. Joseph, Monsignor Arsenio Bautista, and two Jesuit priests, presented the petition to Cardinal Sin, who approved it immediately and appointed an interim priest in charge, Bishop Godofredo Padernal to undertake the parish project.
In the search to find the site for the church, it was eventually discovered that a piece of La Vista property at the corner of Katipunan and Pansol, designated as a park area, was not turned over to the National Housing Authority. The NHA required only that a referendum be conducted among the members of the homeowner’s association for approval of the donation of the lot to the Archdiocese of Manila as the site for construction of the proposed parish Church. The proposal was approved by 97% of the homeowners.
On January 9, 1981, Cardinal Sin signed the official documents creating the new parish, and on March 25, 1981, he designated Fr. Patricio H. Lim as the first permanent parish priest of Sta. Maria della Strada, a post he held for more than 20 years.
Named Sta. Maria della Strada or Our Lady of the Way because one of the parishioners, upon reading the biography of St. Ignatius of Loyola on his feastday, discovered a picture of Sta. Maria della Strada, at whose wayside shrine St. Ignatius used to stop and pray. Since the Jesuits had done so much for the community, it seemed fitting to name the parish in honor of Our Lady of the Way.
Despite the absence of a physical structure, the parish vibrated with life in the intensified prayers, mortifications, Holy Hour Vigils and Holy Masses for the intention of the establishment of the new church.
At one of the early brainstorming meetings, the group decided to call the emerging parish the “Living Church of Sta. Maria della Strada”. The final agreement that emerged on the structure of the church was consistent with the character of the “Living Church”—the projection of the concept of a church focused on people characterized by dynamism and openness, as seen in the acts of sharing and serving.
To affirm this concept, the people who were the “Living Church” gathered regularly for outdoor masses on the designated church site, under a makeshift tent.
The fund drive for the construction of the church went into full gear with a series of fundraising events managed by a group of energetic parish ladies as well as a group known as the “Friends of Fr. Pat.” Launched in March of 1981, less than 5 months later, the cornerstone was laid for the church. Embedded in the cornerstone were the medals and religious items once buried in a previously considered site, as well as a parchment scroll with the names of generous benefactors.
In a symbolic ground breaking ceremony held on September 12, 1981, representatives of the different parish communities affirmed their unity by pouring pots of soil from each of their areas into the grounds of the future parish church.
Donations in cash and in kind poured in during the period of construction as the church took shape, incorporating all the special features that gave it a distinctive character: the precious marble altar table used by Pope John Paul II during the beatification of the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz; the life-sized Crucifix with a kayumanggi Christ above the main altar; the Italian mosaic icons of Sta. Maria della Strada and St. Joseph; and the simple Blessed Sacrament Chapel, among others.
With the concerted efforts of all the concerned members of the community and their generous friends, the construction was completed in two years and the Church was inaugurated on May 29, 1983.