Parish History

Welcome to Ascension Parish!

The first Catholic Mass in Fountain Hills was celebrated in the community trailer at Fountain Lake on September 9, 1973. The celebrant was Fr. Gene Maguire, Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale. Rev. Alphonus Durand, C.M.F. served as acting pastor of the mission of Fountain Hills until the appointment of Fr. Harry Morgan on July 9, 1974.

The first Parish Council was elected in 1974 and consisted of Howard Asher, Dick LeMonde, Larry Ringsrud, Julia Martin, Nace Battel, Ruth Strickler, and John Van Der Werf. The mother of Larry Ringsrud passed away and in her will designated $25.00 for a church. John Van Der Werf added to this bequest and a “Building Fund” was started.

Fr. Paul Slanina, O.P was appointed administrator of the mission and celebrated his first Mass at his residence on Friday, March 14, 1975. The first weekend Mass was celebrated the following day at the community trailer. As the mission grew, the weekend Masses moved to the new town community center on Saguaro Blvd.

Ascension officially became a parish on September 15, 1976 and Fr. Paul Slanina, O.P. was the founding pastor. After a site change, the present church was built on Fountain Hills Blvd. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated by Fr. Paul on September 13, 1980. Our first deacon, George Clark, was instrumental in the development of the parish. In addition to Deacon Clark, Deacons Raymond Orth and Vincent Kelly have served the parish community. Deacon Dick Smith and Deacon Phil LoCascio currently work in the parish in a variety of ministries.

Fr. Paul Slanina died October 7, 1987 and Fr. Robert Caruso became his successor in November of 1987. On July 1, 1990 Fr. Thomas O’Dea was appointed Pastor and he ministered in the parish until his retirement in June of 2003.  Fr. John McDonough was appointed Pastor on July 1, 2003. He served the parish for 18 years until his retirement in June of 2021. The current pastor, Fr. Jilson Panakkal, was appointed on July 1, 2021. Over the years, many priests have served the parish. The priests who serve presently in our parish include Msgr. Dennis O’Donovan and Fr. Fred Adamson.

Ascension is a Stewardship Parish and looks forward to serving the needs of Fountain Hills and beyond for generations to come. The St. Vincent de Paul Conference at Ascension was established in June 1989 and continues to serve the disadvantaged in our community.

The Arts at Ascension concert series provides music performed at the highest levels of artistry in the world to the community of Fountain Hills and North Scottsdale while also supporting fine arts education in our local Phoenix community. Since its inception in 2014, Arts at Ascension has raised over $120,000 for arts education. In addition to these, Ascension’s 819 registered families also support community initiatives and charities such as the Andre House, Circle the City, Duet, MANA House, Arizona Brainfood, and Matthew Community. St. Matthew Parish and School in central Phoenix and the Diocese of Tshumbe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are close to our hearts and we are thankful for the opportunities to serve them.