Hickman said he had both a religious and personal interest in the Laguna Beach church.

"I want to ensure the American Catholic Church remains in Laguna Beach," said Hickman, who worshiped at the church in 1981-82. "As for historical significance, this was the first Old Catholic Church in Orange County and one of the few surviving [original churches] in the United States."

Church services are expected to resume at the old cathedral soon, according to Merritt. The congregation now meets for services at 9 a.m. Sunday at 303 Broadway, Suite 107, Laguna Beach.

There are about 40 parishes under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, formerly known as the Old Catholic Church, with churches throughout California. But there is only one "world's smallest cathedral."

Historian Frank said she is hopeful the tiny church will be returned to the congregation that is devoted to it.

"It's being well-maintained, but if it is in private hands, who knows what could happen?" she said.


Twitter: @CindyFrazier1

If You Go

What: Jessica DeStefano to speak at Exchange Club meeting about St. Francis by the Sea

When: 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 23

Where: Asada, 480 S. Coast Hwy.

Cost: $20 for non-members, which includes lunch

Information: Call Katy Moss at (949) 0703 or Jim Rue at (949) 494-6684 or visit lagunabeachexchangeclub.org