TribunePablo Kay

A Jubilee year in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, Catholics have begun celebrating, under extraordinary circumstances, a jubilee year marking the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Southern California at the founding of the San Gabriel Mission in 1771.

November 3, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
Procession of the Virgin of Catalina in California.

The theme of the Jubilee Year of St. Gabriel, inaugurated by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on September 11, 2021 is. Forward in the mission. This slogan is intended to help local Catholics reflect on both meanings of the word "...".mission"The first one refers to the physical building built by the Spanish missionaries and settlers at the end of the 18th century, and the second one refers to the duty of every baptized Christian to proclaim the Good News.

The physical mission in question is Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, founded in 1771 by St. Junipero Serra and his Franciscan companions. It served as the original outpost of Christianity in what is now the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Its long history has been marked by floods, earthquakes, an epidemic and the coming and going of local governors and religious orders.

But the organizers of the Jubilee Year granted by the Holy See also see it as an opportunity to revitalize the work of evangelization. "Our hope is that this Jubilee year will not simply be a celebration of the past, but a means to raise up a new generation of missionaries for our time and place."Parker Sandoval, vice chancellor of the archdiocese and chief organizer of the Jubilee year.

The past 20 months have been difficult for Catholics in the largest archdiocese in the United States. The closing of churches during the initial 2020 confinement was devastating for parishes such as Mission San Gabriel, as was the loss of parishioners to COVID-19 and declining Mass attendance. Then, in July 2020, an arsonist set fire to the mission, destroying the roof of the church building and severely damaging its walls, floors and valuable artwork.

As a result, the Jubilee year inaugurated to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mission San Gabriel coincided with a complex reconstruction project. The Jubilee kick-off ceremony took place on September 8 and was held outdoors in the mission's parking lot, so much so that the mission church was filled with scaffolding. Three days later, Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez officially inaugurated the Jubilee year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where he opened the bronze Holy Door.

On the same weekend, the Holy Doors of 22 "pilgrimage parishes"in the territory of the archdiocese. From September 9 to 11, each pilgrimage site had 40 consecutive hours of Eucharistic adoration. During the Jubilee year, which ends in September 2022, the faithful are encouraged to visit the various parishes and pray in them, with which they can receive a plenary indulgence.

Also planned during the Jubilee year are parish retreats and pilgrimages that will tour among other Spanish missions in the area. An exhibit on the 250 years of Christianity in Southern California was inaugurated at the cathedral, and a program is being developed for the study in Catholic schools of the history of the local church and evangelization.

The jubilee also coincides with a persistent public opinion campaign about the legacy of early missionaries in the area, especially St. Junipero Serra. Critics have accused Serra of spearheading a colonial system that abused the rights of the area's indigenous peoples, despite historical accounts that dispute that position.

The situation has worsened since the wave of protests against racial injustice in the summer of 2020, when several protesters attacked Serra statues throughout California.

In early October, the governor of California approved a plan to remove a statue honoring the Mallorcan friar from the state capitol in Sacramento. Days later, the mayor of Los Angeles announced that a downtown Los Angeles park named after Serra would be renamed.

However, for prominent Catholic leaders, such as Bishop Gomez, the jubilee is a reminder of the fruits of Spanish evangelization in California.

"With the founding of the San Gabriel Mission by St. Junipero Serra and the first people of this land, God began a new chapter in salvation history, planting the seeds of his kingdom in Southern California, seeds that have borne fruit in a beautiful local church that embraces people of all races, languages and nationalities."Gomez wrote earlier this year.

Meanwhile, restoration work continues at the San Gabriel Mission site, located 15 kilometers east of downtown Los Angeles. Its walls are being reinforced, its artwork is being carefully restored and a new roof has already been installed. 

And as workers rebuild the physical church, "Angeleno" Catholics are being asked to invite people back into the real Church.

The authorPablo Kay

Editor-in-Chief of Angelus. Weekly magazine of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California.

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