On September 8th, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel commenced a yearlong Jubilee celebration marking the 250th anniversary of its founding with an outdoor Prayer Service on the grounds of the Mission.
By Chasity Jennings-Nuñez
The service was led by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Reverend José Gomez and attended by parish leaders and staff, members of the San Gabriel City Council, Los Angeles dignitaries and several hundred guests and parishioners.
The Mission San Gabriel was founded on September 8, 1771 under the leadership of Franciscan priest Father Junipero Serra. As the first mission in what was to become Los Angeles, Mission San Gabriel is considered the birthplace of Catholicism in this region. From that start, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was formed and has grown to encompass Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It is the largest diocese in the United States with over 4 million members.
As with many pieces of history, the telling of the building and founding of the Mission San Gabriel has become more nuanced as events are evaluated through the lens of time. Enslavement, forced conversion and assimilation, and disease almost decimated the tribes of Native peoples who inhabited the land then known as Tovanngar. The Catholic Church is attempting to reconcile this history with the story of redemption and salvation usually attributed to the Mission. Chief Anthony Morales, his son Andrew Morales, and members of The Gabrielino San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians were a special part of the prayer service on September 8. They provided opening remarks and a prayer in the Tongva language, accompanied by flutist, Michael Aviles, playing traditional Tongva music. The Catholic Church has acknowledged and apologized for the treatment of the Native people and an area of sacred ground has been designated at the Mission for the descendants of the Native tribes of the area.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, a Jubilee is a holy year marked by a time of forgiveness and mercy.This Jubilee celebration is from September 11, 2021 -September 10, 2022. The focus of the year is “Forward in Mission”. Several events including special masses, historical exhibits, and additions to local Catholic school curriculums, will occur throughout the year. The Archdiocese has also designated 22 Holy Doors in parish churches across 3 counties that can be visited as part of a pilgrimage. The year will culminate with a Jubilee Closing Mass at the Mission San Gabriel on Sept 10, 2022.
The Mission San Gabriel suffered significant damage in an arson fire on July 11, 2020. While damage was extensive from the fire and from the water necessary to extinguish it the repairs needed are underway, and indoor masses have resumed. The 250th anniversary of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel will be a year of renewal, reconciliation and looking forward to the future.
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