St. Junipero Serra, Founding Father offers a vision to overcome American acrimony

By James Matthew Wilson

WSJ—The San Gabriel, Calif., Fire Department and Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently confirmed what many had long suspected: The fire that almost destroyed Mission San Gabriel Arcángel last year was arson. John David Corey Jr., 57, was charged with the crime last week and faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Founded in 1771 by St. Junipero Serra, Mission San Gabriel is a historic icon and a living community of Catholic faithful.

Franciscan friars—America’s other founding fathers—built this magnificent building, the oldest in Los Angeles County. Beneath its bell tower lies a hammered copper baptismal font given to the mission by King Carlos III of Spain. The first baptisms of native Tongva children took place there, a tradition that continued until the fire rendered the mission unusable in July [2020].

This is what the arsonist attacked: a physical manifestation of a centuries-long tradition, a rare achievement in sacred architecture, a monument to California’s Hispanic history, a vital contemporary place of worship, and a powerful testimony to the unity of all human beings made possible in Christ. The hope of achieving that unity brought St. Junipero Serra to California more than two centuries ago.

Like countless other Spanish Franciscans, Serra left his homeland not in search of gold or… Read More>

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