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Local artists add beauty to Los Angeles exhibit ‘250 Years of Mission’ to celebrate Jubilee Year

September 20, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Lalo Garcia’s painting of Saint Junípero Serra is featured in the ‘250 Years of Mission’ exhibit. / Lalo Garcia.

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 20, 2021 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

On September 11, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a Jubilee Year, Forward in Mission, to mark 250 years since the opening of the region’s first church, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, founded in 1771 by Saint Junípero Serra. An exhibit titled 250 Years of Mission will be on display at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels through Sept. 10, 2022, to tell the story of the Catholic faith in the region.   

“The Church has left such an indelible mark on our culture here from street names, the city names, and everything in between, to our radical charity in the community,” said Father Parker Sandoval, Vice Chancellor for Ministerial Services for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We thought it was very important to put forward to everyone for free, in an accessible space, a display of beauty and an opportunity to learn the richness of our history.” 

Local artists Aurelio G. D. Mendoza, Lalo Garcia, and John Nava are featured in the exhibit, which spans four galleries inside the cathedral. The galleries include historical documents and artifacts; colonial art from Spain and Mexico; Native American religious art; and the contributions of Mendoza, Garcia, and Nava. 

“Historically, here in Southern California, the missions are extremely important, not only as a tourist attraction, but as the seed of Catholicism,” said Garcia, whose oil painting of Saint Junípero Serra is in the exhibit. “I hope that you get a feel of Southern California, who we are, the buildings that we have here in the Camino Real, feel proud of the heritage as Californianos, and see the good things that he [St. Junípero Serra] did.” 

Garcia’s painting, which was commissioned by Archbishop José Gomez in honor of the canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015, measures 30-by-40-inches and has a halo made of 24-karat gold leaf. He hopes his works become an “instrument for historians, priests, seminarians, teachers, anybody who acquires the piece, so that they can actually talk about it,” he said.

“I spend a lot of time reading, meditating, and thinking about the piece that I am going to create,” said Garcia, who came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13 years old. “It gives me more responsibility to create this type of art when I have seen people praying in front of an image that I have painted. I want the piece to be worthy of the space it’s going to take.” 

Two large oil paintings by Aurelio G. D. Mendoza (1901-1996) are also included in the exhibit. The two pieces are part of a trilogy called El Camino Real, which aim to depict both conversion of the Indigenous people and the construction of missions in California. In the first piece, which measures six-feet tall by five-feet wide, Mendoza painted Saint Junípero Serra pointing ahead, “signaling the way to follow,” said his granddaughter Lucy Mendoza. 

Mendoza’s second painting in the exhibit, titled Mision San Diego de Alcala, is five feet tall by eight-and-a-half feet wide. It shows Saint Junípero Serra with Father Sanchez, the architect of the San Diego mission, among both the Indigenous people and the Spanish soldiers.

“He took great care in making sure the Indigenous were portrayed with such beauty and grace,” said Lucy Mendoza.

Both pieces were completed in approximately 1976, when Mendoza was 75 years old. 

“You want people to feel a sense of pride in the history of California—and I know there’s been some pain, there’s been some controversy—but I also feel that there’s so much good also,” said Lucy Mendoza. “My abuelito always said that so much can be learned through art.” 

The scale of Mendoza’s pieces, Father Sandoval said, are in themselves impactful. 

“They’re huge, they literally fill walls, and the images just pop,” he said. “Then, knowing that these were painted by people who have a devotion to the saints they are depicting makes them particularly beautiful.”

John Nava, the third local artist included in the exhibit, wove the tapestry for the Mass of Canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015 in Washington, D.C.. Nava’s tapestry is on display in the same chapel as the other artists’ works. 

“It’s not simply that they’re great artists, but fundamentally they’re people of faith,” said Father Sandoval. “That really comes through in the artwork.”

In addition to the local artists, 250 Years of Mission includes religious objects and art from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, which fell victim to arson in July 2020, as well as materials from the archdiocesan archives. 

The exhibit aims to be both educational and beautiful, said Father Sandoval. 

“We live in a time where we are bombarded by bad news and ugliness on the newsfeed, on the front page, and on the screen,” said Father Sandoval. “That’s why we thought it was really important to accent the beauty of our faith and the history of the church and our mission here.” 

The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Since the galleries line the sides of the cathedral, the exhibit is open anytime the cathedral is open to the public. 

“We hope that people not only enjoy the beauty and learn the history, but, above all, feel inspired to build on the legacy of faith that started here 250 years ago,” said Father Sandoval. “This is a summons to revival, to renewal, to refocus on what matters most, which is putting people in contact with Jesus.” 

“We hope we can bring as many people—especially young people—as possible to visit and feel moved to move into mission,” he said. 


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Archbishop Gomez opens USCCB meeting with passionate call for unity 

June 16, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Archbishop Gomez addresses his brother bishops after being elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

In his opening address at the 2021 spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on Wednesday, conference president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles made a passionate call for unity.

Archbishop Gomez reminded fellow bishops that “only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now.” 

“We have been living through some extraordinary times,” the archbishop said. “We’ve seen a pandemic shut down our civilization, including the Church, for more than a year. We’ve lived through riots in our major cities, rising social divisions and unrest, and maybe the most polarized election our country has ever seen.”

He also said that “the Church’s mission will be shaped for years to come by the troubles of these recent months.” 

“I was noticing, even before the pandemic, how often Pope Francis talks about the importance of unity — not only among peoples, but also unity within the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said, as he quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti in its call for unity among the human family. 

Gomez observed that it is “not realistic to expect the Church to stay immune from the pressures of division. Those pressures are all around us. The Church is divine, she is the Body of Christ. But we are all human in the Church, after all. And we are living in a secular society where politics is becoming the substitute religion for a lot of people.” 

“So, we need to guard against the temptation to think about the Church in simply political terms,” he said. 

He then quoted Pope Francis’ recent homily for Pentecost Sunday: “Today, if we listen to the Spirit, we will not be concerned with conservatives and progressives, traditionalists and innovators, right and left. … The Paraclete impels us to unity … the harmony of diversity. He makes us see ourselves as parts of the same body, brothers and sisters of one another.”

“Unity in the Church,” Archbishop Gomez continued, does not mean conformity of opinion or automatic agreement among bishops. “The apostles argued passionately. They disagreed over pastoral strategies and methods. But never about the truth of the Gospel.” 

“Only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now in the wake of this pandemic,” he added. 

According to the USCCB president, “the power of our Catholic vision flows from our profound awareness of the unity of life, from conception to natural death, and the unity of the human family, every person a child of God.” 

He acknowledged that “there are forces at work right now in our culture that threaten not only the unity of the human family, but also the very truth about God’s creation and human nature.” He quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, saying, “This is the age of sin against God the Creator.” 

“My brothers,” Gomez stated, “we stand at a historic crossroads, as our Holy Father is telling us. It falls to the Church in this moment to defend the truth about God the Creator, and the truth about the sanctity of the human person and the unity of the human family in God’s plan for creation.”

“My prayer is that we all remain united in what is essential — our love for Jesus and our desire to proclaim him as the living God and the true path for humanity.”

In concluding, referring to his Mexican roots, Archbishop Gomez reminded his fellow bishops that “as you know, I have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I was growing up my family went on pilgrimage to the shrine in Mexico City nearly every summer.”

“And I find myself turning to her a lot during these days,” he continued. “I was reflecting today how the Popes see her apparition as a sign of unity for the continent. St. John Paul II called her shrine ‘the Marian heart of America’.” 

May she help us to keep our hearts humble and united in the service of Jesus, as we seek to continue the evangelization of our country and our continent in this moment.

Archbishop Gomez addressed the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops, which is taking place virtually from June 16-18. The bishops will deliberate and vote on several agenda items, including approving of two causes of canonization, approving a pastoral statement on marriage ministry, and authorizing statements on Native American ministry and the Eucharist in the life of the Church.


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L.A. archdiocese to close, consolidate six elementary schools

April 6, 2021 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2021 / 07:32 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced this week that six Catholic elementary schools in the area will close and be consolidated with other schools, due to ongoing financial difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

“These six schools had been trying to overcome financial challenges long before the pandemic,” said Paul Escala, superintendent of Catholic Schools, according to NBC Los Angeles. Challenges facing the schools include  low enrollment, financial difficulties, and a shift in demographics.

 

“After careful discernment with Archdiocesan and school leadership, the decision was reached to consolidate these schools with nearby schools to create a union that would strengthen the school communities in the area so that all students can continue to receive the quality Catholic education that our schools provide,” Escala said.

 

At the end of the 2020-21 school year, six elementary schools will close – Assumption, Blessed Sacrament, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ferdinand, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Madeline.

 

These schools will all be consolidated with other local elementary schools. 

 

The archdiocese noted that, during the current school year, students in Los Angeles Catholics schools outperformed their peers nationally in math and reading.

 

“Though there have been many challenges and some setbacks, our Catholic school communities have demonstrated resiliency throughout this crisis,”’ said Escala, according to NBC Los Angeles. 

 

“As our Catholic schools welcomed students back, our students were able to celebrate the sacrament of their First Holy Communion something they missed early on in the pandemic,” he said. “Our Catholic schools continue to demonstrate academic performance growth in reading and math in both elementary and high schools. This among so many other accomplishments, is something we can all be proud of.”

 


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