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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 The galleries include historical documents and artifacts; colonial art from Spain and Mexico; Native American religious art; and the contributions of Mendoza, Garcia, and Nava.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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Catholic group receives grant to restore historic California mission

March 7, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Monterey, Calif., Mar 7, 2021 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic group has received a large grant to restore one of the oldest California missions and to provide a place for tourists to examine the state’s religious and cultural history.

In February, Carmel Mission Foundation received a $1,800,000 grant for the Downie Museum and Basilica Forecourt Restoration, which seeks to rejuvenate the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo located in Carmel, Calif., about five miles south of Monterey.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the fall in time to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the mission’s establishment. The grant was issued by the Hind Foundation, which provides non-profit organizations with the resources and tools to help restore monumental structures.

Linda Gardner, office manager for the Carmel Mission Foundation, emphasized the mission’s historical significance and value to the community.

“The Carmel Mission Basilica and Museums draw over 300,000 visitors annually, of all ages, races, ethnicity, genders, and religious backgrounds. As the burial place of one of America’s founding fathers, Saint Junipero Serra, Carmel Mission is a place of significant national and international historical importance for both religious and secular alike,” she told CNA.

The grant will be used to update according to state regulations, reinforce deteriorating structures, and restore the 100-year-old adobe museum and the main courtyard entrance of the Carmel Mission.

In the museum, the project will install new electrical, lighting, and fire suppression. It will also augment the museum’s masonry, which needs to be seismically strengthened in accordance with state law to protect the structure from earthquakes.

The main visitor restrooms will be relocated and removed from the original structure, restoring the adobe’s original floor plan. The museum’s exhibit space will then be doubled.

For the museum and the outside courtyards, ADA access regulations will be updated to grant people with disabilities access to the entire mission, including the garden. The restoration project will also revise the outside drainage system.

“The disabled and elderly will benefit greatly from these accessibility improvements by providing step-free paths and hazard-free access throughout the garden, basilica, museums, exhibits, restrooms, and cemetery allowing all to revel in its glory,” Gardner said.

“The grading of the Forecourt will not only provide ADA access, but will also remedy current flooding and drainage issues that are severely affecting the foundation of the renowned Basilica, Baptistery, and Bell Tower.”

Gardner said Downie Museum adobe represents a rich religious and cultural history of California. She said the museum’s structure was established in 1921 as guest quarters for visiting priests. It was then dedicated as a museum in 1980 in honor of Sir Harry Downie, who spent 50 years helping restore the Mission.

“The Downie Museum exhibits are an important tool used to educate about the region’s history, the founding of the missions, and the formation of our 31st state, California. The museum currently offers visitors a 15-minute video on the overview of the Carmel Mission and displays feature artifacts and items dating back to the 1700s used by early mission inhabitants and recovered on the property during the mission’s first restoration period from 1919-1940s.”

The Carmel Mission, established in 1773, was the second of the nine missions founded by Saint Junipero Serra. Gardner said the 249-year-old property is home to some of California’s oldest structures, art, and artifacts – some of which date back to 1568.

This building served as Serra’s living quarters and headquarters for the California mission system. It was later used to house the mission’s physicians until it was abandoned during the 1830s.

The current walls are adobe, meaning they are made from sun-dried clay. The structure’s roof is built out of wooden poles covered with two-piece clay tiles. A stone fireplace built by Carmel sculptor Jo Mora is featured inside the mission.

“The Downie Museum is an important cultural resource with tangible ties to the past and by preserving these historical areas, we ensure that future generations will have access to the extraordinary artifacts, art, literature, architecture, and history of everyday life recording the progress from the first peoples of California to the present day,” Gardner said.

As the pandemic continues to affect local businesses and livelihoods, Gardner expressed hope that the repairs will also help recover the region‘s tourist-driven economy which has suffered due to the pandemic restrictions and business closures.

She said the new plans for the community offer open spaces for social distancing requirements. She expressed hope that, when appropriate, the rejuvenated structure will allow for a celebration of the mission’s 250th anniversary, and “support efforts with the Covid-19 recovery plan for Monterey County.”

“As we look towards the recovery plan for our community, and ways to stimulate our tourist-driven local economy adversely affected by the COVID -19 pandemic, we strive to support our community partners, small businesses, hotels, and destination management firms to help them engage travel, and when appropriate, drive tourism back to our region’s hotels, museums, restaurants, and shops,” she said.


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