“It was here in Old Town that Saint Junípero Serra celebrated his First Holy Mass in California on July 2, 1769, near the site of the present Immaculate Conception Church, and it was on the hill overlooking Old Town that he planted the cross which marked the site of the Mission and the Presidio.” This is a direct quote from the website of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Old Town, San Diego. Given that my ancestors were buried in El Campo cemetery, a block away, I knew that they had sat in the current or previous church. My senses tingle when I can reconnect with the past.
I was curious about this American saint with the strange name. He was born in Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands, to the east of the Spanish Mainland. When I was a toddler my crazy mum and dad took me to live on one the smaller islands, Formentera. It didn’t work out… If you click on this link, Saint Junipero Serra, you can access an Encyclopedia Brittanica article about him.
There is some debate about whether he really helped the native people of California and that is the reason why he was canonized in 2015. Missionaries often think they are doing God’s work when they might be erasing a culture or set of beliefs. My personal belief is that you can volunteer or work in the third world without a specific faith or any but I wouldn’t want to belittle the good work that many missions do.
El Campo Cemetery had a broad mixture of names – Irish, English and Spanish mostly. Many had intermarried like my family. The stained glass in the Immaculate Conception Church had been donated by various families and it represented this broad range of original nationalities.
It was a lovely little church enhanced by the perfect sunny day. When I was looking for information about the church, I was amused by reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor. Who would dare give less than a 5 star rating???