Blog - Catholic Action for Faith and Family

Portolá 250 – Cardinal Burke’s Words of Support

His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke Calls All to Prayer just as the Pilgrimage to Visit 21 Missions in 21 Days Commences


Cardinal Raymond Burke giving homily on Portola 250 pilgrimage during Holy Mass for Operation Storm Heaven live from his private chapel, September 1st, 2019

The year 2019 marks the 250th anniversary of the Portolá Expedition which brought the Catholic Faith to California. A new trek termed the “Portolá 250” set out the eve of August 31st to bring Catholics together across California to commemorate this anniversary of the founding of the 21 California Missions with a modern-day road trip from August 31-September 22.

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Portolá 250 – Mission Stop #3

Home Sweet Home

Founded November 1, 1776 by St. Junípero Serra, Mission San Juan Capistrano is located in the present-day city of San Juan Capistrano, California in Orange County. The Mission was originally built as a self-sufficient community, where it became a center for agriculture, industry, education, and religion.

Nicknamed “the Jewel of the Missions”, Mission San Juan Capistrano was a bit of a homecoming for me as this is where I grew up. San Juan, while not my hometown now, was a place I fondly remember as a kid bike-riding into town and gazing at the ruins of the old Stone Church, the one destroyed by the earthquake of 1812. It is where they have the annual Swallows Day Parade to commemorate the swallows coming back to Capistrano each year on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th). The reason why I know that, is on this day each year, it just happens to also be my mother’s birthday.

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Portolá 250 – Titles of Our Lady

A Variety of Devotions to Our Lady to Mirror Diversity of Cultures

What struck me most as we walked into La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange, CA on Thursday, September 5th is the presence there of a great devotion to Our Lady under a variety of her titles.

As you may know, the Diocese of Orange County is extremely diverse in ethnicity, and it was beautiful to see this diversity reflected in the different scenes representing different titles of Our Lady set up in the church there. To add to the mix, we brought the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Fatima. It was amazing to see cultures and languages from all over the world coming together in one common Faith. No other institution other than the Catholic Church does that! In fact, the word ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’. But La Purisima does a special job of celebrating this diversity of cultures in their community.

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Portolá 250 – Sacred Relics

Bringing Treasures of the Church to the Faithful

We are blessed, as we proceed in our pilgrimage, to carry with us throughout California some of the most cherished treasures of the Catholic Church: sacred relics. More specifically, a reliquary containing several special relics has been entrusted to Catholic Action for Faith and Family to share with the faithful in churches and amidst other devotional activities.

I was touched as I observed the reactions of those who lined up to venerate the reliquary which keeps the sacred relics. It was like a soothing balm for the pilgrims and visitors, which helped to create such a solemn yet joyous environment and lingering sense of reverence whereby they desired to remain for hours.

Photo credit: David Maung

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Portolá 250 - Day 2 ‘Evening Visit'

The Travel Team Stops at Home Parish in Carlsbad, CA to Recharge our Batteries…. Literally!

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, Carlsbad CA during a winter rain.

Sunday evening, September 1st, we arrived home to relax a night before heading back out on the road. I heard from my wife Hélèna and kids that during the earlier Masses our good friend from our home parish, Deacon Jerry Heitschmidt, announced we would be coming by saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This benefit however was more for us knowing everyone there.

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Portolá 250 - Day 2 Mission San Diego

First Mission Stop at Mission San Diego de Alcalá

“Founded in 1769 by Saint Junípero Serra, Mission San Diego de Alcalá is located in present-day San Diego, California. Both the mission and its surrounding territory are named for the Catholic Didacus of Alcalá, better known as ‘San Diego’.

Mission San Diego de Alcalá, as the first of the 21 Franciscan missions, appropriately gained its nickname ‘The Mother of the Missions’. Our pilgrim crew arrived at this Mission just before the noon Mass on Sunday, September 1st, with the World Apostolate of Fatima rolling billboard. My colleague, Anthony DeBellis, was joined by his son, Michael, present to support the project of his dad to visit 21 missions in 21 days and to explore together the treasures of our Faith and in this case, the first-ever of its kind built in California.

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Portolá 250 - Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima

Inaugural Tour Stop: Our Lady of the Rosary: Downtown San Diego

Blessed on May 13, 1951 at the close of the Holy Year designated by Pope Pius XII, part of the mission of the World-Famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue (IPVS) of Fatima is to bring the graces of Our Lady of Fatima to those around the world unable to make the pilgrimage to Fatima. Although my colleague, Thomas McKenna has been to Fatima numerous times having dedicated his life to serving the Church, I have not been.

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Portolá 250 Kickoff Day 1

Determined to Lead Pilgrimage to Retrace St. Junípero Serra’s Steps in California

Yesterday, at 2:00 pm, Saturday, August 31st, Patrick Sabat, the custodian of the World-Famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima came to my neighborhood driving the slightly-well more than slightly-conspicuous Motorhome RV to pick me up to begin the journey to visit 21 Missions in 21 Days along with my colleagues Thomas McKenna and Anthony DeBellis. It was my son, Alex’ birthday and what better surpise than to be able to watch the neighborhood wonderment-what a great way to evangelize! He expects his friends to be asking him for weeks, ‘where is his dad now?’

The first step of the expedition started last night at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Little Italy at 5:30 pm and arrived today, Sept. 1st, at the very first mission in Alta California, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. From there, the expedition will visit each subsequent mission across the state, with a Sept. 11 crescendo event on the Capital steps in Sacramento.

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Operation Storm Heaven - September 2019

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Click here to join Operation Storm Heaven


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You know well the passage of the dialogue between Jesus and the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8:27-33). Jesus asks His closest followers, “Who do people say that I am?”  They offer the different perceptions of the day, “Some say John the Baptist, others, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.” “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds quickly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” 

Jesus commends Peter, and entrusts to him the keys of the Kingdom; an extraordinary role in the Church. 

Imagine for a moment, if Peter, a few years later, after Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, posed the similar question in the Church. He asks, “What do people say about the Church and Her mission?” We could expect a variety of opinions and observations.

We can ask the same question today: What do people say about the Church? Who determines Her teachings and work? 

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