Portolá 250 - 3 Missions in 6 Hours - Catholic Action For Faith and Family

Portolá 250 - 3 Missions in 6 Hours

Triple Play: 3 Missions in 6 Hours

Upon awakening in Santa Clara, we began our day determined to hit three missions (our triple play) within a period of 6 hours, and excited to see who might join us on our journey. We made the morning trek south to Mission Santa Cruz, the 12th of the Franciscan Missions (the 10th on our 21 Missions in 21 days tour) for a 10 AM Rosary. We were pleasantly surprised that we had an additional prayer partner to share the Rosary, the first of three planned for the day. We made a short tour of the small but well-preserved chapel and walked across the street to see the official marker.

Once we wrapped up in Santa Cruz,which is a quintessential California beach town, we headed back to San Jose to visit Mission San José, founded in 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen. The group that gathered at noon was happy to see us; many had come again to visit Our Lady a 2nd time (the first being at Our Lady of Peace, the night before).  After praying the Rosary for California outside with Our Lady for all to see, we found another well preserved mission with an active Catholic church and with friendly gift shop attendants. 

Once again, we made a short visit to the church and of course to say hello to the resident St. Junípero Serra statue (part of our mission routine). After saying goodbye to our enthusiastic and devoted prayer partners, we quickly departed for our next stop, Mission San Juan Bautista also founded by Father Fermin Lasuen in 1797.

Driving down the 101, we left the urban sprawl of Silicon Valley and began to encounter the beautiful open land, that could easily be envisioned in our minds as open farmland and cattle ranches back in the early mission days.  Upon arrival at Mission San Juan Bautista, we were mesmerized by the incredible bell tower and open land surrounding the small modern-day parish and the church, which we learned is the largest in the mission chain with unique naves. An interesting fact, Mission San Juan Bautista was called the Mission of Music because it had an exceptional choir and because it used a musical notation system developed in Spain where varied colors were used to represent notes.

We were able to walk the original section of the El Camino Real and to our surprise, we were met by two Irish priests (Fr. John and Fr. Owen) who were on vacation and making their own pilgrimage to visit all 21 missions. In following with our goal to receive a blessing at every stop, Fr. John gave us an inspiring 2-minute-long blessing for our tour and evangelization efforts. His awareness of what was happening in California (politically and spiritually) and his knowledge of Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney (the founder of the Knights of Columbus) was a reminder that “as California goes, so goes the Nation” and how the world looks at what the U.S. is doing. 

I’d like to also share a special word of thanks to the staff members as well as Mission Docents who volunteer their time and talent to preserve the history and heritage at the missions. They take on many tasks, from giving tours of the Mission properties and museums, to giving talks to school children ensuring history is relevant and to understand the importance of St. Junípero Serra and important role the missions played in the founding of California. All the missions have a docent association if you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering to provide visitors with a welcoming presence.  This is an excellent way to evangelize and to help in the historical stewardship of the missions, their art and artifacts, and of course our Catholic Faith.


Anthony DeBellis

“Always go forward and never turn back.”

~ St. Junípero Serra

P.S. A special note of thanks to former U.S. President James Buchanan for helping to return these missions to the Catholic Church in 1859.


Photos from Mission Santa Cruz:

Photos from Mission San Jose:

Photos from Mission San Juan Bautista:

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