Portola 250 Pilgrimage - Catholic Action For Faith and Family

Portolá 250 - Santa Barbara

Mission Stop 20 of 21: Queen of the Missions

Mission stop #20 on our 21 Mission in 21 Days tour was one filled with history and awe. Named after a legendary martyred church figure of the 3rd century, Santa Bárbara commands a striking view of the Pacific Ocean from position on the hill.

Upon our arrival, Fr. Dan from Mission Santa Barbara had prepared for us beforehand to pray in the Olive Garden where their Stations of the Cross were located.  Initially, we were met with a small group of rosary partners and we set up in the shade of Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother, an appropriate stop for sure as we prayed the rosary. 

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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.

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Portolá 250 – Our Lady of the Assumption in Claremont, CA

The Portolá 250 Visits Our Lady of Assumption in the City of Trees and PhDs

Situated on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, and home to many colleges along tree-lined streets, Claremont, CA has a nickname by locals as being the city of many trees and PhDs. On the Portolá 250, I’ve been looking forward to visiting Claremont, CA since I lived in the adjacent city of Upland for many years. My daughters had their First Communions and my son was born and baptized there. My two brothers and their families also still live in the area. Our Lady of Assumption in Claremont has always been a hub for Catholics in the region and their annual fair ‘with beer tasting’ is a favorite of residents throughout the area.

The pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption, Fr. Charles, and I met about a year earlier and I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him and following his terrific work at the parish and in the community. Every time I say “good job,” he is embarrassed and deflects credit to his staff and his faith sponsoring community. Built in 1951 in downtown Claremont’s historic district among many vintage homes and properties, Our Lady of Assumption was due a new roof and auditorium, among other things, and desired to transform the parish into a sanctuary. The parish had begun a renovation project nine months ago; so, when I last visited Fr. Charles a few months ago, he and his fellow priests were celebrating Masses in a huge tent kept a little cooler with large fans.  Meanwhile, so much artisanship was being dedicated to transforming the parish, with new elements being hand-crafted by a workshop founded in Chacas, Peru, by the Salesian Order. The central figure in the church would be as always, the crucified Christ in pose. Other elements fashioned for OLA included the backdrop, known as a reredos, depicting the spirit of Mary in her quiet supporting role as our patron, the tabernacle holding the Body of Christ in reserve, as well as the sanctuary candle, are integrated into the reredos.

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Portolá 250 – St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church

St. Maria Goretti Community Strengthens Bonds and Proves that Attitude Determines Altitude

From the moment I received a call from Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Sam Cole that his parish priest Father Sylvester was, safe to say, ‘highly motivated’ to have the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue visit St. Maria Goretti in Elk Grove, CA, we knew we had to block off adequate time to allow their staff to work on what arguably turned out to be one of the most vibrant events of the 38 Portolá 250 stops.

On a three-way call, Father Sylvester requested that we schedule an all-night visit and mentioned he wanted to keep Our Lady awake as long she is willing for his parishioners. We settled on a full schedule from 4:00 PM until Midnight and the Pilgrim Virgin Statue would remain throughout the night. With the spirit of Father Sylvester who is a few months new to the parish and throughout the planning process led by Sam Cole along with support from the parish staff, the attitude all along was first class! I was so inspired by Father Sylvester’s passion along with his insights and experience with Fatima, I asked if he would be so generous with his time as to drive over and lead the Rosary at our visit to the Capitol steps in Sacramento…and to everyone’s great joy, he obliged.

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Portolá 250 – Our Lady of Peace

Our Lady of Peace: She Waits!

As we drove to Our Lady of Peace in the city of Santa Clara, we were met with many Golden State Warrior fans and of course 49er fans as their stadium is located there. We were also met with one of the largest Marian shrines on the West Coast, a 32-foot tall steel statue that stands rather unexpectedly in Silicon Valley which I imagined is not usually thought of as a destination for pilgrimages. Well, time to think otherwise!

Welcoming visitors 24 hours a day, the outdoor shrine has beautiful grounds for veneration and relaxing. In 1983, the sculpture was commissioned by former Msgr. John L. Sweeney who was also the former pastor of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Santa Clara. With a special blessing by Pope St. John Paul II, Bishop Pierre DuMaine dedicated the statue along with the encompassing shrine.

We scouted the grounds upon arrival although I couldn’t imagine what would happen in the evening; stay tuned!

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Portolá 250 - Mission Dolores

Mission Visit #8: On the Streets of San Francisco

Founded June 26, 1776 by Father Francisco Palóu, Mission Dolores church is the oldest intact building in the city of San Francisco, and the only completely intact chapel remaining among the 21 missions. Granted basilica status in 1952 by Pope Pius XII, Mission Dolores still plays an important role in the cultural and civic life of San Francisco. It’s interesting to note Pope Pius XII also blessed the Pilgrim Virgin Statue.

Crossing the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco took more time than expected, but we made it to Mission Dolores just in the nick of time. We didn’t come with the rolling World Apostolate of Fatima billboard because the streets of San Francisco are just not built for it. As we made the trip, we were reminded of the beauty of the bay, with the cool ocean breeze and the rolling fog in the distance. I was really getting tired of the 90s heat wave that seemed to follow us wherever we have gone so far.

Once we set up with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue, Larry Maginot led the Rosary with a few followers who made the trip over to Mission Dolores to join us, bringing to mind our intentions to revitalize Christianity in California and to bring consolation to everyone’s life. It was a short stop, but one that had an impact on our guests who expressed much appreciation. Interesting to note, those passing by on the street came from every walk, run, and jog of life. 

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Portolá 250 – Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption

Cool Day in San Francisco

International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Custodian Larry Maginot put it best when he said, “I’ve been hot for two weeks and now I’m cold.” It’s true, the weather change was dramatic from just a few days earlier.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the mother church of the faithful in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

Designed by local architects collaborating with internationally renowned architects, the cathedral soars to 190 feet (57.9m) high and is crowned with a 55 foot golden cross. In 2017, Architecture Digest named this cathedral one of the 10 most beautiful churches in the United States.

On May 5, 1971, the cathedral was blessed and on October 5, 1996, was formally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the name of Saint Mary of the Assumption. Around the interior showcases several meditation scenes with Mary. Just three of these scenes are:

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Portolá 250 – St. Margaret Mary Church

In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Latin Style

September 13th in this year of 2019 brought additional significance to the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, as it was the 102nd anniversary of the fifth apparition of Fatima.

Along the route of the Portolá 250, we have experienced a wide variety of worship styles, from modern to traditional and everything in between. The highlight of tonight’s program at St. Margaret Mary in the heart of Oakland, CA was a true treasure of our Faith— hearing the Litany of Loreto in Latin. Hearing the names of Our Lady in Latin, in a beautiful church, filled with awe and reverence, made this night particularly special. Processing around the block in the middle of Oakland, California with Our Lady and an entourage of ladies veiling also was a sight to be seen and an experience to be remembered. 

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Portolá 250 – Mission San Luis Rey

Founded in June 13, 1798, Mission San Luis Rey is located in Oceanside, CA, just outside of San Diego.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia - The King of the Missions still reigns!

Named in honor of France’s King Louis IX, a Spanish ally, Mission San Luis Rey is nicknamed King of the Missions. Its beautiful church façade is a perfect example of late mission architecture. As we headed to the Mission’s expansive grounds, we did so without the rolling billboard, as it was waiting for a mechanic to fix it back in Carlsbad, CA. Although we had the GPS on our iPhones working well, we enjoyed being guided by one of the 585 mission bells located on the highway markers commemorating the “Historic El Camino Real” across the state.

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Portolá 250 - St Andrew Church & Old Pasadena

Breathtaking Parish and Thomas McKenna Joins the Portolá 250 in Old Town Pasadena…In Style! A Must Read…A Must See


St. Andrew

The visit to St. Andrew Church in Old Pasadena was, well, breathtaking. I was thankful to arrive early with my son Alex, who was traveling with me. This would be Alex’s last stop before I drove him home for school the next day and let’s just say he, along with myself, were over the moon with the experience. Founded in 1886, the oldest Catholic parish in Pasadena and one of the oldest in Los Angeles Country, St. Andrew was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve been in.

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