Guest blogger Anthony DeBellis
Founded November 1, 1776 by St. Junípero Serra and 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 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 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. With 32 visits up and down the state remaining on our Portolá 250 schedule, San Juan Capistrano mission was planned as one of several hour-long rosary rallies along the route and was a particular treat to be able to have my mother and my dad in attendance as part of a small but prayerful group of pilgrims that attended our gathering in front of the St. Junípero Serra statue on the grounds of the Basilica. Our visit to the third mission on the tour to visit the 21 in total with Our Lady was special in many ways. We were blessed with the presence of Fr. James C. Ries, who just happens to be the pastor of a nearby parish, and you guessed it, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. Fr. Jim led our remnant prayer group in the Rosary and gave a special blessing to us and all in attendance. He described in his blessing the need for all of us to be aware and intentional in our prayers and lives to uphold Catholic values of life, family, hard work as well as love and concern for our neighbor. Having the five-foot two carved statuary of St. Junipero Serra, watching over our Lady and our group, in a shaded grass area next to the modern-day Basilica on a hot day, was just as I would have envisioned him doing, almost 250 years ago. Many of the visitors on this day plan to have a reunion with our pilgrim crew ‘which we look forward to’ on the Portolá 250 Sep. 22 at 7:00 pm at recently dedicated Christ Cathedral in Orange County.
“Always go forward and never turn back.”
~ St. Junípero Serra