The Los Angeles archdiocese similarly encouraged prayers for Corey “that he may know God’s mercy and love.”
The fire began around 4 a.m. on July 11, and destroyed the roof and interior of the 250-year-old structure. Local firefighters said they responded to an initial fire alarm at 4:24 a.m.. By the time they arrived, smoke and flames were visible from outside the church.
Eventually, 50 firefighters battled the four-alarm fire, according to the Los Angeles Times. Local fire department spokesman Captain Antonio Negrete called the damage “heartbreaking.”
Prior to the fire, much of the artwork in the church had been removed as part of an ongoing restoration. The mission’s 250-year jubilee celebration is planned for September 2021.
A historic painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, depicting the Virgin Mary in a somber, dark landscape, was the only piece of artwork remaining in the church that survived the fire.
Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
For Anthony Morales, tribal chief of the San Gabrielino Mission Indians and a parishioner of Mission San Gabriel, the damage caused by the fire was more than material.
“These are my roots,” Morales told Angelus News, holding back tears as he surveyed the scene last year hours after the fire had been contained.
“This is my church. All my ancestors are buried in the cemetery next door. Six thousand of my ancestors are buried on these grounds, and this is the church that they built. It’s just very devastating.”
The rebuilding effort at Mission San Gabriel is ongoing; currently the structure has a temporary wooden roof.
Workers restoring the Mission have in the past year have made unexpected discoveries, such as walls painted with colorful designs that historians never knew existed, which were exposed under peeling layers of plaster.
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Workers also discovered previously unknown layers of old brick and slabs of stone mined from the San Gabriel Mountains under the mission’s wooden floors, which buckled under the weight of the firefighters’ water.
The archdiocese said the mission’s newly designed roof is set to be finished by the end of August, ahead of the mission’s 250th anniversary on September 11th.
“We are thankful for all of the people who have worked so earnestly in the Mission’s reconstruction,” the archdiocese concluded.
Despite St. Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, images of the saint have for years been focal points for protests and demonstrations across California. In 2020, numerous statues of the saint were torn down or vandalized by protestors.
Some California institutions, such as the University of San Diego, have put their statues of Serra in storage to protect them. Mission San Gabriel had put its images of Serra, including a bronze statue, into storage for this reason not long before the fire.