Director of Historic Mission Sites for Archdiocese of Los Angeles voices concerns about St. Junipero's legacy

Father Tom Elewaut Image courtesy of

Pastor of Mission Basilica San Buenaventura and director of historical missions for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Father Tom Elewaut, expressed disappointment to Ventura County officials about the false testimony that led to the removal of St. Junipero Serra's image from the county seal. 

Removal of St. Junipero Serra's Image from County Seal

At the beginning of this year, the Board of Supervisors voted four to one to accept a new county seal that depicts Anacapa's Arch Rock, a landmark located close to the Channel Islands. 

According to the Angelus News, besides removing an image of St. Junipero Serra from the original seal, images that refer to the oil industry, sailing, agriculture, and atomic energy were also removed.

Meanwhile, the pastor has a major disagreement with the explanation behind the decision to remove the saint from the seal. He believes that the motivation is inconsistent with the facts.

The report also stated that in his conversation with the supervisors, Elewaut emphasized the spirit of communication. 

Several secular historians were acknowledged in his talk: Rose Marie Beebe and Robert Senkewicz of Santa Clara University, Gregory Orfalea, and the late Dr. James Sandos of the University of Redlands. 

The accusation that St. Junipero was responsible for the slaughter of California's indigenous people is just one of many that Elewaut debunks.

The priest also highlighted research that, contrary to the assertions made by some activists, indigenous people were not coerced into participating in the mission system that was in place during the time of St. Junipero.

The Angelus News also reported that the priest revealed that the mission system was only operational in regions that contained around one-quarter of California's native population. 

According to the research he provided, only approximately 10 percent of indigenous ever left the missions. 

At the end of his speech, Father Elewaut thanked the board for the opportunity to correct a false testimony about Junipero Serra. 

This testimony appears to have contributed to actions that are not consistent with the facts, so Elewaut wanted to make sure that this testimony was corrected.

About Mission Basilica San Buenaventura 

On Palm Sunday, March 30, 1749, the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra decided to travel to the New World as a missionary to the indigenous peoples. This decision ultimately led to the establishment of the San Buenaventura Mission.

According to its website, various things took place, and a number of priests led the mission at various times. The only parts of the original Mission that are still standing today are the chapel and the garden that is attached to it. 

At the Mission, there is a small museum that features exhibits of Chumash Indian relics and artifacts from the time period of the mission. The Church is still used as a functioning Catholic Parish, providing services to around 1200 families. 

The Mission was designated as the first basilica in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on June 9, 2020, when Pope Francis elevated it to the status of a minor basilica. The parish church is where the Mass and the sacraments are held regularly. Father Tom Elewaut has been serving in his role as pastor since 2011.

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