Father Peter M. Escalante, pastor of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and Janet Bartel, Cultural Chair of 250th Anniversary Jubilee Steering Committee, have announced that a panel of distinguished experts and scholars will visit Mission San Diego de Alcalá to participate in a three-day symposium.
Scholars from throughout the United States will gather at the historic Mission (designated a Basilica in 1976), to share their wealth of knowledge and expertise about early California mission history and related subjects. Beginning on March 22 and concluding on March 24, the public is invited to hear from a group of California’s most well-respected historians in a once-in-a-lifetime gathering to commemorate the founding of California’s first mission church.
Two-hundred and fifty years ago, Europeans arrived in California to establish the first settlement at the request of the King of Spain, who was hoping to secure the land of Alta California for New Spain. Among the first to set foot on California soil in 1769, was Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary priest who walked the entire journey from Mexico on foot. Serra celebrated the first mass in California on July 16, 1769, dedicating the site at Presidio Hill in San Diego. This year marks the 250th anniversary of that historic event.
Prior to the Serra’s arrival, the area was inhabited by native Kumeyaay Indians, who had lived in the region for approximately 10,000 years. Serra established the first settlement in San Diego by developing a relationship with the Kumeyaay, and working together, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded as the first mission church in California, making it the birthplace of Christianity in the Western United States and one of the most historically significant sites in California. Canonized a saint in 2015, Father Serra continued his journey up California’s coastline on foot, establishing a total of 9 missions before his death in 1784. Mission San Diego de Alcalá is the first of the 21 missions. It was founded seven years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and 80 years before California would join the Union.
Among the distinguished guests who will make a presentation at the Symposium is Milford Wayne Donaldson. Donaldson was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Selected initially by Gov. Schwarzenegger, Donaldson is the first architect to serve as chair of the California Office of Historic Preservation, a nine-member state review board responsible for identifying, registering, and preserving California’s cultural heritage.
Serving as the keynote speaker is Jack Williams, Ph.D., Director Emeritus of the California Missions Foundation and Founder of the Center of Spanish Colonial Research. Others include Robert Kittle, former White House Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and longtime political analyst for PBS’s “News Hour with Jim Lehrer.” Kittle is also the longtime editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial page and former host of the public affairs television program SignOn San Diego. His book, entitled “Franciscan Frontiersmen: How Three Adventure Chartered the West,” describes the little-known story of the pioneering friars who accompanied Junipero Serra to California.
Representing the Native American Kumeyaay, is Deacon Andrew Orosco, the first Kumeyaay to become an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. He serves Bishop Gerald Barnes in the diocese of San Bernardino, which ministers to thirteen federally recognized Indian tribes, six of which have Catholic missions on their land.
The Scholars’ Symposium runs March 22, 23 and 24. Tickets for the three-day event are $120 and include continental breakfast and lunch on March 22 and 23 and dinner on Friday evening, March 22. Tickets for a paella dinner on March 23 are available at an additional cost of $45 per person. Tickets are limited and advance registration is advised. For additional information and to purchase tickets call 619-283-7319 or visit the Mission website at MissionSanDiego.org.