July 19, 2020
Peace and All Good!
Old Mission Santa Inés is the heart of our Catholic community of faith and a historic cultural center of the Santa Ynez Valley. Sadly, a recent petition asking for the removal of the statue of Junípero Serra, which is on the grounds of our mission, maligned our California missions, and St. Junípero Serra who founded them.
First and foremost, we want to express our concern and understanding of the pain expressed by some native peoples in California because of the crimes committed against their ancestors during colonial days. We acknowledge that Saint Junípero Serra’s involvement in Spanish colonial policy is problematic and the mission system was far from perfect, but there is no historical support for the attack on his character found in the wording of the petition and subsequent statements.
The statue of St. Junípero Serra at Mission Santa Inés is not a historical monument or a civic memorial. Rather it is an image of a saint set to encourage us to treat one another with love and respect as our Catholic faith teaches us.
It should be noted that the City Council of Ventura, in consultation with local people, including representatives of the Chumash, decided that the statue of St. Junípero Serra that now sits on city property there should be most appropriately placed at Mission San Buenaventura, as a place of worship and not on public property. As, with the final agreed upon resolution with the statue in Ventura, our statue in Solvang is already in a place of worship on private property.
Mayor Ryan Toussaint has correctly pointed out to the petitioners that the statue of St. Junípero Serra is not on city property, but on the grounds of our mission which is private property, so the City has no jurisdiction over its placement. We recognize the desire to remove statues that are on public property, but as a place of worship for thousands of Catholic faithful, we respectfully must affirm our First Amendment right to keep the statue of St. Junípero Serra safely on our mission grounds where it stands and where the faithful can visit and venerate it.
California’s history, including the Spanish colonial era, presents issues which need to be acknowledged and discussed, especially the relationship between the indigenous peoples and those who came later from many parts of the world. We welcome continued dialogue with current residents of the Santa Ynez Valley as well as further discussion on how best to continue to build a society that is more just, and which respects the dignity of every person.