The Church and Colonization

Mission San Gabriel under construction from fire.

As the Los Angeles Archdiocese begins a Jubilee Year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel founding, we at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker believe it is simply not possible to move “Forward in Mission” as a Church without collectively engaging all the facets of our Mission’s history and legacy.

As Archbishop Gomez recognized, “history is complicated. The facts matter, distinctions need to be made, and the truth counts. We cannot learn history’s lessons or heal old wounds unless we understand what really happened, how it happened, and why.” Unfortunately, as this Jubilee Year explicitly demonstrates,  this is not our opportunity to do this.

Therefore, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker is preparing a project for the duration of these twelve months to invite our Catholic community to engage in this practice together. We will consider our faith’s Biblical impetus and theological justification for the missions. Together, we will explore the vast history of the missions and process the complicated questions that arise. We will build relationships with the local Native communities to listen and learn from their stories and hopes for repair. And then we will consider where and how the Spirit is inviting us to move today and into the future.

If you are interested in learning more or in joining this effort, please take a minute to fill out this brief survey. This will give us a little preliminary information about you and allow us to follow up with you to answer any questions and explain our next steps.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this invitation and know we look forward to connecting with you as we go.


The following op-ed written by Matt Harper appeared in the August 2021 Catholic Agitator.

For Roman Catholics in Los Angeles, the Most Reverend Jose Gomez serves as both the Archbishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the President of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. The ecclesiastical power available and responsibility shouldered by our shepherd has never been greater.

So, as more than 300 Catholic parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese consider opening their doors to indoor services this week, will the archbishop be having a three-day meeting to ensure last-minute safety needs are addressed? No, but he has instructed all churches to reopen and re-instated the requirement to attend weekly mass.

As the North American Catholic Church continues to reel from the discovery of 215 children’s bodies at the Kamloops Indigenous Residential School, will the archbishop be having a three-day meeting on how we repent and begin to repair the historic harm caused by the Church’s mission system and residential schools? No, but the Church continues to raise funds to repair the San Gabriel Mission after fire damaged parts of its structure last year.

And as the Los Angeles City Planning Commission prepares to decide the fate of Skid Row this Thursday—an area that has long been a hub of services, deeply affordable housing, and community for many of the unhoused in Los Angeles – will the archbishop be having a three-day meeting on how to ensure the Commission centers the dignity and needs of the unhoused neighbors of our Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels? No, even though the rezoning directly impacts the Cathedral.

Instead of doing any of these things, our archbishop, and other bishops from around the country, will be meeting to decide whether Catholic politicians who support abortion should be barred from receiving Communion. The urgency of COVID safety, of accountability for historic violence, of the possible destruction of the one region of Los Angeles willing to take on the needs of our unhoused neighbors appears to be less important than deciding what makes a person “Catholic” enough to deserve the body of the Broken One, the nourishment of the Holy One, the compassion of the Savior. I simply do not get it.

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