When Father Tom Elewaut saw the name on his phone’s caller ID the night of June 30, the pastor of Mission San Buenaventura guessed the call had something to do with the recent controversy over whether to remove the statue of St. Junípero Serra in front of Ventura’s City Hall.
He guessed wrong.
“I’ve got some good news,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez on the other end of the line. “You’re a minor basilica.”
Father Elewaut’s voice started to crack with emotion. He’d spent the last six years researching, praying, and waiting for Pope Francis to decide whether to elevate his 238-year-old parish to the rank of “minor basilica.”
Two weeks later, on July 15, the feast of the mission’s namesake, St. Bonaventure, the pope’s decision was made public. At a special 7:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gomez, along with Father Elewaut and regional Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, Mission Basilica San Buenaventura was unveiled as the first basilica in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the 88th in the United States.
“When the pope designates a basilica, it means this is holy ground, that something beautiful and important in the history of salvation happened here,” Archbishop Gomez said at the Mass, held outside in the mission’s garden due to restrictions on outdoor religious services mandated by California Gov. Gavin Newsom just two days earlier in light of the recent spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the state.
Of the nine missions St. Junípero founded in what is today California, Mission San Buenaventura has the distinction of being his last.
You can also learn more about the mission by visiting its website.