Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
King Kamehameha III donated land for the first and most famous of Hawaii’s Catholic churches, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, dedicated in 1843. Located in downtown Honolulu, the diocese is trying to raise $20 million to complete the renovation of the “quite historic” structure, according to Bishop Larry Silva. It is made of blocks of coral taken from local reefs; highlights include its historic tower clock and pipe organ. Inside it houses a first-class relic of St. Damien of Molokai and the remains of St. Marianne Cope, the islands’ two most prominent Catholic figures.
St. Damien (1840-89) is originally from Belgium, was a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and volunteered to be a missionary in Hawaii. He was ordained a priest in the cathedral in 1864, and became famous after he devoted the last 16 years of his life to caring for the lepers confined to the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He ultimately died of the disease.
Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano in southern California is the state’s oldest church, and one of its oldest buildings that is still in use. It was built by the Spanish padres shortly after Mission San Juan Capistrano’s founding in 1776. St. Junípero Serra celebrated Mass and administered baptism there.
The adobe church was used for storage in the late 19th century, but was restored to its original use in the 1920s. The church art and architecture have undergone an extensive renovation and are beautiful. The Stations of the Cross, older than the Mission itself, have been restored and properly lighted. The retablo, or altarpiece, has also been restored. New chandeliers have been installed. Although most of the parish’s liturgical/sacramental life occurs at the much newer and bigger basilica, Serra Chapel is still very much in use as a house of worship. Norbertine Fathers from nearby St. Michael’s Abbey come on Sundays to celebrate Mass there in the Extraordinary Form.
Other features include a side chapel shrine, St. Peregrine’s Chapel, which draws many cancer patients on pilgrimage each year.
Mission Dolores was founded in 1776, five days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Established by Spanish Franciscans and built to serve the Ohlone Indians who inhabited the region, it is the city’s oldest building. Today, it is located in the busy Mission District of the city. Towering on one side of the historic church is the newer basilica, and on the other side is a portion of the original cemetery.
Mission Dolores has been featured in many films and TV shows, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic Vertigo in which Jimmy Stewart follows Kim Novak into the mission cemetery, Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball’s wedding scene in the 1968 Yours, Mine and Ours and the first seven minutes of the 1972 episode of For the Love of God in The Streets of San Francisco.
As with Mission San Juan Capistrano, St. Junípero Serra himself celebrated Mass there. But a second saint also famously visited Mission Dolores in 1987, Pope St. John Paul II. In the coolest reception he received during his visit that year to the U.S., John Paul famously knelt in prayer at the mission’s altar while radical feminist and homosexual demonstrators chanted “Pope, go home” outside. John Paul then went next door to bless 62 AIDS patients in the basilica.
In 2019, the Diocese of Orange in California held grand opening ceremonies for Christ Cathedral, the newly renovated cathedral at the site of the new chancery office of the Diocese of Orange in California. The church itself is the most prominent of multiple structures on a 34-acre site in Garden Grove, not far from Disneyland in Anaheim.
Christ Cathedral was previously Crystal Cathedral, built by Christian evangelist Robert Schuller (1926-2015). Postmodern architect Philip Johnson designed the structure, which, when completed in 1980, was covered with more than 11,000 panes of glass and encompassed 88,000 square feet. Although it became known as the Crystal Cathedral, it was neither: it was not made of crystal nor did it have a bishop’s chair, or “cathedra,” and was not a cathedral. The church became the quickly recognizable backdrop of Schuller’s religious services and a prominent feature of the Orange County community.
Schuller would invite celebrities to preach there, including Ven. Fulton Sheen. (Sheen’s beatification was delayed in 2019, so he is not a saint, but hopefully will be raised to this honor in the near future). Sheen most notably preached to an overflow crowd of thousands in 1972. Schuller had life-sized bronze statue made and placed on the grounds to recall the event.
Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries went bankrupt and the Diocese of Orange acquired the property in 2012. The diocese spent $77 million to renovate the church for Catholic worship, reopening it to the public in 2019. One wonders whether decades ago the insightful Bishop Sheen had a premonition that the Crystal Cathedral would one day be a Catholic cathedral.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara in Northern California is best known for its 32-foot tall stainless steel statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The shrine is open around the clock, offering Eucharistic adoration since 1976, 30 weekly Masses, ongoing availability of the Sacrament of Penance and public devotions, such as the Rosary. It draws more than a million visitors annually.
The shrine has a long history of outstanding pastors; its most notable is Msgr. John Sweeny (1924-2006) who conceived of the idea of building the large statue of Mary. He commissioned artist Charles Parks (1922-2012) to build the statue and install it in 1982. Among those Msgr. Sweeny invited to preach at dedication ceremonies was Rosary Crusade priest Ven. Patrick Peyton (1909-1992).