A Lenten Commitment to Naming the Harms of the California Mission System

Most Reverend Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops

In June 2021, the Archbishop of Los Angeles declared a Jubilee Year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. With a commitment only to commemorating this "important moment in the history of salvation," Archbishop Gomez denied Catholics a space to address the legacy of harm and violence done to the Native communities throughout the mission system. In this Lenten season of reflection and repentance, it is time our Church finally name those things that have distorted the teachings and model of Christ.

To: Most Reverend Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops
From: [Your Name]

During this Year of Jubilee, as you shepherd the People of God on their Lenten journey, may the Archdiocese of Los Angeles collectively ACKNOWLEDGE the legacy of our mission heritage. A legacy that is BEFORE US ALWAYS. For as you stated in launching the Year of Jubilee, "how we remember the past reflects the people we want to be in the present and our hopes for the future." You acknowledged failures in the founding of Mission San Gabriel "that caused much suffering and pain." In the Lenten spirit of confessing our sins, we ask that you publicly delineate the specific faults and systemic injustices in the mission system that contributed to so much suffering and pain.

This WILL GIVE US BACK the joy of our salvation, for to OPEN OUR LIPS and articulate the wounds of the past is the first step in reconciliation with God and with the ancestors of the indigenous people harmed through our mission system (and subsequent history). Such truth-telling helps ensure that we do not repeat the sins of the past as we journey forward. But more so, this penitential action will invite the Church into "this season of mercy and grace," modeling the search for the fundamental Lenten essence of forgiveness and reconciliation. Now is A VERY ACCEPTABLE TIME, as we celebrate a Year of Jubilee, for you to launch an effort to REND OUR HEARTS of a past that denied the God-given dignity of the first occupants and stewards of this land and collaborated in their suffering and pain.

Archbishop Gomez, may you GATHER THE PEOPLE, CALL AN ASSEMBLY in this fruitful time of synodality and let the Holy Spirit STIR A CONCERN for the mission system’s legacy of harm. Today, may our consciences and moral decisions access the reality of the past, its influence on our Church's mission today, and our hopes for the future in order to heal wounds, seek paths of reconciliation beyond platitudes, and allow the dignity of all voices to speak the truths resonating in their WHOLE HEARTS. This can be our HERITAGE. By reconciling with our legacy of the mission system, we ultimately reunite our lives and faith with God and receive the BLESSINGS HE WILL LEAVE in our midst for this historic dawn of a new day in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' announcement of the Kingdom of God.

[Note: All CAPITALIZED words are taken from Ash Wednesday's readings.]