Santa Cruz, California. Unique among all the missions, a European-style church has been built on the original Mission location. There is now a small replica of the original mission church, about 1/3 the size of the original, on the corner across from the original mission property. Over the arch in the chapel are written Latin words which mean, “We adore you Christ and we bless you because through your cross you have redeemed the world.” Run by the Catholic Church, the small museum displays relics from the mission era including a chalice used by Father Serra. Down the street is a reconstructed section of the original mission that was used for Native American housing. It wasn’t open the day we visited, but our understanding is that it is run by the California State Park system and displays Native American artifacts that tell the story of the indigenous people of mission times.
In our conversation with the museum docent, we spoke of how we were realizing the calling that Father Serra felt from God to bring the Gospel to the indigenous people of Alta California. She expressed that Father Serra’s intentions were good, but the missionary methods of those times were harsh. Instead of helping the natives to better understand their own faith through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the missionary method of evangelizing was forceful. The result was that many natives outwardly accepted their new faith, but inwardly held onto their old beliefs. Time to ponder and learn.