|January 23, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 2 • Oakland, CA|
john wright photosCatholic beginnings
began with friars
The Catholic presence in the East Bay can be traced
to March 27, 1772, when Franciscan Father Juan Crespi, traveling with
a party of Spanish explorers, celebrated Mass near a swamp that would
one day become Lake Merritt in Oakland.
Mission San Jose would remain the only Catholic parish on the contra costa, the “opposite coast” from San Francisco, for the next 64 years.
The early mission building was a thatch-roofed structure. By 1809 an adobe church had been dedicated. The earthquake of 1868 destroyed that church and many surrounding buildings. A new church was built on the same site, which lasted until 1965, when a new building was built north of the Mission cemetery.
Various preservation efforts on the remaining mission site took place through the 1950s, and in 1973, a group began looking for funds and plans to restore the mission. After a $4.5 million restoration, the mission was rededicated in June 1985.
Meanwhile, first Spain and then Mexico, which won independence from Spain in 1821, issued land grants to retired soldiers, some of whom built chapels on their ranchos where mission priests would sometimes venture to say Mass. By 1836, Mexico had secularized the California missions and parceled out most of their once-vast grazing lands.
In 1840, the Holy See established the Diocese of the Two Californias, comprising both Baja California and Alta California. Eight years later, just as the gold rush was beginning to draw thousands of fortune-seekers to the West, Mexico ceded California to the United States.
— Compiled from the Annual Directory 2011 of the Diocese of Oakland
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