Capilla Ceremonies

On Centennial Day, May 20, 1910, Bishop Conaty of Los Angeles, laid with due ceremony the cornerstone of a new capilla to be erected by the people of San Bernardino and Colton on the exact site of the first building erected in this valley by the white men. It is proposed that the new chapel shall be a reproduction along reduced lines of the mission building at San Gabriel although this has not been definitely settled as yet.

The ground for the capilla was generously given to the people of the two cities as a capilla site by O. L. Emery of Colton. He set aside an acre of land on almost the highest point of the ridge deeding it to a committee in trust composed of Elizabeth C. Wilkins, Josephine Ferguson, Maude Adams Roberts and Alma M. Oakly, until such a time as it can be turned over to an organization having in charge the building of the chapel. Together with the land he gave a right of way for a road leading out to Colton Avenue and the right in a well which will supply water. The gift is regarded as one of the most generous acts recorded in the history of the valley and Mr. Emery has been praised on every side by the people of the entire county.

It is intended to establish in the mission a permanent museum of early day relics and to maintain it as one of the show places of the valley.

The dedication ceremonies were not impressive. Hundreds of people from all portions of Southern California had gathered there for the occasion and besides Bishop Conaty a large number of Catholic priests and choirboys from Los Angeles assisted in the exercises. R. E. Swing as President of the San Bernardino Valley Centennial opened the ceremonies by presenting Bishop Conaty with a huge cross to be used in the exercises and also telling briefly what it is hoped to do.

Bishop Conaty after placing the cornerstone and dedicating the capilla delivered an address, which was one of the best, delivered eulogies of the padres and their works that has ever been spoken. He said:


He opened his address with a greeting to the people of the city and valley of San Bernardino on the happy occasion of the Centennial which all were privileged to enjoy. He expressed his grateful appreciation for the kindness of the invitation, which permitted him to address the people who had gathered from all sections to congratulate San Bernardino and participate in its joy. The Bishop then said:

"There is an instinct, deep-rooted in the human heart, which evokes veneration for the name and character of individuals who by virtue of the goodness of their deeds have left their imprint upon human life. Our hearts naturally incline to pay homage to excellence, to recognize merit, to admire greatness, and to love goodness. The sculptor who by his chisel draws the figure from the marble block, the poet whose verse stirs the heart and moves to love and action, the statesman by whose genius national life is molded, the General who on the field of battle solves the problem of national liberty, the captains of industry by whose ability a nation's prosperity and business life is maintained - all win our admiration and deserve our honor and praise. They stand in a prominent place in the national's Hall of Fame as mighty elements in a nation's life. Yet there is something higher and better, something more necessary, and found only in a life that is truly good. The unselfish life is the greatest life of all.

Bishop Conaty Conducting Ceremonies at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the New Capilla
Bishop Conaty Conducting Ceremonies at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the New Capilla

"The religious spirit which draws man to God and leads him to that higher life in which he finds the motives of unselfish service not only to his God but to his fellowman - that spirit is needed in every national life in order that man may work out his destiny, be guided in his conscience and fulfill his duty to all the interests of life. The man or woman dominated by divine faith, filled with a sense of duty to God, willing to spend and be spent for the welfare of the community, lifting up the lowly, giving knowledge to the ignorant, lovers of human kind, living to lead men to the higher and better life - they are among the world's greatest heroes, they are the world's noblest citizens. They may be poor in the world's goods, they may hold no place in social circles, but their character is of purest gold and life the Savior of the world, they go about doing good and their touch brings blessings with it. The unselfish benefactor of mankind is greater than the noblest work of art from the hand of the greatest genius. Commercialism may not regard it as an asset but it is well for us never to forget that there is no greater blessing in a community than that which comes from the life of one who lives and labors to make men better, there is no higher example of unselfishness than that which is found in one laboring to uplift a down trodden and neglected race. This is real heroism: this is Christ like.

"Such types of men are honored on this Centennial Day. They were Franciscan monks, born in far-off Spain, who had heard a call to the service of the Master on this Western Continent. They left their homes and came to live and die among the Indian tribes to whom they brought all the blessings of Christianity and all the advantages of civilization. As members of a religious order, followers of the great St. Francis of Asissi, they pledged their lives in obedience to service wherever their Superiors might place them."

Bishop Conaty spoke of the padres as simple men of faith and devoted lovers of the people, and said:

"Their mission houses were characterized by charity and hospitality. Their convent rule was severe upon themselves but kindly in its relation to the people. When one considers the difficulties with which the padres had to contend, there must be astonishment at the results obtained. The happy prosperous communities of self-supporting Catholic Indians, with their chapels, schools and mission buildings, their quiet industrial life, the teaching of trades, the cultivation of the land, the family respect, the marriage tie strengthened and virtue predominant - these are the results of that religious training in which the padres taught the Indians the blessings of Christian faith. History has no more interesting chapter; romance nothing more attractive; religion no great sacrifice and civilization no stronger contribution than that offered by the Franciscan missions in California. No wonder that California is growing to love them more and more for they are the jewels in her crown, they are the pearls in her necklace.

"One hundred years ago today, one of those brown-habited padres, Father Dumetz, holding aloft the holy cross of which he was a follower, consecrated their valley to God and began the work of civilization. As we look back over the one hundred years that separate us from that day, we can hardly realize the dangers which surrounded him and his work, nor can we fully appreciate the splendid character of the sacrifice by which he pledged his life to labor for the Christianizing and civilizing of the rude children of the mountains who were not of his kith or kin and who lives were at utter variance with all the principles he came prepared to teach. We gaze upon our civilization of today, our cultivated fields, our prosperous cities, the happiness of our people, and we must in justice trace back, as to a source, our indebtedness to those devoted men who laid the foundations of civilization on this coast. In our age of material things, when the made rush for gain and power seems to dominate, in the midst of so much injustice, when the weaker has so often to yield to the stronger, when the only questions seems to be the survival of the fittest, it is indeed refreshing to stop for a moment in our busy, bustling life and gaze upon the unselfish lives of men whose one object was to do good to those with whom they came in contact. It is refreshing, to gaze upon the figures of these brown-habited friars as they moved among the Indians of the coast and sacrificed their lives that they might bring peace to those who were warring with one another, that they might do good to those against whom the hand of incoming civilization seemed raised, that they might be to them father and brother and friend, and spend their lives among them with no other motive than the doing of good to them. These models of unselfishness are models of good citizenship; they were indeed true pioneers of civilization who lived and died that men might be made better.

"Blessings on these padres, who from 1769 in San Diego until the secularization in 1834, gave to the world an example of Christ-like unselfishness in their devotion to the high ideals of that Christian life which they practiced and which they developed among the people with whom they had chosen to live.

"It's a long road and sunny, it's a long road and old, and the brown padres made it for the flocks of the fold."

The Franciscan missions, built by the Franciscan padres are the monuments of California. In their ruins they are historic and they form our noblest inheritance. The archeologists [sic] visit the monuments of Egypt, Rome and Athens, in order to decipher something of the glory of these nations that have passed away. In those ruins we read chapters of a past civilization. Our mission ruins deserve our love and admiration and they call forth the energy of the student in order that they may teach the lesson of the civilization, which they brought to this Western Coast. They tell the story of Spain and

her civilizing influence in the century in which they were built, they recall the work of the Catholic Church in the preaching of the gospel and the extension of the blessings of civilization to those who sat in the valley of idolatry and darkness, they give glory to that Spain which sent a Columbus and a Cabrillo, a Coronado and a Serra, they tell in a language which all men can understand of the heroism of those beloved padres who spent their lives in Christianizing this Western Coast. In these hills and valleys of ours the crumbling walls of the missions tell us a glorious story, they tell of men who never thought of self, who laid down their lives that the Cross of Christ might be lifted above the homes of the simple children of the mountains and the civilizing influence of true religion might enter into their lives. In marked contrast to the Franciscan padres and the spirit in which their work was accomplished is seen the secularization of the missions and the heartlessness, jealousy and injustice of the government which succeeded. One is made heart sick in realizing how that decree of secularization removed the Indians from the advantages which he had gained and made him an alien in the land which God had given to him."

Bishop Conaty then gave a short history of the coming of Father Dumetz and the establishment of the mission in San Bernardino on May 20, 1810, it being the feast of St. Bernardine of Sienna the valley was named in his honor. He said the patron saint was also a Franciscan and was born in Sienna in 1380. He had acquired a reputation for sanctity of life and eloquence as a preacher. St. John of Capistran, also a Franciscan, was a close friend of St. Bernardine. Bishop Conaty spoke of the great difficulties, which beset the mission; the earthquake of 1812 and the ruin of Politano, the mission village, and the superstition of the Indians, which caused the destruction of the mission and the withdrawal of the missionaries. He told how the padres returned at the request of the Indians in 1819 and in 1820 the new mission buildings were completed and occupied; how in 1831 the buildings were destroyed and again rebuilt; how, three years later, the decree of secularization brought ruin to all the missions and that which had been built in unselfishness was destroyed by the greed of those in authority.

Bishop Conaty paid a high tribute to the present government in its management of Indian affairs and said that it was evident that a keen sense of justice dominated the government in its Indian relations and that at last it would seem as if the shield of the government was to protect the Indian from the injustices which sprang from greed to possess the land which they had cultivated.

The Bishop then referred to the colonists who came from New Mexico and afterward from Utah who had contributed to the permanent unbuilding of the present city which stood as a gateway to the beloved land of Southern California, and said:

"Yonder stands the mountains as sentinels of the valley. There they stand in all their grandeur as they stood when the pioneers of civilization came through the valley in 1774 and 1810. San Bernardino, during her centennial, will hail and speed the guest who enters her gates, she opens the vista of the valley of plenty in which may be seen the homes of her happy people. The crown of one hundred years sets proudly on her brow. She thanks the great God who sent the friar to open the valley to civilization and to plenty; she shouts his name with loud acclaim as one of God's heroes who in the unselfishness of faith in God, laid the foundation of her present greatness.

"All California rejoices with San Bernardino today. The bells of El Camino Real ring out their notes of joy. All men are one in singing the praise of Padre Dumetz and his Franciscan brothers whom God in His kind providence sent to open the way for the civilization which we enjoy. It is indeed a happy moment that finds all classes in the community and all creeds gathered near the cross erected in memory of that first cross in that first chapel built by a brown-habited Franciscan padre one hundred years ago. All men, regardless of creed, honor the good deed done by him and call him friend and brother, while they ask God to continue His blessings upon the city and valley which treasures the name and work of Father Dumetz as among its sweetest inheritances.

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