Numerous cities are named for saints, but this one includes a whole county --- Ventura --- named for the “Seraphic Doctor,” St. Bonaventure.
The Italian Franciscan (whose name means good fortune) was known for the religious fervor of his life, his writings and erudite teaching. He was a bishop and cardinal and minister general of the Franciscan Order, enjoyed a close friendship with St. Thomas Aquinas and was named a Doctor of the Church. St. Bonaventure died in 1274; his feast day is July 15.
Throughout 2013, parishioners of San Buenaventura Mission have celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Junipero Serra, the founder of the California missions. San Buenaventura was the ninth and last personally founded by Padre Serra, on March 31 (Easter Sunday), 1782. Despite earthquakes, pirate incursions and government intervention, the mission has continued for over 230 years.
Shortly after the erection of the Diocese of Both Californias in 1840, the Franciscan Friars surrendered the mission and it was named a parish church. Early records list Father Jose Maria Rosales as the first pastor, years unknown, followed by Father Cyprian Rubio (1878-96).
For 40 years, Father Patrick Grogan, a native of County Roscommon, headed the parish and restored the mission, built a new rectory and museum. He died in 1939 after a life of service and sacrifice.
Msgr. Daniel Hurley, from County Cork, one of the first associates at San Buenaventura (in 1922, when Holy Cross School was built), directed the parish for 15 years (1939-54), then served 18 years as founding pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption in Ventura. He died in 1982 at age 88.
Another long pastorate at the mission church was Father Aubrey O’Reilly (1955-75). A native Angeleno ordained in 1932, he worked in the Catholic Welfare Bureau, served as chaplain in the Army for almost 20 years and, after World War II, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with four outstanding decorations. Father O’Reilly also started more restoration at the mission during his 20-year pastorate at San Buevaventura. He died in 1977 at 70.
Msgr. Patrick O’Brien, a native of County Clare, Ireland, served at the parish for 24 years. Before his assignment as pastor, he was the Episcopal Vicar for the Santa Barbara Region and was named a Protonotary Apostolic in 1995. Msgr. Francis Weber, a longtime friend and former pastor at the mission, called him “a man who knew how to inject humor into serious things --- and his smile was part of his personality.” Msgr. O’Brien died in 2005 at age 74.
Several pastors and administrators followed, including Father James Anguiano, a Ventura native ordained from St. John’s Seminary, and now director of the Juan Diego House of Formation in Gardena. He was followed by Father Michael Carcerano, a native of Torrance, ordained from St. John’s. He previously served in the Judicial Vicar’s Office and for 12 years as pastor of St. Rose of Lima (Simi Valley) before coming to San Buenaventura.
The current pastor of the restored mission is Father Thomas Elewaut, a native of Wisconsin, who taught and served as a high school principal for almost 25 years at St. Joseph, Santa Maria, and Bishop Garcia Diego, Santa Barbara. Father Elewaut’s teaching background follows in the tradition of St. Bonaventure, a renowned teacher and a model of holiness, humility and virtue.
Msgr. Francis Weber, who contributed to this article (and served as pastor, 1975-81, offers more on the history of Mission San Buenaventura; see page 18.