Having been an educator and administrator at schools and parishes from Santa Maria to Ventura, Father Tom Elewaut has a good idea of what California’s historic missions have to offer.“We all have a spiritual dimension, a longing to connect with the Deity,” notes Father Elewaut, administrator of San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura. “Our California missions provide an opportunity to connect with that longing, and offer us a historical continuity with those who have gone before us in faith.”And again this summer, California’s four historic missions located in the Santa Barbara Region will offer ample opportunities for learning, personal growth and family entertainment.San Buenaventura — the last mission founded by Father Junipero Serra — earlier this week participated in downtown Ventura’s annual Fourth of July Street Fair. Next week, the parish will observe its patron saint’s feast day (July 15) with a 7 p.m. bilingual Mass. Franciscan Father Kenan Osborne, an authority on St. Bonaventure, is the scheduled homilist, with Mass followed by a reception.The mission also makes it a point to welcome out-of-town visitors at its Sunday Masses, and recently engaged in a major “house cleaning,” accomplished by a large contingent of parishioner volunteers. That included the restoration of the historic baptistery with a font estimated to be approximately 200 years old.“Hospitality is a vital ministry for any parish,” notes Father Elewaut. “A clean and welcoming environment is an excellent means to facilitate one’s spiritual growth, whether one is a parishioner or a visitor.”At Mission Santa Inés in Solvang, the 40th annual parish fiesta — a summertime fixture in Santa Barbara County — will take place Aug. 14, 12:30-5 p.m., with proceeds supporting the ongoing restoration of the mission founded in 1804. In addition to music, entertainment, food and games, a number of area art and craft exhibits will be on display.Later on, Mission Santa Inés will host an exhibit of 18th and 19th century paintings, “Spanish Colonial art of Mexico.” Billed as a fundraiser for art restoration, the event kicks off with a preview evening Oct. 21 (7-10 p.m., $50), followed by the exhibit and docent tour on Oct. 22 (9 a.m.-2 p.m., $25).Old Mission Santa Barbara will host a series of retreats at the adjacent Mission renewal Center, including a meditation and writing retreat (July 29-31) with Barry Sacks (regarded as Santa Barbara’s first poet laureate) and Kimberley Snow (program director for the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies). Also scheduled is “A Return to Love: Confronting Fear and Dismantling Hate,” an Aug. 6 seminar (9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.) designed to examine the root causes of hate, the impact of trauma and the power of loving human relationships in transforming violence into peace. Rooted in the Gospel message, participants will be called into ministry and outreach that rejects oppression and confronts crime and violence with love, mercy, compassion and justice, like the Savior who models it.In Lompoc, La Purísima State Historic Park, will remain open to vistors, again spared the state budget ax that is closing 70 other state parks in fiscal 2011-12. “We are breathing a sigh of relief,” says supervising ranger Theresa Armas, a parishioner at St. Louis de Montfort Church in Santa Maria. She credits Ruth Coleman, state parks director, for working closely with district superintendents to establish criteria for closing parks.“The director said that La Purísima Mission represented a unique experience in its historic setting, and this quality kept it off the closure list,” explains Armas. “This means the park will continue to educate the 200,000 annual visitors, of which 40,000 are fourth grade students studying California history per state mandates.”Besides its sparkling, three-year-old visitors’ center highlighting the various eras (Chumas, Franciscan, Spanish, Civilian Conservation Corps) that have contributed to its history, La Purísima again this summer offers “Mission Life Days,” with costumed docents demonstrating skills and crafts that were a part of mission life (July 23, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17); “Purisima People Days” with volunteers taking on roles of those who lived at the mission circa 1820 (July 9, Aug. 6 and Sept. 10); and “Village Days,” emphasizing the native Chumash culture (Aug. 27 and Oct. 22). All events are 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; for information, visit www.laprisimamission.org.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0708/missions/{/gallery}