The sound of sirens and flashing lights woke Claretian Father John Molyneux, pastor of the Mission San Gabriel parish, around 4:30 a.m. on July 11, when firefighters arrived to tell priests to evacuate the rectory. The historic 249-year-old California church near Los Angeles was ablaze, with flames and smoke erupting from the wooden roof.
“The first firefighter on the scene, a captain, told me he was married in this church,” says Molyneux, who is also the former editor-in-chief of U.S. Catholic.
Hearing the news, parishioner Carrie Evanilla hurried toward the historic mission that has been her family’s spiritual home for four generations, a few blocks from her home. She thought of her parents buried in the mission cemetery, her wedding at the mission, and her siblings and children baptized in the church and educated at the parish’s schools.