After rioters pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento on July 4, a local Catholic told CNA that she felt compelled to clean the spot where the statue once stood, to pray there, and to defend the 18th-century missionary’s legacy.
Ortega, a homemaker from Sacramento and a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, set up a makeshift shrine to Serra on the statue’s empty plinth July 5, and led other Catholics in cleaning graffiti from the site.
On July 4, a rioter burned the face of the Serra statue with an ignited spray from an aerosol can, before a crowd pulled the statue from its base using tow straps. After the statue fell, members of the crowd struck it with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.
The statue, installed on the grounds of California’s state capitol in 1965, was the third figure of the missionary saint to be torn down by crowds in California in recent weeks.
Ortega said she was scared at first to approach the former statue site— which is now little more than a “stump” with rebar sticking up, she said— but soon had her “prayer spot” set up on the stump with a lit candle, and she began to pray the rosary and the stations of the cross.
“I was just praying for peace, and praying for the safety of everybody involved,” she said. “I’m standing on firm ground as a Catholic…I don’t want to live with anger or bitterness in my heart. That’s what caused the statue to be torn down in the first place.”
While Ortega was praying at the stump July 5, a reporter from the Sacramento Bee approached Ortega and asked to interview her about why she was there. The reporter later posted the video, which shows Ortega passionately speaking in defense of Serra, online.
Ortega lamented the fact that the statue was removed without due process, or a rational discussion. She said the groundskeepers have told her that the statue has been recovered, but she does not know if there are plans to put it back up again.
“The city has to decide: are we going to pretend like this isn’t happening? Or are we going to do better than this?” she said, suggesting that the city could hold a community forum to talk about the issue.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.
See previous CalCatholic story, San Francisco Catholics pray rosary at site of Serra statue.