Rose Window Award Gala draws record number

Rose Window Award Gala draws record number

Father David Garcia honored for his preservation efforts

Written by Carol Baass Sowa,
for Today’s Catholic

SAN ANTONIO • Father David Garcia, director of the Old Spanish Missions, Inc. (OSM), was honoree at the fourth biennial Rose Window Award Gala, held at Mission San José Oct. 30. The event raised more than half a million dollars for continuing efforts by Father Garcia and Las Misiones to protect, preserve and maintain the 18th century churches at missions San José, Concepción, San Juan and San Francisco de la Espada.

Emcee Deborah Knapp introduced Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, who gave the blessing, expressing thanks for the Franciscan missionaries who founded the missions here, and those who followed in their footsteps. “The roots of faith go deep in this city,” he said. “It is a joy to celebrate these missions, which are both an anchor of our past and foundation for our future.” 

He expressed the archdiocese’s commitment to keep the missions in the best condition possible for all who come to them, noting a Missions Pilgrimage Center, where people can enrich their spiritual lives, was being planned on the grounds of the old St. John’s Seminary. The archbishop has already personally led 49 such pilgrimages to the missions. An adjacent building will be used for social outreach through Catholic Charities, he related, with both receiving funding through the On the Way – ¡Ándale! capital campaign. He asked God’s blessing on all who supported the missions and, especially, Father Garcia.

Following recognition of dignitaries present by Knapp and dinner on the mission grounds, Cecilia Elizondo-Herrera of the OSM Advisory Committee thanked advisory and gala committee members and the record-breaking 656 attendees present. “All of your donations have made an incredible difference to preserving the mission churches for future generations,” she said, reporting an endowment of $4.5 million was established at the end of the capital campaign in 2011 that has grown to over $8 million.

Major restoration took place at the four mission churches, thanks to this, and an investment fund, now at $2.3 million, was established for immediate repairs and ongoing restoration. Two years ago, a 10-year restoration and maintenance plan was adopted, she noted, and this year, condition assessments of the four churches were made, plus quarterly maintenance reviews begun. Herrera noted the Texas Historical Commission, which underwrote the 10-year plan study, sees the condition assessments as a model for ongoing historical restoration in Texas.

Recent mission work included repairing windows and beams at San Francisco de la Espada, stabilizing frescoes in Concepción’s church, installing a complete security system at San Juan and doing a conservation assessment at San José, where more original colonial fresco work was uncovered on the tower. New air conditioning and electrical wiring are on tap for Concepción, along with work on the dome.

Herrera encouraged visiting OSM’s revamped website at OldSpanishMissions.org, adding, “It is an honor to help preserve these sacred structures, this World Heritage Site, and pass them on to the next generations.”

Gala co-chairs, Mary Rose Brown, Barbara Gentry and William Klesse were recognized with tokens of appreciation, with Klesse enumerating major sponsors for the event and thanking all who gave. Gentry introduced the honoree, Father Garcia, noting he was ordained in 1975, earned a bachelor’s in history from St. Mary’s University, two master’s from Notre Dame (theology and institutional administration) and fellowships from Harvard Divinity School and Notre Dame. 

Besides serving as OSM’s director, he is pastoral administrator at Concepción and on the national staff of Catholic Relief Services. Father Garcia previously served as rector of San Fernando Cathedral, where he led a successful campaign that raised $21 million for its restoration, plus construction of two new buildings. Herrera read messages from Ed Whitaker, Charlie Cheever and Ruben Escobedo, who worked with him on that, extolling his dedication, perpetual optimism and high energy level. He was an active part of the community group which obtained World Heritage designation for the missions and served the past four years on the city’s Tricentennial committee. 

Praising his integrity, values and contributions to the growth and vibrancy of our community and our region, Gentry stated, “It is with sincere respect, admiration and appreciation that we honor him this evening.” Brown then presented his Rose Window Award, the first-ever casting replica of San José’s Rose Window in molten glass, created by Gini Garcia and Garcia Art Glass, using etched sheet glass, hot wax, latex and Liquid Gold bronze paint to produce a bronze mold. Garcia Art Glass will donate 25 percent of all future sales of castings from this mold for restoration of the Rose Window.

Father Garcia, approaching seven decades in San Antonio, noted he has witnessed much history and been proud to be part of the wider interfaith community that has positively impacted the city in so many positive ways, such as peacefully desegregating at the start of the Civil Rights era and advocating for the homeless 20 years ago, which culminated in establishing Haven for Hope. 

Noting his work for many years with the Jewish community, he asked for a brief silence in solidarity with “our Jewish sisters and brothers” gathered at Temple Beth-El that night in remembrance of the Pittsburgh tragedy.

He observed that anniversaries, such as that night’s, help us learn from both the good and “less good” in our history, adding that in 1718 the founding of Mission San Antonio de Valero happened because of a sacred purpose. “Tonight,” he said, “happened because we all consider all of this a sacred purpose,” one that represents “what we can do and have done to preserve, protect and uplift something we all hold in common, despite our ethnic, economic or political differences.” 

We are all partners in our common heritage of the treasured missions, a gift we will pass on to our children and grandchildren, he said, and history has taught us that it is creating and sustaining the personal and civic relationships that harnesses the capacity of a city to do good things, “keeping God in the forefront and the values of faith as an inspiration and guiding light for our lives.” The missions are a work in progress, he reminded, with more challenges to come, and he urged involvement in making our community the best it can be. 

Before turning the podium over to Sister Jane Ann Slater, CDP, chancellor, for the closing prayer, he expressed thanks to friends, family, co-workers and mission supporters, concluding with special recognition to “our ancestors, the Native Americans, and the Franciscans, who came together – maybe imperfectly — but, wow! Look what they created and left to us. What a wonderful treasure.”

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