On the night of Friday, June 19, vandals in San Francisco went on a rampage, toppling and defacing statues in the city’s Golden Gate Park. The statues defaced and/or toppled were: President and General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant; Francis Scott Key, composer of the Star Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem; Miguel de Cervantes, the greatest of all Hispanic authors; and Saint Junipero Serra, the great missionary to California.

On Sunday, June 21, Fr. Joseph Illo, whose parish, Star of the Sea, is one of the closest to where the vandalism occurred, led a group to pray a Rosary of reparation at the statue.  At least 50 Catholics participated.

One of the lay organizers, Clarisse Siu, told attendees: “Thank you for bravely praying at St. Junipero Serra’s statue yesterday! It turns out the Park Ranger parked behind us was there to make sure we were able to pray without harassment; this Catholic man had tears in his eyes at the witness of faith. Even the man who angrily shouted at us seemed to soften after a few of us genuinely engaged him in dialogue. Prayer brings true peace. We must continue to pray for healing and peace.”

Fr. Illo told CalCatholic: “During the first Great War, Our Lady told the children that only prayer–especially the rosary–can bring peace between nations. After praying the rosary at the scene of violence, we were all at peace. Only then were we prepared to speak with the angry man who had come to shout at us. This man became peaceful because we were peaceful, thanks to our prayer. Politics and social media, by themselves, only worsen misunderstandings among people. During COVID-19 our parish began praying the rosary (and live streaming it) every day at 5pm, and that daily family prayer will be one of the pandemic’s lasting fruits for our community. Look for ways to pray the holy rosary together!”

Dolores Meehan, another attendee, said: “Thuggery is not new to San Francisco; it started with the Barbary Coast, where St. Junipero Serra brought the peace of Jesus Christ. The current violence against life, law and order and Christian society is a long overdue outward manifestation of 47 years of legally sanctioned violence against the innocent child in the womb from the scourge of abortion. As Mother Teresa said, ‘if you can kill the child in the womb, what can keep me from killing you and you from killing me?’ All lives matter. How fitting we gathered at this site of desecration and prayed to Our Lady Queen of Peace for the sanctification of the City of St Francis.” 

Star of the Sea’s public Rosary is becoming a regular event. On June 7, the parish hosted a Rosary Walk at and around Saint Mary’s Cathedral. That procession also passed the nearby Consulate of Communist China.

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Gibbons Cooney.