Mission San Gabriel rededicates historic crucifix damaged in December windstorm

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Good Friday is the most solemn day in Christianity, but it was a day of quiet celebration at the Mission San Gabriel.

Five months after it was smashed by a falling tree during the fierce San Gabriel Valley windstorm, the Mission’s historic 77-year-old crucifix was rededicated in an elaborate ceremony featuring Catholic prayers and Native American dances.

Artist TerriLee Holm was part of the volunteer crew that restored the figure of the crucified Jesus.

“We’ve got about 150 hours of composite work, aircraft resin, carbon fiber, cold-rolled welded steel and then all of the faux finishing, which is what I did,” said Holm. “The paint work was done in automotive urethane, so it should last just as long as the statue itself.”

Holm said she felt she had to do something to help the Mission regain part of its history after she heard that a eucalyptus tree blown down by strong winds had broken apart the crucifix. She used her talents as a Hollywood set painter to match colors on the repaired statue.

Holm said the restoration crew took extra measures to keep the statue safe as they lifted it back onto the giant crucifix on the Mission grounds.

Holm said there were between 15 and 20 people involved in moving the statue. "We had had a custom rope made that had to hoist him up onto the cross," Holm said. "He’s very brittle.”

The dedication ceremony featured Catholic prayers along with blessings by members of the Gabrieleño/Tongva Band of Mission Indians.

Andrew Guiding Young Cloud, who performed in song, dance and prayer, said the broken statue of the crucified Christ was not necessarily a bad thing.

“At first I was kind of heartbroken,” said Guiding Young Cloud. “But I think there's a reason why it happened. And to me, it's more like a renewal of the new cross.”

The repaired crucifix stands in Mission San Gabriel’s cemetery where Gabrieleño/Tongva tribal ancestors are buried. It’s set in a stand of stones between a statue of the Virgin Mary and the stump of the tree that fell during the windstorm.

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