2018 California Missions Conference Recap


The recent 35th California Missions Conference presented by California Missions Foundation was an overwhelming success at Mission Santa Clara as historians, researchers, docents, mission and presidio administrators, and many others who share a special passion and interest in the California Missions gathered over the Presidents Day Weekend.

Ideal weather and the historic site provided the perfect backdrop for three days of presentations, social gatherings, tours and networking.

The weekend was highlighted by a full day of quality presentations on Saturday inside the De Saisset Museum and by the annual CMF Awards banquet. Four outstanding talents were recognized for their tremendous contributions to Mission studies and preservation, and a long-time committed foundation was thanked for its generous efforts helping Missions from Sonoma to San Diego.

Brian Kelly, referred to by many as a modern day Harry Downie, and Dr. Iris Engstrand, a long-time and beloved San Diego area historian and professor, were awarded 2018 Norman Neuerburg Awards. Theresa Brunner, whose family has been dedicated to Mission San Rafael for five generations and 100 years, received the 2018 Edna Kimbro Award. Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, executive director at Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Valerie and Derek Sanders of the Linden Root Dickinsion Foundation, received 2018 CMF Chairman’s Awards.


2018_Conf_Award_WinnersTheresa Brunner (left), Dr. Iris Engstrand (center),
and Mechelle Lawrence-Adams (right)


Highly-acclaimed art historian Pam Huckins gave an outstanding tour on Friday afternoon of the Conference focusing on the historic art at Mission Santa Clara. Although the Mission has been rebuilt five times, much of the early period art remains inside the Mission church. For several years, CMF has teamed up with Santa Clara Mission officials to raise funds to conserve these paintings. CMF would like to extend a great deal of gratitude to Ms. Huckins for making the effort to travel from Ventura to Santa Clara just to give this special tour to CMF members.

A pair of Mission studies legends, Drs. Rose Marie Beebe and Robert Senkewicz, gave the keynote address to kickoff the opening of the 35th Annual California Missions Conference. 


CMF Chairman Jim Lazarus addresses the CMF membership


The 35th Annual California Mission Conference featured its first CMF Missions and Presidios Workshop. This specially designed event encouraged discussion and networking between site administrators, with more than 20 different Missions, Presidios, State Parks, and Historical Associations represented on the panel. With topics selected by the CMF Advisory Committee, the CMF workshop focused on experiences and concerns shared by these historic sites, including the development of fundraising programs, preservation and maintenance of structure and collections, community building, and engagement with all aspects of Mission and Presidio history.

Discussion leaders along with panel participants and audience members created free and open discourse to debate the benefits of various programs and techniques, including walkthrough inspections of structures and collections, developing community programs and events, as well as strategies for adobe preservationand maintenance. Participants learned and shared their different techniques and experiences, while creating the necessary connections and contacts to successfully apply new programs at their own sites.

One of the workshop discussion leaders, Father Thomas Elewaut of Mission San Buenaventura, stressed the benefits of this unique exchange:

“Meeting and connecting with other Mission representatives opened a world of possibilities to enhance opportunities at my own Mission. The workshop underscored that concerns at one Mission are relevant at most.  Solutions discussed were enlightening. I really learned a lot about the need to consult preservationists when making repairs to the adobe structure and care of the art work in the Mission. This is the first time I truly experienced the camaraderie and support of sister Missions.”

The importance of networking remained the paramount focus for this event, as sharing information and knowledge allows each historic site to execute effective programs and preservation to the highest standards.

Sharing Father Thomas Elewaut’s sense of community and support, fellow discussion leader and Mission San Juan Capistrano Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence-Adams remains eager and optimistic for the new possibilities this CMF-led network creates:

“Attending the CMF conference was inspiring.  Hearing about the on-going successes and challenges of so many mission professionals was insightful and reassuring as we all face unique but similar concerns and challenges.  It was indeed a healthy reminder that the entire chain stands better together than divided as a uniquely special expression of California’s early history.  I very much appreciated the camaraderie and expertise that surrounded me and look forward to reaching out to new friends and professionals as our team at home continues to steward Mission San Juan Capistrano in the years to come. It was worth the time and effort and I came home excited about the experience.”

CMF shares Ms. Lawrence-Adams’ excitement with the success of the workshop and the possibilities for future development. The Foundation extends its immense gratitude to workshop participants and the CMF Advisory Committee. CMF plans to build on its goals for uniting this historic network of Missions and Presidios, beginning with the organization of quarterly conference calls between representatives. These calls will continue the dialogue and allow all Missions and Presidios to benefit from each site’s experiences and move forward,stronger and together.

For any Mission or Presidio administrators interested in participating in the conference calls, please email CMF at c.butters@californiamissionsfoundation.org.

Annual California Missions Conferences

2024 La Purísima and Santa Inés
2023 San Francisco Solano
2022 San Luis Obispo
2021 San Gabriel
2020 Monterey and Carmel
2019 San Diego de Alcalá
2018 Santa Clara
2017 Santa Inés
2016 San Juan Bautista
2015 San Buenaventura
2014 San Antonio de Padua
2013 Santa Bárbara
2012 San Rafael Arcángel
2011 San Miguel Arcángel
2010 San Luis Rey de Francia
2009 San Carlos Borromeo de Carmel
2008 Tucson, Arizona
2007 San Francisco de Asís
2006 San Diego de Alcalá
2005 San Fernando Rey de España
2004 San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
2003 Santa Cruz
2002 La Paz, Baja California Sur
2001 Royal Presidio Chapel, Monterey
2000 San Gabriel Arcángel
1999 Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir
1998 San Juan Capistrano
1997 Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó
(Baja California Sur)
1996 San Francisco de Asís
1995 San Francisco Solano
1994 San Diego de Alcalá
1993 San Antonio de Padua and San Miguel Arcángel
1992 San Luis Rey de Francia
1991 La Purísima Concepción
1990 Santa Bárbara
1989 San Juan Bautista
1988 San Fernando Rey de España
1987 Santa Clara de Asís
1986 San Buenaventura
1985 San José
1984 San Juan Capistrano