Parishioners mourn damage to San Gabriel Mission after fire destroyed much of nearly 250-year-old church

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Anita Chavez joined the hundreds of mourners at San Gabriel Mission Church on Saturday for what many considered a family wake without a body.

They came from across the region to survey the destruction after a fire that ripped through the church of the 249-year-old mission, one of California’s most historic landmarks, sacred ground for the Catholic faithful but also a symbol of a system that enslaved and terrorized indigenous peoples.

Hundreds of parishioners from the San Gabriel Mission Roman Catholic community gathered all day in the parking lot to cry, grieve, pray, reminisce and talk about their faith.

“My heart is full of sadness,” said Chavez, a 70-year-old San Gabriel resident who calls herself a “lifetime parishioner.”

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