Terri Huerta is the Director of Mission Development & Communications at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.
Terri has had an affinity for San Gabriel ever since she was a little girl when her family first moved to the San Gabriel Valley. Over the years, she has been given opportunities that have led her to where she is now, serving her community in San Gabriel.
Through her experience of volunteering at schools and wanting to become a teacher, she found that social change and innovation is where her real passion is.
With the recent fire that the Mission has experienced, Terri has brought everything she has learned through years of experience and her passion into bringing about the reopening of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.
I have lived the majority of my life in the San Gabriel Valley. I was born in East Los Angeles in 1965, and then we moved to South San Gabriel around 1967 or 68. We moved there because my brothers were attending Don Bosco Technical Institute.
In 1988 when I got married, I moved away for a few years and then moved back, and my deep connection with the SGV is The San Gabriel Mission. This happened when I enrolled my middle daughter in elementary school in 1995 and served as a volunteer there.
I’ll be honest; I’ve always wanted to live in the San Gabriel Valley. I attended high school in Alhambra, and we would come through San Gabriel on my way to high school, and it made me want to live in San Gabriel. I love the city. I love the Mission.
My home in south San Gabriel is a quarter of a mile away from the original founding site of the San Gabriel Mission. Perhaps it’s always been a calling, but I feel like I’ve been called to work at the Mission.
I think there are people who are as knowledgeable and passionate about it. They’re just hiding.
The reality is that Mission San Gabriel started this valley. They founded this site, and out of their commission to spread the Word to Native Americans, grew this community.
This was one of my goals when I took on this role. The correct name is Mission San Gabriel Archangel. All the missions are named after saints; ours is St. Gabriel.
I’ve been on a campaign to make sure the mission is recognized this way. I’m happy that people call it San Gabriel Mission because it means people are taking ownership of it.
It was founded on September 8th, 1771. It was the fourth of twenty-one missions. The original site was a site they had already seen, and the fathers they brought stayed here for four years. In 1775 and 1776, they moved here to San Gabriel. Between 1776 and 1883, when they secularized (when Mexico took ownership and expelled the Franciscans), the parish was privately owned, and around 1860, it was given back to the church.
Then in 1908, the Claretian Missionaries arrived and became stewards of the church and campus that was left, about eight acres. From 1908 until now, the Claretians have built schools and a service center and served the community.
Then the different communities involved in the San Gabriel Mission Parish have helped form the way it looks.
Historically they have been taken care of as if they are a part of the Parish. When I started the Mission San Gabriel Conservancy, it was to take the burden of taking care of the Mission off of the parish.
I wanted to put together a governing body that would focus mainly on the Mission, the museum, the garden, and the church and stabilize the church. Then we wanted to rebuild the story of Mission San Gabriel.
Before the fire, we talked about how we would tell the story of all the people who have influenced the church. We put together a very targeted tour experience that went over the history of the Mission.
I like to call it a sleeping giant, and it happened because of where I was and how things began to come together. I had gone to San Juan Capestrano and saw a framed announcement of the San Juan Capestrano Governing Board, and at that moment, I knew that’s when I knew what the Mission needed. It needs a governing board, and it needs to be active in the community.
I worked for the Lehman Brothers Investment Bank in 1994 as an administrative assistant, then in 2006, I left on medical leave. Then in 2008, it went bankrupt. I had sustained some injuries to my hands and arms and invested in a long-term disability insurance policy to protect myself.
After the bankruptcy, my boss called me and told me that I had some options for retraining. I knew I couldn’t return to the same career, so I made a deal with the insurance company that I would return to school if they paid for it and agreed to it.
So I went to community college for two years, and then USC offered me conditional acceptance. Then USC offered me a spot and a presidential scholarship. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in English and a minor in Philanthropy and began working full-time at the elementary school.
This philanthropy minor opened my eyes to social work and what needed to be done.
Now I know I needed to pursue my Masters in Social Work. It wasn’t going to be as a social worker but as a social innovator. Where are the places that need disruption? In 2016 I started my Masters, doing my internship and working with the Mission until the fire.
July 11th, 2020, was the date of the fire at the Mission San Gabriel. We began raising money in 2019 and had done weeks of repainting and repairing. On July 10th, we shut the doors on Friday night, ready to open to the public, and the fire happened at 4 am.
The repairs were done, and we were going to reopen the Mission on Monday.
Right now, we are at $6.7 million worth of damage.
No. Right now, we are done with the repairs to the wall. This fire allows us to upgrade the electrical and get the other upgrades done that are needed. We will need a lot of time and are looking to be open in August 2022.
In the next six months, we’ll be open, and on September 10th, we’ll have the closing Mass and the Church will be open.
In addition, we’ll have the Museum open with many artifacts. The gardens and sacred space will be open.
We want everyone to come to visit Mission San Gabriel. We are always looking at how The Mission can tell the story of the people of the SGV.
I would love it if people could share any of their photos of the Mission that they have. They can email it or bring it to me, and I scan it.
They can call the church rectory at (626) 457-3035 and leave their names with Vanessa. They can visit parish.sangabrielmissionchurch.org as well to get in touch with me.
Terri Huerta is the Director of Mission Development & Communications at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. She is the visionary behind conserving the Mission and the stories that surround it. Terri has had an affinity for San Gabriel ever since she was a little girl when her family first moved to the San Gabriel Valley. Over the years, she has been given opportunities that have lead her to where she is now, serving her community in San Gabriel through Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. With most of her tuition paid through scholarships and insurance Terri was able to go back to college years after she had dropped out. Through her experience of volunteering at schools and wanting to become a teacher, she found that social change and innovation is where her real passion is. At the same time that she was taking classes for a Masters in Social Work, she continued to work at the Mission. Now with the recent fire that the Mission has experienced, Terri has brought everything that she has learned through years of experience and her passion into bringing about the reopening of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.
Email Link: San Gabriel Mission Church Staff
Phone: (626) 457-3035
Podcast Intro and Outro