Romance of the Mission Benefit Gala

Click here to see Romance of the Mission 2015 Slideshow
Photos courtesy of Carla Rhea and Lisa Renee Photography

Stunning  Romance of Mission Gala Celebrates Father Serra Canonization and Honorees Bette and Wylie Aitken

A record 510 guests attended Mission Preservation Foundation’s Romance of the Mission benefit gala on Friday, September 18. Among the celebrations were Blessed Father Junipero Serra’s canonization and recognition of honorees Bette and Wylie Aitken. Net proceeds of $265,500 were raised and will be directed toward Mission preservation projects.

Another evening highlight was a swinging concert in The Ruins of the Great Stone Church with lead singer Lee Lessack in a tribute to Frank Sinatra on his 100th birthday. The production called “That’s Life!: A Toast to Sinatra” featured beautifully harmonized renditions of Sinatra’s most famous hits including Blue Skies, That’s Life, New York New York and a benefit gala tradition, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.

The opening reception took place in the Mission’s lush front gardens with tray pass hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Guests were then directed to the Ruins of the Great Stone Church for the concert and program honoring the Aitkens and marking the canonization celebration of Father Serra. Mission San Juan Capistrano Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence Adams welcomed attendees and in her opening remarks said, “We are ready to enter the world stage as Pope Francis makes his historic visit and officially recognizes Blessed Serra as Saint Serra next week. We stand ready because you and our Mission Preservation Board, members, staff, and volunteers have made it possible.”

Mission Preservation Board President George O’Connell recognized Bette and Wylie Aitken citing their extensive support of critical Mission preservation projects and other charitable causes in Orange County.

As guests left the concert, official Mission bell ringers Nathan Banda, Michael Gastelum and Rafael Gutierrez led a historic bell ringing to celebrate the evening and upcoming canonization of Blessed Father Serra. Attendees then walked through the historic Resurgam displaying a life-sized carved statue of Father Serra that will serve as the centerpiece of the exhibit marking his canonization.

For more information about the benefit gala or Mission Preservation Foundation, contact Barb Beier at (949) 234-1323 or email


Celebrating Honorary Chairs Bette and Wylie Aitken
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