As Orange County’s most historic landmark, Mission San Juan Capistrano strives to serve as a resource by providing a living and learning environment that promotes and nurtures an appreciation for history while providing a place of faith, renewal and celebration.
Mission Preservation Foundation 2021
The Mission Preservation Foundation Board of Directors is committed to raising funds for specialized and comprehensive preservation work to ensure Mission San Juan Capistrano remains the most significant historic site in Orange County.
O’Connell Landscape Maintenance
George O’Connell was born and reared in Massachusetts, is a long-time resident of San Juan Capistrano and a parishioner at Mission San Juan Capistrano. He joined the Board at the request of Tony Moiso, the former President. He recalled, “The Mission is a big part of the history of this town, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
George recalls that within a few months of moving to San Juan, he was volunteering to sell nachos at Swallows Day at the Mission. He remembered, “Msgr. Martin [Mission pastor for 26 years] asked me to help, so how could I say no?”
George is founder of O’Connell Landscape Maintenance, which he began with $60 and a borrowed truck in 1971. Today it is a successful business that employs 1,100 people.
He is generous with a variety of charities, including Mission Hospital, the Shea Riding Center and Camino Health Center, to name a few, but the Mission is by far his favorite: “Serra Chapel is my passion. I remember the first time I attended Mass there; it was overwhelming. It’s hard to believe we have a church that old right here in town.”
Preservation of the chapel has since become his cause, which he shares with his good friend, Mission pastor Msgr. Arthur Holquin. He also has been involved with fundraising and improvements on other parts of the Mission campus, including the parish church and school.
George has been married to wife Eden for eight years, and has three grown children. His interests include traveling, biking, golf, going to the beach and gardening. His parents were from Ireland, and hence, he has citizenship in both the United States and Ireland.
George is an enthusiastic supporter of the Mission. He remarked, “We’re already a major tourist attraction in the community, and we’re getting better all the time.”
National Retirement Partners, Inc.
Bill Cvengros is a financial executive with a background in equities and real estate investing. His distinguished career includes serving as Vice Chairman of Pacific Life and CEO of Pimco Advisors.
Mr. Cvengros is a native of Illinois and is a long-time San Juan Capistrano resident. He received his BA in Economics from Notre Dame and his MBA from Northwestern University. He joined the Board after attending a luncheon at the Mission.
“The Mission is a tremendous asset to and anchor of our community,” he observed. “We need to be good stewards and pass it on in good shape to future generations.”
He’s pleased with the progress made in preserving the Mission’s historic structures, as well as its many ongoing programs to make Mission history come to life. He remarked, “Many people come to the Mission each year and find it a place of peace and serenity. It’s our responsibility to make sure as an institution it continues to thrive.”
Wylie A. Aitken, Esq.
Aitken • Aitken • Cohn
Wylie Aitken was born in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Santa Ana College and Cal Sate Fullerton (then called Orange State). He received a Juris Doctor degree from Marquette University in 1965, and is a founding partner of Aitken Aitken & Cohn in Santa Ana.
Mr. Aitken joined the Board at the suggestion of fellow directors Tony Moiso, Bob McDonough, and Mike Hagan, “with the thought, among other things, that my North County roots would broaden the base for Mission San Juan Capistrano, a countywide and national treasure.” It’s his hope, in fact, that all of Orange County will embrace its Mission as “‘their’ treasure, and not just that of the San Juan Capistrano community.”
Among his many duties on the Board, he is working to find funding sources within the government and private foundations to fund Mission preservation. He lists the Mission’s strengths as its glorious tradition, success in its preservation efforts, symbolism to people of all faiths, strong board, “even stronger Executive Director” and the support received from Mission Monsignor Arthur Holquin and Bishop of Orange Tod Brown.
Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, Executive Director, expressed her gratitude for Mr. Aitken’s service on the Board, remarking, “Wylie has been a huge supporter of the Mission and its need for State preservation funding. He brings regional support to Orange County’s only mission and has been instrumental in getting wider recognition for support of its education and museum programs.”
Outside of the office, Mr. Aitken loves tennis and enjoys involvement in public policy issues, particularly related to education. He is married to wife Bette and has three children, “all of whom are attorneys and are married to attorneys,” and seven grandchildren.
Darren O. Aitken, Esq.
Aitken • Aitken • Cohn
Longtime San Juan Capistrano resident and Managing Partner of the law firm Aitken Aitken Cohn, Darren O. Aitken was recently named to the board of directors of the Mission Preservation Foundation. The Foundation is committed to providing leadership and raising funds for the care and preservation of Mission San Juan Capistrano.
An Orange County native, Darren O. Aitken has been a An Orange County native, Darren Aitken has been a practicing attorney in California since 1989 and with the firm Aitken Aitken Cohn since 1992. He joins an esteemed board of directors representing an array of businesses and philanthropy Orange County.
“Darren is a perfect fit with the Board as he cares about the Mission and is committed to ensuring “Darren is a perfect fit with the preservation board as he cares about the Mission and is committed to ensuring that what we do continues to have a positive impact. As a successful lawyer he brings specialized perspective and experience. As a father of four he appreciates the historic and educational value of the Landmark. We could not be more pleased to have him join us,” says George O’Connell, President and Board Chair, Mission Preservation Foundation.
Upon joining the board Aitken stated, “As a resident of San Juan Capistrano, I have a great passion for the Mission and my children have grown up on and around its grounds. Through the efforts of the Mission Preservation Foundation and the dedicated Mission staff, we will work to ensure that this California jewel is preserved and enhanced for the next generations of Californians.”
Darren resides with his wife Laurie and four children in San Juan Capistrano and has long supported Mission San Juan Capistrano events along with his parents and Mission supporters Wylie and Bette Aitken.
Aitken’s practice is limited to civil litigation and he’s been recognized and awarded consistently throughout his career for his professional accomplishments. He was named the Orange County Trial Lawyers “Top Gun–Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year” in 2008 and “Super Lawyer” in a vote of his peers by Law & Politics, Inc. from 2005 through 2021. He was one of the Top 50 Orange County lawyers in from 2007 through 2022 and was recently named to the “Top Southern California Personal Injury Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Times in 2022.
Monex Precious Metals
Vicky Carabini has lived with her husband Michael in South Orange County since 1985 and in San Juan Capistrano since 1996. In 1989 she opened Carabini Marketing and Public Relations and specialized in community shopping center events and merchandising and marketed shopping centers in Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego County.
After moving to San Juan Capistrano with her two daughters, Christina (age 27) and Anna Maria (age 23) Vicky retired her company in 1997 and chose to use her skills raising funds for Mission Hospital. She was on the Board of Valiant Women from 1997 until 2008. She was also active on the board for Art and Creativity for Healing.
In 2007, Vicky was appointed Ambassador to San Juan Capistrano’s Sister City, Capestrano, Italy. She has actively been involved in promoting Italian events in San Juan Capistrano including raising funds to have the award winning audio tour of the historic Mission translated into Italian, monthly Italian movie nights at the Regency Theater, bocce ball tournaments, an Italian entry in the Swallow’s Day Parade, a community food drive for Serra’s Pantry, a St. Joseph’s Day Table at the Mission and weekly Italian language classes.
In addition, Vicky is on the board for the Italian Arts Council at Bowers Museum, the Area Coordinator for the NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) and most recently, Chair of the Italian Studies Council at Chapman University.
EJ Farrell and her late husband, Tom, have been generous benefactors to the Mission. Their support includes a donation to support the Mission’s annual Mariachi Festival in perpetuity; she served as a judge of the 2007 festival and presented The Tom Tracy First Place Award.
EJ was born in Pontiac, Michigan. Active in sports, she was named to the all-American field hockey team. She attended the University of Michigan, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art. She held various offices while a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. After graduating in 1966, she was employed as a clothing buyer for Davidson’s in Birmingham, Michigan.
She married Thomas J. Tracy (who died in 2006) in 1967 and moved to California. They settled in Santa Ana, where they raised their five children: Cynthia, Christina, Katherine, Kilian and Thomas Jr.
EJ’s interests include Native American culture and the American West. She shared this interest with her husband; the family foundation currently supports Native American youth in North Dakota and Montana through scholarships to Regis University in Denver, Colorado.
In addition to her generous support of the old Mission, EJ has actively supported several schools and universities, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, including their upcoming Cancer Center and Mental Health Services.
“Mission San Juan Capistrano is an important part of our history, not only in Orange County, but California,” EJ remarked. “I’m pleased to join in efforts to save the old Mission and share its story with others.”
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
Kerry says she has always been drawn to charity work and the idea of giving back. She cites her grandparents as the primary early influences who shaped her perspective about philanthropy and knew that when she grew up she would want to follow their encouragement to “give back.” Kerry has also shared that she feels strongly that charity is something where you can bring your talents, treasures, or time in order to be a part of something meaningful and that for her philanthropy is a passion. She believes that, “If you give with your heart first – you’ll find a way to make a difference in that organization that you serve.” A California Native, she says she has always gravitated to the missions starting with childhood visits to the San Fernando Mission. Her faith was strengthened during her high school years at Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood, and during her college years at UC Santa Barbara, she frequented the Mission Santa Barbara. And, since moving to Orange County over 20 years ago, and having her daughter baptized in the Serra Chapel, she has embraced the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Kerry also shared that, “Giving to these important causes, with dear friends like Madeline and Vicky, brings me joy and satisfaction knowing that my talents and treasures help to make a difference.” “I am hoping Gavin’s and my support helps to bring greater attention of these causes that need the community’s support. I am looking forward to contributing toward the Mission’s gala and other endeavors in the coming years, and I know my family is excited too.”
In addition to supporting the Mission, Kerry has expertise in retail and hospitality. She and Gavin support the Crystal Cove Conservancy where she has been on the Gala Committee for the last 13 years. She has volunteered for The Free Wheelchair Mission for 5 years, and together she and Gavin support Chapman University, which has a special place in the heart of the Herbert household. An Orange County local, Kerry resides in Corona del Mar with her husband, daughters, Lindsay and Sophia, their two kittens, and their pup, Mr. Rogers.
Reverend Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin
Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano
Reverend Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin, pastor-emeritus of Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, has been a member of the Mission Preservation Foundation Board of Trustees since coming to the Mission in 2003.
Msgr. Holquin was born in Los Angeles and grew up Granada Hills. He attended Catholic schools, and, influenced in part by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who educated him, decided to pursue a vocation to the priesthood. He studied at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, the Los Angeles Archdiocesan seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1974. He later pursued post graduate studies at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
His first assignment as a priest was at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, of which he would later become Rector. In 2003, Bishop of Orange Tod Brown assigned him to become pastor of Mission San Juan Capistrano.
“There’s no greater privilege as a pastor than to have been a pastor of a California mission, especially one as beautiful and well known as Mission San Juan Capistrano,” reflected Msgr. Holquin.
Msgr. Holquin succeeded the retiring pastor, Msgr. Paul Martin. While Msgr. Martin was known for his gentle, pastoral approach, Msgr. Holquin brought administrative talents to his new position, of vital importance in such a complex and intricate operation as the Mission, he noted.
With the appointment of Msgr. Holquin’s successor, Msgr. J. Michael McKiernan, in July of 2014, he was granted the title Pastor/Rector Emeritus. In addition, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Divine Worship for the Diocese of Orange.
He’s enthusiastic about his continuing work on the Board of Trustees, and grateful for the participation of its accomplished and talented members: “I lead best when I’m open to the wisdom of others. Our board has been a wonderful source of wisdom and insight.”
Reverend Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan
Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano
Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan, named the 35th pastor of Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano by Bishop of Orange Kevin Vann, took over his new post on July 1.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and I consider it a great honor,” Msgr. McKiernan said. “One of the things I’ve learned is when you get into a new position, particularly as a pastor, is to see how things are done out of respect for how they’ve done things for a long time. In the last two months I have been spending a lot of time asking ‘Why?’ or “How come?’ It’s been a real learning experience.”
Msgr. McKiernan says one thing is certain in terms of his goals for Mission San Juan Capistrano.
“The one thing that I would love to do is to continue the wonderful legacy that is here, and the wonderful history that is here,” he said. “There are wonderful employees here, particularly the new principal of Mission Basilica School and the Executive Director of the Historic Mission, and I’m very blessed to have both of them. Alycia Beresford and Mechelle Lawrence Adams are just wonderful assets to me and great working partners in us building up the whole Mission complex.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, because the wheel is spinning pretty well.”
Msgr. McKiernan is a Diocesan priest, coming from former Parish, Christ Our Savior. His interests range from meeting new parishoners to learning more about California history. A “people person,” he has quickly met the Campus staff and gotten involved with the success of the landmark, debuting at the Romance of the Mission benefit gala by offering the dinner invocation.
Rolling Wood Partners
Paul Mikos, President of PsomasFMG, is a past President and CEO of several companies where he had an extensive record of providing strategic marketing and operational leadership in the growth of numerous companies. Mr. Mikos is a leader and organizational builder with the ability to provide vision to an organization and work well with the financial community as evidenced by the successful formulation and completion of an IPO and consistent company growth and profitability. His expertise includes recognition and seizing of market opportunities, marketing, IT issues, rapid expansion of a company-owned and franchise-based business and the recruiting, developing and retaining of top executives leading to a record of growth that consistently exceeded Wall Street expectations.
Anthony R. Moiso
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer
Rancho Mission Viejo
Tony Moiso is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rancho Mission Viejo, responsible for the ranching, farming, planning, development and financial management of Rancho Mission Viejo in southern Orange County.
Tony grew up in West Los Angeles, and remembers visiting the Mission as a child with his grandmother. He retains vivid memories of first seeing the Mission’s majestic fountains, beautiful gardens and winding walkways.
He went on to study history at Stanford University, and served in the U.S. Army. He worked with the Mission Viejo Company, playing a key role in the planning and development of Mission Viejo. In 1974, he became president of Rancho Mission Viejo. In 1983, Tony formed the Santa Margarita Company, which later developed the communities of Rancho Santa Margarita and Las Flores. His most recent development is Ladera Ranch.
He has a special affection for the old Mission, remarking, “It is the birthplace of Orange County. We have a special obligation to preserve it and make sure that visitors’ experiences here are memorable ones.”
Connie Spenuzza is publisher of Libros Publishing. She received a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Southern California, and has worked in marketing for IBM, as a counselor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and as a language professor for Los Angeles Community College. She serves on the Board of Directors of Opera Pacific, the Harvard College Parents Fund, and the statewide museum committee, Latinas: The Spirit of California. Among her talents, she speaks Spanish, French and Italian. She and husband Peter live in Monarch Beach. They have two adult sons. In response to the invitation to join the Foundation Board, Spenuzza remarked, “The Mission is an outstanding historic and architectural monument. It serves as an important symbol of the richness of California’s history.” She describes the Mission’s Serra Chapel as her “spiritual sanctuary,” reminding her of the convent school in Ecuador she attended as a child. Her uncle was Cardinal of Ecuador. She added, “Sitting in Serra Chapel reminds me of the many positive experiences of my childhood.”
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Posthumous Board Members
Anthony “Tony” Forster
Madeline Martin Swinden
To become a part of the Mission Preservation Foundation contact:
Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, Executive Director
Phone: (949) 234-1311 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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