In the storied history of San Juan Capistrano, the Rev. Jim Nieblas is recognized as the first local indigenous priest to enter the Catholic clergy since St. Junipero Serra founded the town’s famous mission in 1776.

Ordained in 1986 in the Mission Basilica, Nieblas says he has been pleased to represent his tribe. In 2015 he met with Pope Francis while the pontiff was in the United States to confer sainthood on Serra. Nieblas presented the Pope with gifts from the tribe.

While serving the church primarily in the Los Angeles area, Nieblas has returned to San Juan from time to time to reconnect with his Acjachemen people, who since the founding of the mission have been known as the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians.

This month, Nieblas celebrates 50 years of religious life and 30 years of priesthood. On July 16 in the Mission Basilica, he said a special Mass that many from the Juaneño community attended in his honor. A procession performed native rituals including song, dance and the ceremonial burning of sage.

July 27, 2016: Click on the link to read the full article in the Orange County Register: