The drive to preserve the cross galvanized the faith communities of Riverside and beyond after a Washington D.C.-based group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, wrote the City late last year threatening legal action if the cross was not removed. After much debate, the City elected to sell the property on which the cross sits to a private owner, rather than fight a potential lawsuit.
The Friends of Mt. Rubidoux, Mission Inn Foundation and Riverside Land Conservancy jointly formed Totally Mt. Rubidoux for the sole purpose of acquiring the property and preserving it as a city landmark. Once the City made its decision to sell the property, the diocese threw its support behind Totally Mt. Rubidoux’s effort, making a financial pledge toward the purchase and encouraging parishes and individual Catholics to make a pledge if they were able. St. Thomas the Apostle and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Riverside) parishes also made pledges for the acquisition of the property.
The City of Riverside maintains ownership of Mt. Rubidoux aside from the cross property. Gail Egenes, executive director of the Riverside Land Conservancy, said public access to the cross will remain as it always has.
“It has a lot of value to the entire community and we want to honor that,” Egenes said of the cross. “We’re committed to making it available for the public’s use.”
The cross was dedicated in April of 1907 by Bishop Thomas Conaty from the Catholic Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles. Plaques commemorating the cross in the name of Father Junipero Serra remain in place on the mountain. Frank Miller, a Riverside pioneer who led the development of Mt. Rubidoux, was said to respect the impact Fr. Junipero Serra had on California through his Missions. Today, Catholic communities in Riverside process to the cross on Good Friday, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and for the Easter Sunrise Service.