Junipero Serra

Over at Dating God there is a nice video about this newest Saint of the Church. Junipero Serra the missionary Franciscan for brought the faith to California.

Junípero Serra y Ferrer, OFM (24 November 1713 – 28 August 1784)
Junipero was born Miguel Josep Serra in a tiny town on Majorca. At a young age he was drawn to the Franciscan friary where he was taught everything  and as time pass soon the local friary had taught Serra all they could and his parents sent him to a Franciscan school in Palma, the capital of Majorca and shortly after he arrived Serra went to Father Provincial and asked to join, the Father asked how old Serra was and he said 16. The Provincial was hesitant at first but after hearing about the great strength of Serra’s spiritual life he allowed it and in November of 1730 he became a novice in the Order of Friars Minor and Serra took the name Junipero after the early Franciscan Brother Juniper. In about a decade he became a priest and was teaching philosophy to other Franciscans during their training. All this was nice but Junipero longed to be a missionary and be the first to bless the un-blessed and teach them the ways of faith. In 1749, Serra and other Missionaries landed in New Spain.

They disembarked at Veracruz and had to make their way to Mexico City where the headquarters and training center for the mission(College of San Fernando de Mexico) was located. It was here where they learn some of the native languages as well as mission administration. The friars in Veracruz suggested to them to take some oxen and wagons but Serra refused and walked the whole distance, this was keeping in line with Franciscan tradition but Serra got an infection on his leg after a bug bite that linger for the rest of his life. Before his year of study was up Junipero volunteered to replace recently deceased friars at a mission in Sierra Gorda. It was here that Serra did many things and for 18 years he lead this mission and taught at the college of San Fernando. With the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain, this left a void in the mission as the Jesuits had several missions in Baja California and the Sonoran desert where no longer running the missions. Junipero Serra was appointed president of the Baja California Mission in 1768 and about a year later Serra was a part of the Portolá expedition, which was the Spanish expedition into Alta California. They arrived in San Diego on 1 July 1769 and within two weeks the first mission was established and called Mission San Diego de Alcalá.

From San Diego, Serra and his other Franciscans would establish twenty other missions these are remembered today in the names of several cities. Junipero Serra would basically remain in California until his death overseeing the missions.   An interesting thing that I read is that Serra took Natives have a different view of Serra and some of the objected to his canonization since Serra suppressed their culture and caused the premature deaths of thousands of their ancestors. However some scholars will argue that the Spanish military played a larger role in the mistreatment of the native peoples. Serra would lead the Missions in California until his death in 1784 after traveling around confirming many of the natives in his last 14 years.  Serra is buried at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which served as the base for the missions. Junipero Serra is known as the founder of Spanish California and is remembered with a statue in the US Capitol.  His feast day will be celebrated on July 1st, the date of the arrival in San Diego, rather than his death date.



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