Junípero Serra

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Blessed Junípero Serra<tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align: center;">
Fray Junípero Serra</td></tr>
Born November 24, 1713 in Petra, Majorca
Died August 28, 1784 in Mission Carmel, California<tr><td>Venerated in</td>

<td>Roman Catholicism</td></tr><tr><td>Beatified</td> <td>September 25, 1988 by [Pope John Paul II</td></tr>

Image:Gloriole.svg Saints Portal

Blessed Junípero Serra (November 24, 1713August 28, 1784) was a Majorcan (Spain) Franciscan friar who founded the mission chain in Alta California.


[edit] Biography

Born Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer (Spanish: Miguel José Serra Ferrer) in Petra, on the Balearic Island of Majorca on 24 November, 1713, he renamed himself in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. On 14 September, 1730 he entered the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.). For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood. Later he received a doctorate in theology from the Lullian University in Palma, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy at the College of San Fernando until he joined the missionary college of San Fernando, Mexico in 1749.

That year he travelled to North America, first to Mexico City, where he taught. While travelling on foot from Vera Cruz to the capital, he had injured his leg in such a way that he suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever possible. He requested a transfer to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions some thirty leagues north of Queretaro where he spent nine years, including time as the mission's superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions. His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary means in order to move the people to penance. He would pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit, scourge himself, or apply a lighted torch to his bare chest.

In 1767 Serra was appointed superior of a band of fifteen Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Lower California. The Franciscans took over the administration of the missions on the Baja California Peninsula from the Jesuits after King Carlos III ordered them forcibly expelled from "New Spain" on February 3, 1768 with Father Serra serving as "Father Presidente." On March 12, 1768 Serra embarked from the Pacific port of San Blas on his way to the Californias. Early in 1769, he accompanied Governor Gaspar de Portolà on his expedition to Nueva California. On the way he established the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá on May 14 (the only Franciscan mission in all of Baja California). When the party reached San Diego on July 1, Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of the twenty-one California missions (including the nearby Visita de la Presentación, also founded under Serra's leadership) which accomplished the conversions of all the natives on the coast as far as Sonoma in the north. When Monterey was reached and Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo founded, Serra remained there as "Father Presidente" of the Alta California missions. In 1771 he relocated the mission to Carmel, which became known as "Mission Carmel" and served as his headquarters. Under his presidency were founded Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de Asís, Mission Santa Clara de Asís, and Mission San Buenaventura. Serra was also present at the founding of the Presidio of Santa Barbara on 21 April, 1782 and was prevented from locating the mission there at the time only through the animosity of Governor Felipe de Neve.

In 1773, difficulties with Pedro Fages, the military commander, compelled Father Serra to travel to Mexico City to argue before Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursua for the removal of Fages as the Governor of California Nueva. At the capital of Mexico, by order of Viceroy Bucareli, he drew up his Representación in thirty-two articles. Bucareli ruled in Serra's favor on 30 of the 32 charges brought against Fages, who removed him from office in 1774, after which time Serra returned to California. In 1778, Serra was given dispensation to administer the sacrament of confirmation for the faithful in California. After he had exercised his privilege for a year, governor Felipe de Neve directed him to suspend administering the sacrament until he could present the papal Brief. For nearly two years Father Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights. During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, travelling more than 600 miles in the process, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5,309 persons, who, with but few exceptions, were Indians {"neophytes") converted during the fourteen years from 1770.

On 28 August 1784 at the age of 70, Father Serra died at Mission Carmel and was interred there under the sanctuary floor.

[edit] Legacy and Veneration

Image:Mission San Juan Capistrano 4-5-05 100 6535.JPG
A statue of Father Junípero Serra and an Indian boy, sculpted by Tole van Rensalaar. The work was commissioned in 1914 by Father St. John O'Sullivan to depict the meeting of the two cultures.

Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988 this being the first step towards canonization, or promotion to sainthood in the Catholic church. Some Native American groups are opposed to this, claiming that the missions seriously mistreated their people.

The chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, built in 1782, is believed to be the oldest standing building in California. Known as "Father Serra's Church," it has the distinction of being the only remaining church in which the padre is known to have officiated (he presided over the confirmations of 213 people on October 12 and 13, 1783). A bronze statue of heroic size represents him as the apostolic preacher at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Besides extraordinary fortitude, his conspicuous virtues included his zeal, love of mortification, self-denial, and absolute confidence in God. His executive abilities were especially noted by non-Catholic writers. The wide esteem for him by Californians may be gathered from the fact that Mrs. Leland Stanford, not a Catholic, had a granite monument erected to him at Monterey.

In 1884 the Legislature of California passed a concurrent resolution making 29 August of that year, the centennial of Father Serra's burial, a legal holiday. Many of Serra's letters and other documentation are extant, the principal ones being his Diario of the journey from Loreto to San Diego, which was published in Out West (March to June, 1902) along with Serra's Representación.

A statue of Friar Junipero Serra represents the state of California in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building. It was sculpted by Ettore Cadorin and depictes Serra holding a cross and looking toward the sky.

There is also a statue of Serra along the 280 Freeway in Hillsborough, California. The statue stands on a hill on the northbound side and has a large pointing finger facing the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific.

Both Spain and the United States have honored Serra with postage stamps.

[edit] See also


[edit] Sources

[edit] External links

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Junípero Serra

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