Junípero Serra was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, which at the time were in Alta California in the Province of Las Californias in New Spain.
On his way to Mass every morning at Mission San Buenaventura, Miguel Olivas drives past the bronze statue of the Catholic mission’s founder, Junípero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan friar, and murmurs a plea: “Pray for me, Father Serra. Watch over me.”
But to Jorge Escamilla, Father Serra — who will be canonized by Pope Francis on Wednesday in Washington — is much more than a source of spiritual solace.
In September of AD 1772, Friar Junípero Serra returned to San Diego, exhausted in body and spirit. He had just walked for three weeks, travelling all the way from northern California to the first mission he had founded. Despite his usual optimistic disposition, he was worn down by the scarcity of food, hampered by the sharp pain shooting from the incurable wound in his leg, and above all ensnarled in a heated dispute with Pedro Fages, the lieutenant governor of the Las Californias province of New Spain.
On Friday night, Dominican priests welcomed young men for a vocation weekend in Washington, D.C., beginning with a Mass in the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Pope Francis will be tomorrow. Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., took this picture during Mass, highlighting the walk all are called to: holiness.
Pope Francis marked a “day of reflection” for the soon-to-be canonized Junípero Serra by celebrating Mass at the Pontifical North American College, lauding the 18th century missionary who worked to defend the native people against the abuses of colonialism.
On Sept. 25, 1988, St. John Paul II beatified Junípero Serra (1713-1784), the Spanish Franciscan friar who founded the first nine of 21 missions in California, from San Diego to San Francisco. This past January, Pope Francis announced that he will canonize Blessed Junípero during his apostolic visit to the United States in September.
As the U.S. prepares for Pope Francis' trip later this year, one Vatican official says efforts to remove the statue of Spanish missionary Blessed Junípero Serra from the capital offers a poor welcome for history's first Latin American pontiff.
When archaeologist Ruben Mendoza was a boy, his father was prone to fiery outbursts in the family's mobile home on the tough west side of Fresno. One of the biggest targets of his anger, Mendoza remembers, was the Catholic Church and its California missions.
The outcries began as soon as Pope Francis announced that, after 80 years of formal consideration, Father Junípero Serra, founder of the California missions, was to be made a saint. The outrage isn't new. It hews back to the accusation that Serra actively participated in “genocide,” a notion promoted by California Native American advocates such as Rupert and Jeannette Costo in the 1980s. For others it is bad enough that, to modern eyes, the mission system was oppressive.
One year before he beatified Fray Junípero Serra in 1988, St. John Paul II made a pilgrimage to the grave of the Franciscan priest at Mission San Carlos Borroméo in Carmel, Calif. Standing on the site of Serra’s former missionary headquarters, the pope reflected on the historical impact of the friar’s Christian witness.
Catholics committed to St. John Paul II's vision of the common spiritual heritage of the Western Hemisphere, outlined in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, joyfully welcomed the announcement that Pope Francis will soon canonize Blessed Junípero Serra.