St. Junipero Serra
Junipero Serra was born Miguel Joseph Serra I Ferrer on November 14,1713, on Mallorca, an island off the Spanish coast. His parents, AntonioNadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer, were wheat and beans farmers.
From an early age, Serra knew that the Catholic Faith was of greatimportance and would often visit the friars at the Franciscan Order. Atthe age of 15, Serra enrolled in a Franciscan school in the capitalcity, Palma de Majorca and a year later, at the age of 16, he became anovice of the Franciscan order.
Serra took the name of Junipero, a brother companion of St Francis, whenhe took his first vows in 1731 and by 1737, he was ordained as a priestin the Franciscan order. Although Serra showed remarkable promise as ascholar and professor, he realized that his true calling lay inmissionary work after reading about St. Francis Solanus, a brave SouthAmerican missionary.
This discovery led him to a life in North America, never to return homeagain.
Life in North America
Serra’s journey to North America started in 1748 and he arrived inVeracruz on the Gulf Coast of New Spain, now known as New Mexico, in1749, before travelling 250 miles by foot to their destination of MexicoCity. Serra spent less than six months at the College of San Fernandobefore joining the volunteers for the Sierra Gorda missions and began tobuild a reputation as an advocate for the natives through his generousand loving response to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in hischarge.
He went on to spend eight years with the Pame Indians. During hisapostolate with them, he ensured the construction of a church anddeveloped his mission in religious and economic directions. Through hiszealous preaching, he brought the Pame people to practice the faith. In1758, Serra returned to the College of San Fernando but continued hiscalling as a missionary, preaching in numerous cities and becamepresident of missions in California.
Establishing his headquarters in Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel,Serra started receiving natives into the Church. Conversion to the faithwas not a requirement.
As an outspoken defender of their human rights, Serra was fearless incalling out the government for their abuse against them. Through therising tensions, Serra visited Mexico City to promote a mission thatfocused on the salvation of souls over domination and conquest and therules that he presented during his visit would later serve as the basisfor the first major laws of California.
Serra volunteered himself to join an expedition to Upper California. Onhis way to San Diego, he founded his first mission at San Fernando deVelicata in 1769 and pledged the next fifteen years of his life toevangelical work in Upper California.
At the End
St. Junipero Serra died a peaceful death at the age of 70 after a lifespent in devotion to God in 1784, at his home at the Carmel Mission. Hewas buried in the floor of the Church that he had built.
By the end of 1784, 6,736 Indians had been baptized at the nine missionsSerra had established, while 4, 646 Christianized Indians called themissions home.
In character, Serra was described as being eager, optimistic, zealousand passionate about his faith and way of preachings and foughtendlessly for the freedom of the Church against royal infringement.
Junipero Serra became the first American saint of Hispanic origin to becanonized in 2015 when Pope Francis declared him a saint on a trip toWashington DC. This historic declaration formed part of the Pope’sfirst visit to the States and was the first canonization on Americansoil.
The Patronage and Veneration of Junipero Serra
Saint Junipero Serra is the patron saint of vocations to Church ministryand California, where he was instrumental in building the Church on thewest coast of America.
On the day Junipero Serra was canonized, Pope Francis described him as aspecial patron of Hispanic Americans.
In 1988, Serra was honored by Pope John Paul II when he declared Serra‘Blessed’ and beatified. Junipero Serra is described as a Catholicleader worthy of veneration and devotion.
Today, various institutes and organizations carry Saint Junipero Serraas their patron saint, with his exemplary example of missionary zeal andpassion for the Gospel at the root of their missions and teachings.
Numerous statues and memorials have been built celebrating the place heholds in American history.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Junipero Serra
- Serra was baptized on the same day he was born because he was sickly
and not believed to live for a long time, and his two older
siblings hadn’t survived childhood.
- While Junipero Serra was an outspoken advocate on the rights of the
Indians, he believed in corporal punishment when the rules were
- Some believe that Serra used forceful methods to convert the Native
Indians and suppressed their culture.
- Serra thought of himself as a “sinner” and a “most unworthy
- To purify his spirit, Junipero Serra would punish himself
Prayer to St. Junipero Serra
O God, in Your ineffable mercy, You chose Saint Junípero Serra as ameans of gathering many peoples of the Americas into Your Church. Grantthat through his intercession our hearts may be united in You in evergreater love, so that at all times and in all places we may show forththe image of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who livesand reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, foreverand ever.Amen.