Padre Junipero Serra

1713 – 1784

Fray Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, was born at Petra, on the isle of Mallorca, November 24, 1713. The pious youth entered the Franciscan Order at the age of sixteen. As a priest and Doctor of Theology, he taught that sacred science until 1740 when he was able to fulfill his ardent longing to become a missionary among the Indians.

After crossing the Atlantic, he arrived at Vera Cruz, and there walked to Mexico City where he resided at the Franciscan College of San Fernando. In 1750 he was sent to the Sierra Gorda missions and there he labored until 1758. Between that year and 1767, Father Serra was engaged in giving missions to the faithful in various parts of Mexico.

In 1767, when the Franciscans took over the Jesuit missions of Lower California, Father Serra became the Superior on the peninsula. There he labored until called to open up the new mission field of Upper California Missions. Between 1769 and 1784 he was the Superior of the Upper California Missions, during which time he founded the first nine of the famous twenty-one missions of California. In his missionary journeys, he walked over 6,500 miles despite an ulcerated leg.

Father Serra died at Mission San Carlos in Monterey, August 28, 1784, and there his mortal remains lie today. Zeal for souls was his outstanding characteristic. Efforts for his canonization began in 1934. On May 9, 1985, he was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II and on September 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II beatified Fray Juniper Serra. Pope Francis canonized Father Serra on September 23, 2015 during a Mass in Washington D.C.