Saint Junipero Serra

Saint Junipero Serra

On November 24, 1713, Junípero Serra—originally going by Miguel José—was born in Petra, Majorca, Spain. Antonio Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer were farmers, and they were his parents. Junípero was baptized on the same day of his birth at St. Peter's Church in Petra.

Serra went to the Franciscan-run elementary school in Petra during his formative years. His parents gave him up to a Palma cathedral canon when he was fifteen years old, and he started going to the Franciscan monastery in San Francisco for philosophy studies.

On September 14, 1730, Serra became a novice at the Convento de Jesús near Palma, marking his first step towards a life of religious observance. On September 15, one year later, he made his profession and took the name Junípero, after the companion of St. Francis. Serra attended the Convento de San Francisco to further his studies in religion and philosophy. Although the precise date of his priesthood ordination is uncertain, it is thought to have occurred in December 1738. He graduated with a PhD in theology in 1742 from Palma's Lullian University. Shortly after, in January 1749, he was named the university's chief theology professor and assigned to serve as an Indian missionary in America.

On April 13, 1749, Serra sailed for America with Francisco Palóu. They landed on December 7, 1749, in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Serra decided to walk the 250 kilometers from Vera Cruz to Mexico City rather than ride the horses that were offered. They arrived at San Fernando College on January 1, 1750, having spent the night before at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Six months later, Serra answered an urgent plea for volunteers for the missions in Sierra Gorda. After enlisting in the mission, he oversaw the building of a church, encouraged religious and economic growth, and studied the Otomí language to effectively instruct the Pame Indians between 1750 and 1758. The other four towns also saw the construction of mission churches as a result of Serra's guidance.

Subsequently, Serra was appointed to the San Fernando College, where he served in a number of capacities, including master of novices, college counsellor, confessor, and choir director. As a house missionary, he also gave missionary sermons in many Mexican cities. He was named president of the former Jesuit missions in Baja California in 1767.

In 1768, Serra offered to participate in missions to Upper California because of his zeal and commitment to advancing the faith. He set out on the expedition, arriving at Loreto on April 1st, and managed the founding of 15 missions spanning from San José del Cabo to Santa María. In Upper California, Serra established nine missions. He took part in the establishment of Presidio Santa Barbara as well.

Serra had health problems during his missionary service, including problems with his legs and feet, which meant that at times he had to be transported on a stretcher. He spent the following fifteen years of his life evangelizing in Upper California despite his physical ailments.

Serra died on August 28, 1784, at Mission San Carlos, and he was buried in the church he built. 1934 saw the start of his beatification process, which ended in 1949. On September 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II beatified him; on September 23, 2015, Pope Francis canonized him. Many monuments and memorials honoring the legacy of Junípero Serra, known as the Apostle of California, may be found along the Camino Real.

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