Saint Junipero Serra
On September 23, 2015, Pope Francis will preside over the canonization ceremony of Father Junipero Serra in Washington D.C. Long considered the “Apostle of California,” Serra will be honored by the Catholic Church as a symbol of heroic sacrifice and evangelization.
In declaring the canonization of this Franciscan missionary, Pope Francis has affirmed Blessed Junípero Serra’s significant role in the life of the Catholic Church and his example of steadfast apostleship. The Pope has called Fr. Serra a “tireless missionary” who left his homeland because of “the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty.”
Nearly 250 years after Fr. Junípero Serra planted the seeds of Christianity in Alta California, 19 of California’s 21 missions still serve as active Catholic communities and places of worship to serve the religious needs of thousands of Californians.
How they serve Californians varies, focused on the needs of contemporary communities.
Fr. Serra’s hope in founding the missions was to bring Christ to Native American peoples. Some still serve those populations.
From 1769 to 1784, Franciscan missionary Father Junípero Serra traveled up and down California, founding the first nine of California’s 21 missions. Through the many points of interest that now bear his name, Father Serra’s historic footsteps have made lasting impressions.
By Nancy Wiechec and Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — People with ties to the California mission system see the canonization of its founder as a moment for reflection and reconciliation with native people.
The impending canonization of Blessed Father Junípero Serra is striking for its incongruities.
Although he's been an ubiquitous influence in California for centuries, the announcement by Pope Francis that he would canonize Blessed Serra this year has raised some eyebrows. Though Blessed Serra is widely venerated, the announcement has stirred up controversy among critics, many of them Native Americans who feel his canonization is an affront to their culture and history.
Watch this video of a presentation made by Professor Rose Marie Beebe and Professor Robert Senkewicz speak about their just-completed book, "Junipero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary" (U of Oklahoma Press, 2015). Their work is an attempt to get behind the controversy over the canonization of Serra and to illuminate the man himself.