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Junípero Serra

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Fray Junípero Serra
Junípero Serra at age 61, several
years before his death.
Born November 24, 1713(1713-11-24), Petra, Majorca
Died August 28, 1784 (aged 70), at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in California
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified September 25, 1988, Rome by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in Carmel, California
Feast July 1
Patronage Vocations

Blessed Fray Junípero Serra (known as Fra Juníper Serra, in Catalan, his mother tongue [1] (November 24, 1713 – August 28, 1784) was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded the mission chain in Alta California. Fr. Serra was beatified by John Paul II on September 25, 1988.


Junípero Serra was born Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer in Petra, Majorca, Spain. He later took the name of "Junípero" in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a follower of Saint Francis. On September 14, 1730, he entered the Order of Friars Minor. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood. Later he received a doctorate in theology from the Lullian University in Palma de Mallorca, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until he joined the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico in 1749.

That year he journeyed to North America, first to Mexico City, where he taught. Father Serra refused to ride the mule that was provided him and walked from Vera Cruz to the capital, he was bitten by an insect and suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever necessary. He requested a transfer to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions some 90 miles north of Santiago de Querétaro where he spent about nine years. During this time, he served as the mission's superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico City, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions. His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary means in order to move the people to penance: he would pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit, scourge himself, or apply a lit torch to his bare chest. He established ten missions including Velicata.

Serra havana

Monument of Junípero Serra (with Juaneño Indian boy) on plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Havana

In 1768, Serra was appointed superior of a band of 15 Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Baja California. The Franciscans took over the administration of the missions on the Baja California Peninsula from the Jesuits after King Carlos III ordered them forcibly expelled from "New Spain" on February 3, 1768. Serra became the "Father Presidente." On March 12, 1768, Serra embarked from the Pacific port of San Blas on his way to the Californias. Early in the year 1769, he accompanied Governor Gaspar de Portolà on his expedition to Alta California. On the way, he established the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá on May 14 (the only Franciscan mission in all of Baja California). When the party reached San Diego on July 1, Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of the 21 California missions (including the nearby Visita de la Presentación, also founded under Serra's leadership).

Serra moved to the area which is now Monterey in 1770, and founded Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo. He remained there as "Father Presidente" of the Alta California missions. In 1771, Serra relocated the mission to Carmel, which became known as "Mission Carmel" and served as his headquarters. Under his presidency were founded Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de Asís, Mission Santa Clara de Asís, and Mission San Buenaventura. Serra was also present at the founding of the Presidio of Santa Barbara on April 21, 1782, but was prevented from locating the mission there because of the animosity of Governor Felipe de Neve.

In 1773, difficulties with Pedro Fages, the military commander, compelled Serra to travel to Mexico City to argue before Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursua for the removal of Fages as the Governor of California Nueva. At the capital of Mexico, by order of Viceroy Bucareli, he printed up Representación in 32 articles. Bucareli ruled in Serra's favor on 30 of the 32 charges brought against Fages, and removed him from office in 1774, after which time Serra returned to California. In 1778, Serra was given dispensation to administer the sacrament of confirmation for the faithful in California. After he had exercised his privilege for a year, governor Felipe de Neve directed him to suspend administering the sacrament until he could present the papal brief. For nearly two years Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights. During the American Revolutionary War, Father Serra took up a collection from his mission parishes throughout California. The total money collected amounted to roughly $137, but the money was sent to General George Washington.

During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, traveling more than 600 miles in the process, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5,309 persons, who, with but few exceptions, were Indians ("neophytes") converted during the 14 years from 1770.

On August 28, 1784, at the age of 70, Father Junípero Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo. He is buried there under the sanctuary floor.[2]

See also


  1. Mallorquí, a dialect of the Catalan, is and has been the language of Majorca and the Balearic islands and it is documented since 1229. Nowadays, both Catalan and Spanish are the two official languages of the Balearic islands.

External links

Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  
ca:Juníper Serraja:フニペロ・セラru:Серра, Хуниперо

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