Originally Published in The Messenger, for Spanish-speaking people in the Diocese of Belleville
Pope Francis recently canonized in Washington DC, Blessed Junipero Serra, who is referred to as founder and missionary to the “Upper Californias” as they were called in his time.
With this process the Church declared holy the missionary Franciscan friar who was born in Mallorca, Spain in 1713 and died in 1784 in Mexico.
In 1730 Serra takes the name of Junipero upon entering the Franciscan order at age 16.
Seven years later he was ordained a priest and earned a doctorate in theology.
In 1749, he was sent as an apostolic missionary in the company of other religious to Mexico, where he held various management positions in the Franciscan convent.
After the expulsion of the Jesuit priests of Baja California, the Franciscans occupied the missions in the region and subsequently in 1769, when the Spaniards began their conquest of Upper California, Fray Junipero and his missionaries consecrated themselves on to the task of sharing the Gospel to the natives.
San Junipero was one of the founders of the missions of San Diego (1769), San Carlos (1770), San Antonio (1771), San Francisco (1776), San Buenaventura (1782) and other cities in California.
These missions were places of welcomed and refuge for thousands of natives, whom San Junipero defended from military authorities of the Californians who conquered territories, a move that aroused admiration for his work, according to historical accounts.
The process for his canonization began in 1984 when he was declared venerable and in 1988 when he was beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II.
During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra by his own decision for the first time on American soil at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.
In California, a lot of people venerate Junipero Serra and the missions he founded are now important historical monuments and privileged places of worship and hold religious and cultural significance of that state. The missions founded by Saint Junipero Serra are still sought after by many Hispanic Catholics for their weddings, baptisms and quinceaneras.
Saint Junipero Serra pray for us, the people for whom you gave your life to the service of the Church.