Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize JUNIPERO SERRA on Sept. 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Junípero Serra Ferrer (1713-84) was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, which at the time were in Alta California in the Province of Las Californias in New Spain. He began in San Diego on July 16, 1769, and later established his headquarters near Monterey, California, at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.
The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, Bl. Serra not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).
Bl. Serra was born as Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer to a family of humble means, in Petra, Majorca, Spain. On November 14, 1730, he entered the Alcantarine Franciscans, a reform movement in the Order, and took the name "Junipero" in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a companion of Saint Francis.
Few people realize how well educated he was. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Father Serra was considered intellectually brilliant by his peers. Prior to his departure to the Americas at age 27, he was assigned by his superiors to teach philosophy in professorial status to students at the Convento de San Francisco. 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.
In 1768, Father 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.Serra became the "Father Presidente."
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 people, who, with but few exceptions, were Indian 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.