Bl. Junipero Serra (1713-1784)

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Junipero Serra was born on the Spanish island of Mallorca and joined the Franciscan Order when he was 16 years old. He was a brilliant student and became a professor of philosophy and theology. In 1749 he volunteered to go to Mexico and work as a missionary. For eight years he worked among fierce native tribes near Queretaro. The next ten years he worked in rowdy seaports, crude mining camps, and Mexico’s cities, trying to recall Christians to the meaning of their faith.

When he was 56 he began his greatest work, the founding of the first nine missions in California. Besides serving as centers for teaching Christian religion, these missions were envisioned as utopian societies, where natives would be protected from abuse by European colonists, while they learned the latest technical skills from Europe. Vast numbers of natives died from European diseases, for which they had little resistance, something Serra and his companions could not have envisioned. He died at Carmel Mission on August 28, 1784. In his 35 years as a missionary, he had walked ten thousand miles, despite an ulcerated leg.

He was beautified in 1988, and his feast day in the United States is on July 1.

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