ST. JUNIPERO SERRA
St. Junipero Serra (1713 – 1784) was born to a farming family on the Spanish island of Majorca. He was baptized the same day he was born, and was later sent to be educated by the Franciscans. In 1730 he joined the Franciscans and was ordained to the priesthood. St. Junipero was considered brilliant by his peers; he was well-trained in philosophy and theology, and taught at the university. In 1750 he traveled to the New World and began ministering to the people of Mexico City. In 1768 he moved north and began working in the Californian missions. As a result of his tireless missionary efforts, he is largely responsible for the spread of Catholicism along the western coast of the United States—as testified by the many Californian cities with Spanish Christian names. He founded the first nine of twenty-one Catholic missions that spread along the California coast. He converted thousands of Native Americans to the Christian faith and taught them new methods of agriculture, animal husbandry, and craftsmanship. He died from tuberculosis at the age of 71. The Native Americans he ministered wept at his death out of their love for him. Junipero Serra was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988 and canonized by Pope Francis during his trip to the United States in 2015, the first canonization Mass to ever take place on American soil. His feast day is July 1st.
Both at his canonization and more recently, the memory of Serra is under attack by those who suggest he abused the natives of the new world. This narrative is false and in fact Serra gave them the most precious things that he had.