Friday, January 16, 2015

Pope to canonize Junipero Serra

From Catholic News Agency:

In a surprise addition to his fall 2015 trip to the U.S., Pope Francis is planning to canonize the founder of California’s first missions, Bl. Junipero Serra.

“In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States,” declared Pope Francis aboard Sri Lankan Air Flight UL4111 on the way to Manila.

Bl. Serra, a Franciscan priest, lived in what is now California in the 1700s. A Spanish-born missionary, he founded the first nine of 21 eventual missions in California. He worked tirelessly with the Native Americans, and is said to have baptized more than 6,000 people, and confirmed 5,000.

“He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States,” Pope Francis beamed.

Bl. Serra’s canonization will be the latest in a systematic action from Pope Francis to give a boost to evangelization efforts throughout the world.

Yesterday, he gave Sri Lanka its first saint in the Indian-born Joseph Vaz, who lived from 1651 to 1711. Pope Francis applauded Vaz for his tireless missionary work and his ability to evangelize in difficult terrain.

Here’s more about Blessed Junipero—who may be familiar to many for the countless Serra Clubs scattered around the world, fostering vocations:

When Father Junípero Serra founded California’s first mission in 1769, he was 56 years old and asthmatic, with a chronic sore on his leg that troubled him for the rest of his life, and he suffered frequently from other illnesses, as well. He stood just 5 feet, 2 inches, and, as a journalist later wrote, “He certainly didn’t look like the man who would one day be known as the Apostle of California.” Yet he endured the hardships of the frontier and pressed forward with remarkable determination to fulfill his purpose: to convert the Native Americans of California to Christianity.

. . In pursuit of that goal, Father Serra walked thousands of miles between San Diego and Monterey and even Mexico City. He traveled the seas, also; and by the time he died August 28, 1784, in Carmel he had founded nine missions, introduced agriculture and irrigation techniques, and the Spanish language. He had battled governors, bureaucrats and military commanders to secure a system of laws to protect the California Indians from at least some of the injustices inflicted by the Spanish soldiers whose practices often were in conflict with Father Serra’s.

. . Father Serra had been a philosophy professor and distinguished preacher at the Convent of San Francisco in Mallorca, the Spanish island where he was born in 1713. He was 36 years old when he reached the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico, on December 8, 1749, and walked to Mexico City. ( It was during that journey of 24 days that an insect bite caused the sore on his leg that sometimes became so painful he had difficulty walking. ) He spent 17 years in missionary work in the Sierra Gorda in the present area of North-Central Mexico. In 1767 he became president of the 14 missions in Baja California, originally founded by the Jesuits, then turned over to the Franciscans.