Fray Junipero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan priest who started the California Mission system, was canonized yesterday, Wednesday, 23 September 2015 by Francis, the first Hispanic Pope, during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conceptio in Washington, D.C. Serra is the first person to be canonized in the United States, and he is the first Hispanic saint. His canonization was endorsed by many North American Catholics, especially in California, although he is not well-known outside of California.
Working primarily in las Californias de Nueva España — Baja and Álta California — Serra founded his first mission, Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá, in Baja California in 1769. In addition, he founded the first nine of the 21 missions in Álta California from 1769 to 1782; they are:
It would be remiss not to acknowledge that Serra's canonization is not without controversy. While there are Native Americans who protest Serra's treatment of indigenous peoples, there are others who point out that he lived and worked during a time of colonization of the Americas by Spain, and that his actions were within the historical context of that period.
Serra died August 23, 1784. He is buried beneath the sanctuary floor at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.
About the Author
Lawrence Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, his primary historical research interests are Los Angeles in general and the Stone Quarry Hills in particular. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles from Mission San Gabriel with the pobladores on September 4, 1781.
Lawrence Bouett may be contacted directly here.