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Article: July 1 + Saint Junipero Serra

July 1 + Saint Junipero Serra - VENXARA®

July 1 + Saint Junipero Serra

Junipero Serra is a significant name in California’s history. A champion of human rights and this country’s first Hispanic saint, the dedicated Franciscan friar launched California’s mission system in 1769, and would ultimately oversee the founding of the State’s first nine missions. Twenty-one missions were founded in all.

Junipero was born in 1713 on the island of Majorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain, and joined the Franciscan order at age 17. He quickly distinguished himself for both his piety and learning, and spent more than a decade preaching and teaching at the university level in Majorca. Inspired by the example of the great missionaries of his order, he sailed for Mexico in 1749. He spent the remainder of his life evangelizing the Natives in Mexico and California.

At age 56, he began his apostolic missionary work in California; his goal was to bring the Catholic faith to the Native Americans. His missionaries also brought with them the crops and livestock which would make California prosper.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death. He lived and worked alongside the natives and spent his whole career defending their humanity and protesting crimes and indignities committed against them.

Through it all, his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. Junipero was 60 years old when he WALKED over 2,000 miles from Carmel, CA to Mexico City to protest the injustices of the colonial system and demand that authorities adopt a “bill of rights” that he had written for the native people.

Junipero did not impose Christianity, he proposed it. For him, the greatest gift he could offer was to bring people to Jesus Christ. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death in 1784.

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