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Born: Nov. 24th, 1713
Died: Aug. 28th, 1784
FEast: July 1st
Patron of:  Vocations, California

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St. Junipero
Serra

Bio

 

     Junipero's birth name was Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer and he was born on the Spanish island Mallorca. His family were farmers, cultivating wheat, beans, and cattle, with Miquel's assistance. He especially enjoyed time spent singing and visiting the local monastery, so by the time he was 16, he enrolled in a Franciscan school and applied to the Order a year later.

He became a priest in 1737, taking the name Junipero, and was considered a very intelligent student, so he used his gifts to teach philosophy. In his few and brief visits home, Junipero sadly discovered his parents had separated and his younger sister was dying. Despite this, he decided to give up what would likely have been a successful career as a professor to travel and establish missions.

By the time he was 37, Junipero and several companions had sailed for what is now Mexico, and traveled to Mexico City on foot over a difficult and treacherous path. It was along this route that he suffered an infected insect bite on his leg that troubled him and inhibited his walking abilities for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he continued on to the Sierra Gorda Mission.

Junipero's primary goal here was to restore the Mission to working order and give it some kind of leadership and guidance - of which it had been lacking for quite some time. While here, he practiced servant-leadership with his fellow brothers by fasting and working when others needed the food or rest more. He also tried to learn the language of the Indigenous people, and provided livestock, land, and craftsman work for any who would like. When Spanish authorities tried to give some of the mission land to settlers, Junipero aided in the resistance and eventually was able to restore all of the community's original land. During this time, some of Junipero's more controversial moves were in heading a branch of the Inquisition in Mexico and in practicing severe self-punishments. He was even reprimanded several times for going too far.

Junipero was not to stay here long, though. The Jesuits had been called back from California, and his new task was to establish missions all throughout the area where the state is currently.

Junipero and his companions were responsible for founding and establishing the first mission at San Diego, then Monterey, San Antonio, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara, and San Buenaventura. At these missions, the Indigenous people were taught the Christian faith and given a space in the working communities if they converted. Most of the times, however, it appears the conversions were forced and that they would be treated harshly by the Spanish soldiers. Converts were also separated from even their families if other members had not yet converted to make sure the converts would not "revert" to their previous beliefs. Junipero apparently was appalled by the poor treatment and the abuses of the soldiers and even traveled to back Mexico to tell the viceroy about how evil this was. The document that came forth from this listed points of protection for the Indigenous people, but also named placed them under the Spanish monarchy.

Even so, it cannot be denied that this man was a part of the cultural suppression, harm, and death that the missions brought to the Americas. Because of this, many of his memorials and statues are being torn down in California today.

Junipero returned to all the missions once more before his death, despite the pain in his leg being almost unbearable. He passed away at the age of 70 from tuberculosis, and he was canonized in 2015.

Prayer

 

As patron of vocations, guide us as we determine our own. Help us find the cross-sections in our lives of the gifts we have, the things we love, and the differences we can make so that we can determine the paths to take in our lives. Allow us to continue to develop these gifts and not be too stuck in our ways to take chances and discover our callings.

Amen.

Art Reflection

 

Junipero's hoodie and beanie come from modernizing the silhouettes of his tonsure and robe. The colors I chose come from the colors of the missions and landscape in the areas he worked. His expression is one that I wanted to be a little worn-out, since he was always traveling and a little sick or in pain, yet he kept going.

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