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Fray Junípero Serra (known as Fra Juníper Serra, in Catalan, his mother tongue ) (November 24, 1713 – August 28, 1784) was a Spanishmarker Franciscan friar who founded the mission chain in Alta Californiamarker. Fr. Serra was beatified by John Paul II on September 25, 1988.

History

Junípero Serra was born Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer in Petramarker, Majorcamarker, Spainmarker. He later took the name of "Junípero" in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a follower of Saint Francis. On September 14, 1730, he entered the Order of Friars Minor. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood. Later he received a doctorate in theology from the Lullian University in Palma de Mallorcamarker, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until he joined the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico in 1749.

That year he journeyed to North America, first to Mexico Citymarker, where he taught. Father Serra refused to ride the mule that was provided him and walked from Vera Cruzmarker to the capital, he was bitten by an insect and suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever necessary. He requested a transfer to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missionsmarker some 90 miles north of Santiago de Querétaromarker where he spent about nine years. During this time, he served as the mission's superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico City, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions. His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary means in order to move the people to penance: he would pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit, scourge himself, or apply a lit torch to his bare chest. He established ten missions including Velicata.

In 1768, Serra was appointed superior of a band of 15 Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Baja Californiamarker. The Franciscans took over the administration of the mission on the Baja California Peninsula from the Jesuits after King Carlos III ordered them forcibly expelled from "New Spain" on February 3, 1768. Serra became the "Father Presidente." On March 12, 1768, Serra embarked from the Pacific port of [[San Blas, Nayarit|San
Blas]] on his way to the Californias. Early in the year 1769, he accompanied Governor Gaspar de Portolà on his expedition to Alta California. On the way, he established the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatámarker on May 14 (the only Franciscan mission in all of Baja California). When the party reached San Diegomarker on July 1, Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcalámarker, the first of the 21 California missions (including the nearby Visita de la Presentación, also founded under Serra's leadership).


Serra moved to the area which is now Montereymarker in 1770, and founded Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelomarker. He remained there as "Father Presidente" of the Alta Californiamarker missions. In 1771, Serra relocated the mission to Carmelmarker, which became known as "Mission Carmel" and served as his headquarters. Under his presidency were founded Mission San Antonio de Paduamarker, Mission San Gabriel Arcángelmarker, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosamarker, Mission San Juan Capistranomarker, Mission San Francisco de Asísmarker, Mission Santa Clara de Asísmarker, and Mission San Buenaventuramarker. Serra was also present at the founding of the Presidio of Santa Barbaramarker on April 21, 1782, but was prevented from locating the mission there because of the animosity of Governor Felipe de Neve.

In 1773, difficulties with Pedro Fages, the military commander, compelled Serra to travel to Mexico City to argue before Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursua for the removal of Fages as the Governor of California Nueva. At the capital of Mexico, by order of Viceroy Bucareli, he printed up Representación in 32 articles. Bucareli ruled in Serra's favor on 30 of the 32 charges brought against Fages, and removed him from office in 1774, after which time Serra returned to California. In 1778, Serra was given dispensation to administer the sacrament of confirmation for the faithful in California. After he had exercised his privilege for a year, governor Felipe de Neve directed him to suspend administering the sacrament until he could present the papal brief. For nearly two years Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights.

During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, traveling more than 600 miles in the process, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5,309 persons, who, with but few exceptions, were Indians ("neophytes") converted during the 14 years from 1770.

On August 28, 1784, at the age of 70, Father Junípero Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo. He is buried there under the sanctuary floor.

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