The Missions of Father Serra


Father Serra canonized by Pope Francis in Mass on Sept. 23rd, 2015

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Monty and Marsha BrownThe Missions of Father Serra
Father Junipero Serra was born on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Majorca in 1713. This dedicated Franciscan friar distinguished himself as a teacher and scholar during his first thirty-six years. But he had dreamed of becoming a missionary and in 1749 he set sail for New Spain. In the new world he felt he could achieve his life's ambition of spreading the Christian gospel to the uninitiated.

For the next two decades, Serra worked with the Indians of Mexico. From the Apostolic College of San Fernando in Mexico City, he and his fellow missionaries fanned out to the far-flung churches and missions of Mexico.

Finally, in 1769, Father Serra was handed the greatest challenge of his very full life. He was sent to the northern frontier, the land known as Alta, or Upper, California. This area was basically undeveloped at the time and the plan was to build a chain of missions from San Diego Bay to San Francisco Bay, and "civilize" this vast segment of the Pacific Coast. Sometimes on horse- or muleback, most often on his own two feet, Serra traveled with a handful of Spanish troops, a few Francisan missionaries and Christianized Indians and between 1769 and 1784 gradually set up the first nine California missions.

Monty and Marsha Brown - The Travels of Father Serra: Majorca to California.The Missions of Father Serra: Serra statue at Mission San Antonio.

A statue of Friar Junipero Serra is one of two statues representing the state of California in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol. The statue, sculpted by Ettore Cadorin, depicts Serra holding a cross and looking skyward.

When Interstate 280 was built in stages from Daly City to San Jose in the 1960s, it was named the Junipero Serra Freeway. Along the freeway in Hillsborough, California, is a statue of Serra. It stands on a hill on the northbound side and has a large pointing finger facing the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific.

Many California cities have streets, trails, and other features named after Father Serra. Examples include Santa Barbara, which contains Alameda Padre Serra (Father Serra's Street), running from Mission Santa Barbara along the base of the Riviera, the hill overlooking the city; and San Diego, in which Father Junipero Serra Trail runs through the Mission Trails Regional Park to Santee. Among the many schools named after Serra are Junipero Serra High School in the San Diego community of Tierrasanta, J Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Serra Catholic School(Grades JK-8) in Rancho Santa Margarita, and Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo.

Both Spain and the United States have honored Serra with postage stamps.

The DVD, "The Missions of Father Serra," follows the trail of Father Serra and shows his nine missions as they are today and tells the stories of how they got there. It also includes two bonus missions, Santa Barbara and Soledad. Contact us to order this DVD. At 37 minutes, this disc makes an excellent classroom presentation. Discounts for church groups, gift shops, schools, etc.

The following excerpt from the film shows the famous Mission Dolores in San Francisco. At the heart of what has become the "Mission District," Mission Dolores boasts the oldest building in San Francisco, as well as the oldest graveyard.