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Miguel Jose Serra Junipero - Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by Stanley L. Klos, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

Father Junipero Serra
Miguel Jose Serra Junipero


JUNIPERO, Miguel Jose Serra (hoo-ne'-pay-ro), missionary, born in the island of Majorca, 24 November, 1713; died in Monterey, California, 28 August, 1784. When a boy he was employed as a chorister in the convent of San Bernardino, and at the age of sixteen was admitted a member of the order of St. Francis. In due time he received the degree of doctor of theology and became professor in one of the colleges of his brethren.


He joined a band of missionaries that set out from Cadiz in 1749, and, after a narrow escape from shipwreck, reached the city of Mexico, 1 January, 1750. After a short rest, Father Junipero was sent to labor among the wandering tribes of the Sierra Gorda, and in this mission he spent nineteen years.


In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from Lower California by the Spanish government. The Franciscans were ordered to take charge of the vacant missions, and in 1769 Father Junipero was appointed superior of the band of priests that were sent to that province. As soon as he had organized the missions, he joined the expedition of Don Jose de Galvez with three Franciscans, and after some sailing, and a land journey of forty-six days, chiefly on foot, he reached the site of San Diego, California, 16 July, 1769.


Here he founded his first mission in Upper California, set-ring up a bower of reeds and green branches as a chapel, and erecting a wooden cross on the seashore. He attracted the Indians by presents, and gradually gathered them in villages around the mission church, he taught them to cultivate the land, to sow wheat, grind corn, and bake, introduced the olive, vine, and apple, and showed them how to weave, to yoke oxen, and prepare leather from hides, as well as instructing them in the rudiments of commerce.


In the following winter provisions began to fail, several of the colonists died, Father Junipero fell sick, and an order was issued to abandon the settlement in March, 1770, in spite of the entreaties of the missionary. At length the "San Antonio" arrived laden with supplies, and Father Junipero sailed at once for Monterey, where he founded the mission of San Carlos on 3 June.


He then went to the south with a train of soldiers and mules, and, coming to a pleasant valley, halted, and, hanging on a tree the bell that he had brought with him, began to ring it, crying: "Give ear, O ye Gentiles! Come to the faith of Jesus Christ!" There were no Indians in sight, but he continued ringing until a native appeared, in evident astonishment. Soon hundreds were attracted to the spot, and here he founded the mission of San Antonio on 14 July, 1771.


On 8 September, 1771, he began the mission of San Gabriel, twelve miles from Los Angeles, among Indians of a superior race, and he founded the mission of San Luis Obispo on 1 September, 1772. The date that is assigned for the foundation of the city of San Francisco is 27 June, 1776. In October of the same year he began the mission of San Francisco (Dolores). San Juan Capistrano followed on 1 November, 1776, Santa Clara, 18 January, 1777 and San Buenaventura, 1 March, 1782.


Settlements grew up around these missions, numbering thousands of Indians, who were industrious, well-clothed, and well-fed, with flocks and herds, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and fields of wheat. Father Junipero's zeal was untiring. When hostile Indians attacked his mission of San Diego, he began at once to rebuild the houses, working himself as laboriously as his Indians. He then went to Mexico in search of supplies, walking 240 miles, attended only by an Indian boy. He is said to have baptized over a thousand with his own hand.


The death of his friend, Father Crespi, 1 January, 1782, was a blow from which he never recovered. In the next year he paid a farewell visit to the missions, traveling from one to another on foot, as was his custom. He returned to Monterey, 1 January, 1783, and from that time his health rapidly declined. Father Junipero Serra was beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by Stanley L. Klos, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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