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
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
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