“Always go forward and never go back.” Fr. Junipero Serra
Miguel Josè Serra was born on November 24, 1713 on the island of Majorca. Miguel came from a devout family and entered the Franciscan Order on September 14, 1730. He took the name Junípero. He was a brilliant student and lectured on philosophy as a seminarian; teaching at the University of Palma. In his heart, he longed to be a missionary and went to Mexico City at the age of 37 to accomplish this dream. While in Mexico, he experienced an injury to his leg that left him lame the rest of his life. He received permission to go to the Sierra Gorda Mountains and work with the Pamè Indians. He learned the Pamè language and wrote a catechism in the Indian dialect. Junípero worked alongside the Indians in the fields, teaching them effective methods of agriculture and cattle raising, as well as arts and crafts. He converted thousands of Indians. After spending nine years with the Pamè Indians, he was appointed superior of a group of fifteen Franciscans. They went to work in the missions of Lower California. Later in 1769, when the Spanish set out to conquer Upper California, Fr. Junipero Serra traveled with the military expedition. It is because of Fr. Serra’s work that followed, that he is known as the “Father of the California Missions.” He founded his first mission in San Diego on July 15, 1769 and then eight more missions followed along California’s Mission Trail.
It took tremendous faith, courage and perseverance to accomplish what Fr. Serra did for the New World. He had to deal with physical pain and many trials, but he always had absolute confidence in the providence of God. Many of his missions are familiar names to us now, but were total outposts at the time; San Diego, San Carlos, San Antonio, San Gabriel, San Louis Obispo, San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara, San Buenaventura, and Santa Barbara. The missions at the time of their founding went south to north and were about a day’s journey apart. Father Serra practiced austerity in his own life, but seemed never to tire. He founded a total of 21 missions, baptized 6,000 Indians and confirmed 5,000. Fr. Serra lived at San Carlos in Monterey Carmel, California. It was here that Father Serra, exhausted and sick from all the work and preaching he had done to save souls, died on August 28, 1784. Father Serra is the inspiration for the Serra Club, which bears his name and is dedicated to praying for and promoting vocations. A statue of Father Serra represents the State of California in the National Statuary Hall, in Washington D.C.
I have been to many of the cities that sprang from the missions that Father Serra founded and have seen many streets named for him in California. It is so exciting that what seemed like the insignificant work of a priest in outposts, with the seemingly insignificant Indian population, had an impact that we see to this day! This man of God not only impacted thousands and thousands and thousands of Indians, but his work has impacted millions. Through the founding of missions, the impact on the souls of people has been continual. Father Serra, like so many courageous Saints who traveled and put their lives at risk, left comfort behind to go and serve God and spread the love and knowledge of Him. Bl. Junipero Serra truly embodied the pioneer spirit that made our country what it is today. This salad is named for Father Serra because the strawberries, when sliced, look like little hearts and represent the love that he had for Jesus and the Catholic Faith. The Monterey Jack cheese gives the salad that special California flair, and reminds us of the place where Father Serra said good-bye to this world and hello to eternity!
It should be noted that the Jesuits had been in Mexico and had been founding missions and working very hard in Lower and Upper California, when they were unjustly expelled by the government. The Franciscans took over the Jesuit missions, so the territory that had been gained for God would not be lost.
Share Fr. Juniperro's Story with your family and enjoy this delicious strawberry salad on the side :)