Summer Saints – Blessed Junipero Serra

Today’s saint was one of the first missionaries to North America.  Blessed Junipero Serra was born in 1713 on Majorca, an island near Spain.  When he was 16, he joined the Franciscans and was sent to the recently discovered country of Mexico.  Soon after he arrived, he went to what is now California and became a missionary to the people there.  He educated them, helped them with farming, and taught them about God.  During his work, he travelled approximately 24,000 miles, which is how far it would be to walk across the United States 4 times!
Father Junipero founded mission churches all along the coast of California, and many of these church buildings are still standing today.  People came to live near the churches, and those settlements turned into cities.  Cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara in California are named after the churches that Blessed Junipero founded there, and those churches are named for saints.  Because of his missionary work, Blessed Junipero is sometimes called “the Apostle of California.”  He died at the age of 70 and is buried in the Church of San Carlos Borromeo, one of the missions he founded.

Spanish missionaries gave Catholic names to many places in California.  See if you can tell what or who is being honored in a few of these names listed below:


Father Serra’s original name was Miguel (Michael) but he took the name Junipero in honor of Saint Juniper (a companion of Saint Francis) when he joined the Franciscan order.  It may look like the correct pronunciation of Junipero is “june-eh-PEAR-oh,” but as a Spanish name it would be pronounced “hoo-NIP-er-oh.”


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