1713 – 1784
Junipero Serra was born on November 24, 1713 to Antonio Serra and Margarita Ferrer, his wife, in the village of Petra on the Island of Mallorca off the east coast of Spain. He was baptized the same day at the Gothic Church, Saint Peter’s, and given the name Miguel Joseph. He attended classes at the Friary of San Bernardino in Petra but lived at the home of his parents. In 1730, Serra received the Franciscan habit in the Convento de Jesus in the city of Palma, capital of Mallorca. One year later he made his profession and took the name Junipero.
During the years 1731 and 1737, Serra continued to study philosophy and theology at the royal Friary of San Francisco at Lulana University in Palma. Serra preached in many towns of Mallorca before he journeyed to New Spain.
Early in 1749 Serra and his friend, Father Palou, decided they wanted to become missionaries and together applied for permission to serve in this field. Many weeks went by without a reply to their request. On Palm Sunday 1749, Father Palou received word from the father Commissioner General of the Indies that they had been accepted. Palou quickly made his way to Petra, informing Serra of the decision. At the age of 35, Serra left Mallorca with his friend, Father Palou, headed for Mexico and his new responsibilities.
In Mexico Serra worked diligently to convert the Indians to Christianity. As Father President of Franciscans, his missions in Northern Mexico became models of the mission system. Father Serra founded his first mission in Alta California, Mission San Diego in 1769. In 1776 he founded Mission San Juan Capistrano as the seventh in a chain of 21. The Serra Chapel at this mission is the only remaining church in California in which Father Serra is known to have celebrated Mass. Father Serra died in 1784 and is buried at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo near Monterey. California. Today the Catholic Church is going through the lengthy process of establishing sainthood for Father Junipero Serra and he was given the title of “Blessed” in preparation.