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Junipero Serra

Blessed Junípero Serra (November 24, 1713August 28, 1784) was a Catalan Franciscan who founded the mission chain in Alta California. Born Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer in Petra, Majorca, he renamed himself in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. Once he entered religion, he taught philosophy in Palma, but in 1749 he went to North America, first to Mexico City, where he taught at the College of San Fernando.

In 1767, the Franciscans took over from the Jesuits the administration of the missions on the Baja California Peninsula, with Father Serra serving as president.

In 1769, he accompanied Gaspar de Portolà on his expedition to Nueva (or new) California. When the party reached San Diego, Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. When Monterey was reached and Mission San Carlos Borromeo founded, Serra remained there as president of the Alta California missions. In 1771 he moved the mission to Carmel, which became known as Mission Carmel and was his headquarters. Under his presidency were founded Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de Asís, Mission Santa Clara de Asís and Mission San Buenaventura.

In 1784, at the age of 70, Father Serra died at Mission Carmel and is interred there under the sanctuary floor.

Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988, and many are pushing for his canonization, or promotion to the sainthood. However, Native American groups are opposed to this, on the grounds that his missions enslaved their people.

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