By Tyler Orsburn
WASHINGTON — Today Catholic News Service launched its Catholic Home Missions Project, a project inspired by the canonization of St. Junipero Serra back in September.
More than 20,000 people attended the Sept. 23, 2015, canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the Spanish Franciscan at the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The Franciscan Monastery in Washington had a Mass of celebration the following day.
A painting of St. Junipero Serra hangs in the Santa Barbara Mission Archives-Library in Santa Barbara, Calif. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
St. Junipero Serra is credited with founding nine missions in California, and one in Baja California, Mexico. Friars under his tutelage founded many others across California, in a territory that was then part of New Spain.
Steven Hackel, a history professor at the University of California at Riverside who has written a biography, “Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father,” told CNS he thinks St. Junipero Serra as one of the little-heralded “‘founding fathers’ of the United States,” because he helped settle areas beyond the East Coast and was a contemporary of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Last spring we did a series of video stories on the life and ministry of St. Junipero and his evangelizing mission, and we included the views of some critical of the friar over his treatment of native peoples and their culture.
But what is a modern-day mission in the United States? Is it still just about evangelizing and baptizing? And how does the mission experience differ from St. Junipero Serra’s day in 1769 when he walked from Baja California, Mexico, and into what would become San Diego?
One difference is population density. No longer is west of the Mississippi River considered the Wild, Wild West. Another difference is cultural diversity. Native Americans no longer populate the landscape as they did in the 18th century. What would become the United States is now a mosaic of cultures that represents all continents.
Now, 247 years after St. Junipero Serra’s first mission was established in Southern California, the Catholic Church is firmly interwoven into the fabric of the land of the free and home of the brave.
Starting today — with stories, videos and photos — our reports on Catholic Home Missions take us to North Carolina, Texas, Idaho and Puerto Rico — four of the U.S. Catholic churches mission dioceses. The (Read More)