Statue of Blessed Junipero Serra at National Statuary Hall (Photo from Architect of the Capitol)
Blessed Junipero Serra, the Franciscan who founded the California missions and is in line to be canonized a saint this fall when Pope Francis visits the United States, could potentially lose his spot in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall under a proposal by a California state Sen. Ricardo Lara.
Lara introduced a resolution Feb. 4 in Sacramento to replace the statue of Blessed Serra with a statue of Sally Ride, the first woman in space who was on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Lara said Ride, a physicist, astronaut and champion of science, would “become the first woman to represent California and the first member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to be placed in the Statuary Hall.” Ride died in 2012 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.
The senator suggests relocating Blessed Serra’s statue to California “where citizens and visitors can enjoy it and be reminded of his significant historical impact upon our state.” Any state can request the congressional Joint Committee on the Library to approve a replacement of a statue the state has provided for display if the statue has been approved by the legislature and governor and if the statue to be replaced has been displayed in the Capitol for at least 10 years.
When the hall was dedicated in 1864, Congress invited each state to contribute two statues of prominent citizens. States can request the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the replacement of a statue if this move has been approved by the state legislature and governor and if the outgoing statue has been displayed in the hall for at least 10 years.
The statue of Blessed Serra, holding aloft a cross, was donated in 1931. California’s other statue, President Ronald Reagan, was placed in the hall in 2009 replacing a statue of the Rev. Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian minister and famous orator credited during the Civil War with saving California from becoming a separate republic.
Blessed Serra’s statue is one of five Catholic missionaries — four priests and a woman religious — on display, and there is also a statue of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll.
The missionary statues and their respective states are: St. Damien de Veuster, Hawaii; (Read More)