Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Junípero Serra (1713–1784)

Saint Junípero Serra (1713–1784)

Patron saint of vocations

Feast day: July 1

Junípero Serra was born in Majorca, Spain, in 1713, and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1737. He spent most of his priestly life as a missionary in Mexico, Texas, and California. During his ministry, Father Serra is believed to have baptized nearly 6,000 people. He also established several missions up and down the coast of California and was an important figure in the founding of our country.

Father Serra was always known for his respect and kind treatment of the Native American people, even in a time when other missionaries may not have been so caring. He believed all people are equal, and he helped fight for their rights as children of God.

Known as a gifted evangelizer, Father Serra was a key figure in helping spread the faith in the New World. He worked tirelessly in sharing the love of God with all he met. California still honors him as an important historical figure. Pope John Paul II beatified Father Serra in 1988, calling him an “exemplary model of the selfless evangelizer.” Pope Francis canonized him in 2015. The Serra Club, an organization that exists to promote vocations to the priesthood, is named for Father Serra.

Note: The canonization of Saint Junípero caused some controversy, especially for Indigenous people in California. Some see Serra as a beloved saint who brought their ancestors the gift of faith. Others see him as an oppressor of their people. This reminds us that saints are people of their times. They are saints not because they are perfect or sinless, but because they do their best to follow God's will. (From Connect! Bringing Faith to Life, Church History (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth: Third Edition [Saint Mary's Press])

(Image © Vicki Shuck/Saint Mary's Press)