ST. JUNIPERO SERRA Pope to canonize California missionary despite protests
first female — and the first lesbian — to be honored in the National Statuary Hall.
President Ronald Reagan is California’s other representative statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The statue issue has died down for the moment, and Mr. Brown, who once aspired to be a priest himself, has promised the Serra statue will stay put. Serra is a “very courageous man” and “one of the innovators and pioneers of America,” Mr. Brown said earlier this year.
Supporters say hundreds of years of investigations and study confirm such praise.
“Father Serra deserves to be a saint. He gave his life in service to the Lord, battled injustice, and inspired everyone who worked with him to be a better Christian,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wrote in a recent paper called “The Noble Legacy of Father Serra.”
Serra was a devout, zealous man who, once he arrived in Mexico, walked nearly 300 miles to “consecrate his mission at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe before coming to California,” Mr. Donohue said.
Afterwards, the priest founded nine missions along the California coast, including ones that provided the seeds around which grew such modern-day cities as San Francisco, San Diego, Ventura and Carmelby-the-Sea. He set up agrarian societies, introduced building structures and learned a local Indian language to better speak and preach to their communities. He also baptized around 6,000 people, many of whom were Indians.
Letters and documents show that Serra often stood against other Europeans in defense of Indians, Mr. Donohue wrote. He was heroic, he told The Washington Times. “The humility of this man — his humbleness is just stunning to me.”
Associating Serra with crimes and abuses — especially those that happened after his death — is “the ultimate martyrdom Serra has suffered,” said Ruben Mendoza, an archaeology professor at California State University in Monterey Bay, according to an article in the Our Sunday Visitor newsweekly.
“The historical record on Father Serra and his treatment of the indigenous peoples are as clear as records from that time can be,” said Mr. Liston.
Mr. Liston also noted that Mr. Mendoza’s article matters because he was taught not to think highly of the Catholic missions, but personally reviewed the records with “an archaeologist’s eye.”
He “came to realize that the missions were, in many respects, a sanctuary for the indigenous people, both spiritually and socially,” said Mr. Liston.