A course by Andrew A. Galvan

A course on the life and work of St. Junipero Serra

Saint Junipero Serra, O.F.M., S.T.D. (1713-84) has historically been revered as the “Apostle of California.” Since his Canonization by Pope Francis in Washington, DC on 23 September 2015 and his Beatification at Saint Peter’s Basilica on 25 September 1988, at which time Pope John Paul II declared him a “shining example of Christian virtue,” he is now “Saint Junipero,” the “Patron of California.”

On his deathbed at Mission Carmel, Saint Junipero promised that if God granted him “eternal happiness,” he would pray for “all [dwellers in these missions] and for the conversion of so many whom I leave unconverted.” Armed with the knowledge that he promised to continue his apostolate from Heaven, and knowing that he is indeed there as affirmed by his canonization, we are guaranteed that Saint Junipero is listening to our needs and problems.  He is truly a “heroic” friend and ally, and able to interced for us before God himself.  As such, he is a wonderful source of grace, inspiration, and solace, not only for those within his “Golden State,” but beyond as well.

Who was Junipero Serra?

The Apostle of California was born in the village of Petra on the Balearic Isle of Mallorca, November 24, 1713.  The religious promise of his youth prompted him to enter the Franciscan Order and to study for the Sacred Priesthood.  He earned the doctorate in Sacred Theology at the National University of Blessed Ramon Lull and was appointed to the chair of Scotistic Theology.  The prestige he enjoyed in academic circles and the popular acclaim accorded him as a preacher augured an illustrious ecclesiastical career in his native Spain.

In 1749, the brilliant professor doffed his doctoral robes to volunteer for the New World, affirming the office of Apostolic Missionary to embody the highest vocation to which he could aspire.  Enthusiastically, he adopted as his realistic motto:

“Always go forward  –  Never turn back!”

Upon disembarking at Vera Cruz, he set out on foot in pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It was on that journey to the Queen of the Americas that his leg was injured and became a constant burden, but never a hindrance, for the ensuing thirty-five years of his life.

Serra’s first missionary assignment was to the mountainous region of the Sierra Gorda above Queretaro where he labored among the Pame Indians between 1750 and 1758.  During the subsequent nine years he crisscrossed central Mexico preaching missions to the faithful.  His residence was the College of San Fernando in Mexico City, where he was engaged in varied administrative responsibilities.

The initial call to California came in 1768, when he was entrusted with the presidency of the thirteen missions in Baja or Lower California.   The following year, Spain authorized the colonizing of the area of the present Golden State and Father Serra was appointed Padre Presidente.  During the fifteen years he held that office, he founded the first nine of the twenty one missions, wherein nigh unto 6,000 Indians were baptized, most of whom Serra personally brought to supernatural maturity in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  He died August 28, 1784, at his beloved Mission San Carlos Borromeo, Carmel, where his grave continues a focal point of pious pilgrimage and veneration.

Competent scholars recognize Blessed Junipero Serra a zealous missionary, a prudent administrator, a fearless defender of the human rights of his Indian charges.  Above all, Padre Junipero Serra has been revered universally for some two centuries as a saintly Franciscan Friar.  The efforts to bring him ecclesiastical recognition climaxed on September 23, 2015, when his Holiness, Pope Francis canonized him.  On September 25, 1988, John Paul II beatified him, presenting him to the world and proclaiming anew as he did at Carmel in 1987, that “the way in which (Serra) fulfilled that mission corresponds faithfully to the Church’s vision today of what evangelization means.”

About the Teacher

Andrew A. Galvan is a descendant of the Ohlone, Bay Miwok, Plains Miwok and Patwin Indians whose ancestral lands comprise the greater San Francisco Bay Region.  His family’s roots reach back beyond European contact in the area.  Andrew traces his ancestral lineage to the laying of the cornerstone of the first buildings at Mission San Jose by his great-great-grandfather Chief Tarino.  The cornerstone for the present restored Mission San Jose Church was laid by his father Felipe “Phil” Galvan in June 1982.   Recent research has discovered his great-great-great-great grandfather’s baptismal entry in the Registers of Mission Dolores, dated November 1794.

Lately, Andrew Galvan’s efforts have focused on developing ways to preserve information about America’s ancient past for the benefit of future generations.  One of his strong beliefs is that Ohlone people need to know more about their ancestors.  He views archaeology and physical anthropology as a way of retrieving some of what his people have lost.  He believes that studies of archaeological remains are the only way he can discover what the lives of his ancient ancestors were really like. Beginning in 1976 at the well-known Holiday Inn Site in downtown San Jose through the present, Andrew has served as an Native American Indian Consultant and/or Monitor at pre-contact archaeological sites in the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

Since 1978, he has been an active promoter of the Canonization Cause of Padre Junipero Serra and is currently Vice-Chairperson of the SERRA Cause Board of Directors.

Andrew is President of The Board of Directors of The Ohlone Indian Tribe, Inc., as well as President of the Board of Directors for the Committee for the Restoration of Mission San Jose.  A long-time member of The California Mission Studies Association Andrew was its Board President from 1993 – 1997.  Andrew is a founding member of The California Missions Foundation.

As of February 1, 2004, Andrew has undertaken the duties as Curator of Old Mission Dolores, San Francisco, California. Since 2006, Andrew has joined the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program assisting in pilgrimages to the Alta California Missions.  In September 2015, Andrew was appointed by the California Conference of Catholic Bishops to lead a cultural study of all 21 California Missions. The Study will include a review of displays and signage, updates to materials used to train docents and guides, and similar updates to artwork and presentations on Mission and related websites.  Andrew earned his B.A. in History from the California State University at Hayward.

Junipero Serra, A Franciscan Missionary In Spain, Mexico And California

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