The Santa Barbara Mission is welcoming the announcement of Father Junipero Serra as the next Saint in a ceremony expected in September. Pope Francis made the announcement as he plans his United States trip in September.
Father Serra created nine of the 21 California Missions, including San Buenaventura and San Luis Obispo. He was present when the Presidio was developed in Santa Barbara, but efforts to build a mission were delayed by the government, and occurred after Father Serra died.
Many key documents on the origins of the California Missions are located in a secure library at the Santa Barbara Mission. They include handwritten letters from Father Serra.
A statue of Father Junipero Serra at the Santa Barbara Mission entrance welcomes guests.
Historian Monica Orozco said, “Serra is revered as a Saint and has been considered a Saint by many already. The Pope is sanctioning that and recognizing that.”
Pope Francis said, “in September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States, who was the evangelizer of the west of the United States.”
Father John Vaughn has been supporting the canonization for years and said Father Serra, “really is a great figure of self sacrifice and wanting to give his life for other people.”
As part of the early developments in Santa Barbara, a new mission was to become a religious cornerstone about 1782, but there were political delays.
“He actually established the Presidio Chapel and had planned to establish the mission here in Santa Barbara,” said Orozco. “We actually do have the register where he wrote it down and it was crossed out, because he received word from the Governor not to establish the mission here, but it wasn’t unfortunately after his death that the mission was established.”
It also brought a religious base to the area. ” Building up a different civilization, a new civilization based on the good things they had as Native Americans,” said Father Vaughn.
The Pope plans to travel to Philadelphia, and his visit is expected to include New York and Washington D.C.
There are no plans at this time to come west for a specific celebration of Father Serra’s work for the Catholic church in California, although many people are hoping that will be included in the U.S. visit as part of the canonization process.
Father Serra’s name is on many high schools, highways and trails in California. Above the Santa Barbara Mission, Alameda Padre Serra (Father’s Serra’s Street) runs along the base of the Riviera and overlooks the city.