Father Junípero Serra—Apostle of California

by Jean Grant

Help your students learn about Fr. Junipero Serra with this prayer service.

Preparation: Make a poster or draw on the board a large outline of the state of California. Place nine dots to show locations of the nine original missions creating the “Golden Chain.” Gather together prayerfully. Options for opening song: “City of God,” “Servant Song,” or another appropriate song.

All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Leader: Dear God, we thank you for the gift of Father Junípero Serra. His missionary zeal followed the example of St. Francis of Assisi, whom he admired greatly. He often preached at missions, and he would hit his chest with a rock or scourge and beat his back. It was a time when punishing yourself was thought to make you holier, atone for sins, and teach a lesson. Fr. Serra’s main goal was to bring God to the Native Americans. After that he hoped to teach them to care for the land, grow crops, and farm while bettering themselves.

All: Thank you, God, for those who gave up everything to share your message.

Reader #1: Read Psalm 95:1-7 aloud.

Leader: Dear God, Fr. Serra came to a land that was raw and untamed. Spain wanted it to be colonized. Missionaries treated the Native Americans as if they were their children, including using corporal punishment, which was common at the time. Other saints have sinned in their lives. Only our God of forgiveness and loving mercy can know our hearts and help us to change and do our best. Fr. Serra founded the first nine missions in the “Golden Chain” from San Diego to the Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura, CA. He insisted on walking with a bad leg and foot as he traveled from mission to mission. He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Native Americans and missionaries to physically build the missions. As he grew older he developed asthma. Although not a bishop, he was given a special dispensation to administer the sacrament of confirmation to converts. His home base was Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel-by-the-Sea). He died August 28, 1784, and was buried on the Gospel side of the sanctuary when the building was completed. Pope Francis canonized Fr. Serra during his September visit to the United States.

All: Thank you, God, for those who endured physical and mental hardships until their bodies could do no more. We pray for mercy for all of our sins.

Reader #2Read Mark 14:22-25 aloud.

Leader: Missionaries worldwide present the teachings of the Catholic faith—including the Ten Commandments, sacraments, and the Good News—to explain how to grow closer to God and sometimes replace local traditions and culture. Transubstantiation—the doctrine that the body and blood of Jesus is completely present in the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist—was very important to Fr. Serra. Let us all now pray together the Our Father—the prayer Jesus taught us—to speak to God the Father and ask forgiveness and seek mercy for the shortcomings of all.

All: Our Father who art in heaven…

Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, October 2015
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