Recently a group of 30 pilgrims from the Diocese of Las Vegas and beyond followed in the footsteps of Saint Junípero Serra (1713-1784). Father John McShane, Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Ely, NV, was the pilgrimage chaplain and Christian Clifford, author of two books about Saint Junípero Serra, was the resident scholar.
The eighteenth century Catholic priest, Junípero Serra, was canonized by Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. on September 23, 2015. Pope Francis called him the “Evangelizer of the West” and Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) “ . . . one of the innovators and pioneers . . .” in California history.
Clifford shares, “Saint Junípero Serra was baptized the day he was born because it was believed he would not live long. He would live to be 70 years old and accomplish great things. He travelled thousands of miles, often in great physical pain, to share a transformative message. Against great odds, he never gave up! He spoke out against injustice, showed great mercy, was a pioneer, and a man of true grit. He has a lot to teach the modern person.”
Saint Junípero Serra Pilgrimage Summer 2016 covered 715 miles over 60 hours. Starting in Las Vegas the group went first to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded in 1769, and celebrated Mass at the birthplace of Christianity in California. That evening the group worshiped with The Catholic Community of San Luis Rey in Oceanside, who was celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula. The following day the pilgrims toured Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776. Of particular interest to the group was the Serra Chapel, the only original California mission church still standing in which Serra is known to have celebrated the sacraments. The next day the group made their last stop at Mission San Gabriel Archangel, founded under Serra’s leadership in 1771.
Fr. McShane said the greatest blessing of the pilgrimage was the relationships that were made. “It connected people from all over – the Las Vegas Valley, Elko, Ely, Mesquite, and even Louisiana. We were able to step back to the 18th century and experience the contributions of the Franciscans, especially Saint Junípero Serra. When one can step out of their parish on a trip like this, it gives one a chance to connect with the larger Church.”
Rowena Verar, parishioner at Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary, Las Vegas, Nevada, reflected on the pilgrimage; “This was my first pilgrimage with a group. I learned the history of the mission churches and most important of all, I got to know who Saint Junipero Serra was. I learned a lot from this trip. I needed the pilgrimage trip as a birthday gift to myself.”
To learn more about Saint Junípero Serra, visit www.SaintSerraBook.com.