San Juan Capistrano exhibit explores Father Junipero Serra legacy

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
San Juan Capistrano exhibit explores Father Junipero Serra legacy
Mission San Juan Capistrano opens up an exhibit exploring the legacy of Father Junipero Serra, who will be canonized when Pope Francis visits the U.S. this week.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (KABC) -- Father Junipero Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis during his trip to the U.S. later this week. Serra, who established 21 missions from San Diego to the Bay Area, is a key figure in California history.

The ceremonial ringing of the bells at Mission San Juan Capistrano marked another day in a week-long celebration of its founder.

The mission is preparing for the arrival of the pope and Serra's canonization.

"This is the first canonization of a saint from the United States in the United States, and so it's a great gift to us as Mission San Juan Capistrano," Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan said.

On Monday, the mission opened a new exhibit called "The Legacy of Saint Serra." It pays tribute to his life and work in the Catholic Church.

The mission will also be sending a delegation to Washington D.C. for the pope's visit, as will J. Serra Catholic High School. Sixteen students from the school who are named after Serra will be in the audience during the canonization celebration.

The students, who were all picked by the administration, will also be there for Pope Francis' historic address to Congress.

"The image of Jesus Christ on Earth, he's the leader of our church, and it's going to be so inspiring to see him and just to even be near him. It's incredible," student Joey Santoro said.

But not everyone feels the same about Serra. Native American rights groups continue to protest Serra's sainthood, citing his treatment of the indigenous people.

"It's a slap in the face to our people, and it's a slap in the face to our ancestors who died at the hands of men like Junipero Serra," said Citalli Anahuac, a member of Mexica Movement.

The canonization Mass will be held on Wednesday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. The ceremony will be held in Spanish.