California & Spain: Pilgrim exchanges, Friar Junipero Serra

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  • Tile sign at birthplace of Fra Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Tile sign at birthplace of Fra Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Purple splash of bougainvillea in Petra neighborhood where Fra Junipero Serra was born. Purple splash of bougainvillea in Petra neighborhood where Fra Junipero Serra was born. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Tile street memorial in Petra, Mallorca to native son Fra Junipero Serra of San Carlos Mission in Carmel, California USA where the renowned 18th Century missionary is buried. Tile street memorial in Petra, Mallorca to native son Fra Junipero Serra of San Carlos Mission in Carmel, California USA where the renowned 18th Century missionary is buried. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Entrance to the childhood home of Fra. Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Entrance to the childhood home of Fra. Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Small family room in 18C adobe home of Fra Serra in Petra on Spanish Mediterranean Island of Mallorca. Small family room in 18C adobe home of Fra Serra in Petra on Spanish Mediterranean Island of Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Outdoor kitchen of Fra. Serra's boyhood adobe home in Petra, Mallorca. Outdoor kitchen of Fra. Serra's boyhood adobe home in Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Fra. Juan Marti Gandia at candle worship in boyhood home of Fra. Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Fra. Juan Marti Gandia at candle worship in boyhood home of Fra. Junipero Serra in Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Fra. Juan Marti Gandia dressed in his robes as a Franciscan Friar at the entrance of the Junipero Serra Museum in Petra, Mallorca. Fra. Juan Marti Gandia dressed in his robes as a Franciscan Friar at the entrance of the Junipero Serra Museum in Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Room with historical treasures relating to Fra Junipero Serra's New World missionary accomplishments in Petra, Mallorca museum named for him. Room with historical treasures relating to Fra Junipero Serra's New World missionary accomplishments in Petra, Mallorca museum named for him. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Colored sand mural of Fra Serra's departure from Mallorca, the place of his birth in Petra in 1713 to New World California where he died in 1784. Colored sand mural of Fra Serra's departure from Mallorca, the place of his birth in Petra in 1713 to New World California where he died in 1784. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Parish Church of St. Barbara of Bonany framed by palms with a history from 1631 is typical of island sanctuaries on Spanish Mallorca in the Mediterranean. Parish Church of St. Barbara of Bonany framed by palms with a history from 1631 is typical of island sanctuaries on Spanish Mallorca in the Mediterranean. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Well at entrance to Parish of Bonany where Fra Serra preached his final sermon before departing to the New World in 1749Énever to return. Well at entrance to Parish of Bonany where Fra Serra preached his final sermon before departing to the New World in 1749Énever to return. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Raising of the Cross in New Spain (today's Mexico) before communion worship with native Indian congregation by Franciscans including Fra Serra. Colored sand mural in Petra's Serra Museum, Mallorca. Raising of the Cross in New Spain (today's Mexico) before communion worship with native Indian congregation by Franciscans including Fra Serra. Colored sand mural in Petra's Serra Museum, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Tile rendition of baptismal blessing of native Indian infant by Fra Serra in California in the 1700s in the garden of the museum dedicated to him in his town of birth: Petra on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Tile rendition of baptismal blessing of native Indian infant by Fra Serra in California in the 1700s in the garden of the museum dedicated to him in his town of birth: Petra on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Harvest time at 17C New World California mission built by Fra. Serra. Colored sand painting, St. Bernard Monastery Museum, Petra, Mallorca. Harvest time at 17C New World California mission built by Fra. Serra. Colored sand painting, St. Bernard Monastery Museum, Petra, Mallorca. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Tile rendering of the burial place of Junipero Serra in Mission Carmel in central California where he died in 1784. Tile rendering of the burial place of Junipero Serra in Mission Carmel in central California where he died in 1784. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Statuary and painting of California mission founder inside Petra, Mallorca museum dedicated to him adjoining his birthplace. Statuary and painting of California mission founder inside Petra, Mallorca museum dedicated to him adjoining his birthplace. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Senor Bartolome Bestard Bone, President of the Friends of Fra. Junipero Serra and former US Consul in Mallorca for 45 years. Senor Bartolome Bestard Bone, President of the Friends of Fra. Junipero Serra and former US Consul in Mallorca for 45 years. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Historical markers at Mission San Rafael Archangel in Northern, California. Historical markers at Mission San Rafael Archangel in Northern, California. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Bronze statue of the Arch Angel above the entrance to the Mission Church of San Rafael in Northern California. Bronze statue of the Arch Angel above the entrance to the Mission Church of San Rafael in Northern California. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Three gleaming golden crosses top the towers of the facade of the Parish Church of San Raphael Arcangel, the next to last mission on California's famed Mission Trail in San Rafael, Northern California. Three gleaming golden crosses top the towers of the facade of the Parish Church of San Raphael Arcangel, the next to last mission on California's famed Mission Trail in San Rafael, Northern California. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Bronze statue of Spanish friar Junipero Serra, the Father of California's famed Mission Trail which stretches from near the Mexican border to Northern California's famed Wine Country. Monument at Mission San Rafael Archangel. Bronze statue of Spanish friar Junipero Serra, the Father of California's famed Mission Trail which stretches from near the Mexican border to Northern California's famed Wine Country. Monument at Mission San Rafael Archangel. Photo by: Dave Bartruff

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2013 – Transcontinental pilgrimages are now in progress as the Spanish faithful of the idyllic Mediterranean island of Mallorca journey across the Atlantic and beyond to California’s Pacific coast in honor of the 300th anniversary of the birth of their native son Friar Junipero Serra, their “Apostle to California.”

Fra Serra, driven by his missionary zeal in the latter part of the 18th Century, eventually led to the founding of 21 missions strategically build along the shores of the Pacific to evangelize and better the lives of the then native Indian population.


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Today many California faithful in turn are now journeying to Mallorca and to Junipero Serra’s birthplace itself situated in the quaint rural village of Petra in the island’s heartland to honor the renowned evangelist and state founder. 

Petra’s current population of some 2,000 souls has remained virtually unchanged since their favorite son’s departure in 1749 to his mission field in the “New Spain” claimed by the then-powerful Spanish Crown in the North American continent.

In answer to the call of the Holy Spirit at the age of 36, the beloved Serra left the comfortable lifestyle he earned through great effort to become a priest and then theological professor at Mallorca’s leading university.

His calling was so profound that he would never again return to his island place of birth.


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After a grueling trans Atlantic sailing voyage that lasted 99 days, he finally landed on the North American Continent at today’s Mexican Port of Vera Cruz.  From there, he continued inland for more than 200 miles on foot.

After 20 years of mission planting in today’s Mexico, in 1759 at age 56, Serra crossed over northward into Alta California, which in 1850 became the 31st American State of California. 

Until Serra’s death in 1784, the mission builder laid the foundations of Christianity in this unchartered land.  His first baptism of an Indian infant followed in time to 1,041 baptisms in his San Carlos Borromeo Mission alone by the legendary evangelist’s passing.

Back in Serra’s native Petra, all roads seem to lead to the famed evangelist’s childhood home and its adjoining Fra. Junipero Serra Museum and Study Center down a narrow street named for the village’s renowned native son.


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My own visit was enhanced as I was escorted through Serra’s hometown by the kindly Senor Bartolome Bestard Bone, President of the Association of the Friends of Father Junipero Serra. 

A devoted Christian and Mallorca son, he earlier served as the island’s United States Consul for 45 years, though not an  American citizen himself.  He is also president of the Worldwide Association of the Friends of Father Junipero Serra that is orchestrating the Tri Centennial celebration of the New World evangelist’s birth this year.

I was also joined by Friar Juan Marti Gandia, in the traditional robes of a Franciscan father, as we inspected the humble adobe Serra family dwelling adjoining the museum.

The home consists of two bedrooms, the largest that served as the stable for the family burro! The kitchen was located out of doors under a tent-like covering.  A family room served as a place for relaxing and dining.  And candles were the simple abode’s only source of lighting.

Friar Juan graciously reenacted his candle worship ritual in his Franciscan robes in the dark abode of Serra’s family room that reverently transported me back to the 1700s’ life and time of his departed Franciscan brother.

Later down the cobblestone Calle del Padre Junipero Serra we entered the courtyard of the museum dedicated to Petra’s beloved native son that opened in 1959.

Focal point of the courtyard is a large Spanish tile mural of the famed evangelist baptizing an American Indian infant surrounded by his parents and brothers and sisters.

Indoors an astounding treasure trove of historical documents and memorabilia was contained.  In an upstairs lecture room I was invited to its stage where a statuette of the famed evangelist and

Petra native son adorned a tabletop decorated with flowers.

Instinctively, as a Californian myself, I unashamedly reached out to embrace the sculpture of the icon of the legendary founding father my own home land.

My final Serra landmark in tiny Petra was nearby: the St. Bernadini Monastery Church, the final resting place of Serra’s parents beneath the main aisle of the sanctuary.

Now with my Petra pilgrimage complete and with a greater understanding, I appreciate even more than ever why the statue of Fra. Junipero Serra today stands in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC representing the State of California, the lone non-American citizen of the fifty statesmen so honored.


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Dave Bartruff

California-based Dave Bartruff is an award-winning photojournalist who has traveled to more than ninety countries.

Column Description: “Faraway places with strange-sounding names” is my middle name.  I’d like to introduce myself to you as often as I can.

 

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