When Pope Francis announced that he was going to declare sainthood for Junipero Serra during a flight to Manila in January 2015, some people took it as an impromptu decision. And while the announcement might have been made on the spur of the moment, the process that led to it was anything but.
When the Catholic Church declares someone a saint (including Junipero Serra), a long, deliberate protocol must be followed. The aim is to reach a maximum certainty about the worthiness of the person canonized (declared a saint). But worthiness for what?
Junípero Serra was a Spanish Franciscan friar who established the a series of missions among the native peoples of what is today California. He is considered by many to be the founding father of California and is recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Junípero Serra was born Miguel José Serra and baptized on November 24, 1713, in the town of Petra on the island of Mallorca, Spain. Though small for his age and somewhat sickly, as a boy he was filled with grand aspirations. The young José had developed an interest in reading the lives of the saints, fascinated in particular by the descriptions of St Francis of Assisi.