By Liz Sullivan
The 21 Catholic missions that dot the landscape from San Diego to Sonoma are a part of the fabric of California. Students throughout the state spend part of their fourth grade year researching and learning about one of them for a presentation at the end of the school calendar.
A new 256-page book by Stephen J. Binz, “Saint Junipero Serra’s Camino; A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions” focuses on the saints impact on the mission system. Binz, who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a noted Catholic Biblical Scholar.
Of the 21 missions, Serra directly founded nine of them, including Mission Santa Clara here in the Diocese of San Jose. Initially founded by the Franciscans, the order of which Serra was a member, Mission Santa Clara is now run by the Jesuits and sits nestled on the campus of Santa Clara University. It is the first mission named for a woman and the only mission located on a college campus.
“He is a founding father of California,” said Binz. “It was his vision to establish the whole mission chain. Serra had a great love for the native peoples. This journey is becoming America’s own pilgrimage way.”
Binz admitted he didn’t know much about Serra before Pope Francis canonized him on September 23, 2015 during the Pope’s first visit to the United States. After a little reading and learning, Binz has great admiration for Serra.
“Father Serra is a wonderful example of mission discipleship,” said Binz. “That is what the church is called to do right now. The missions were built by and for the native peoples, a group Serra cared so deeply for.”
Binz’s book highlights each of the 21 missions, providing information on when each was founded, address, history, prayer and any museum and grounds. The author encourages people to take a physical pilgrimage to the missions, but if they can’t do that a spiritual pilgrimage is possible with the aid of this book.
Serra died on August 28, 1784 at the age of 70 and is buried under the sanctuary floor of Mission San Carlos Borremeo in Carmel, a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
“Father Serra had a burning desire to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Native people of this land, and he devoted his entire life to that mission,” said Binz. “By following his camino, we can take on his spirit and become missionary disciples ourselves.”