Story by S.L. Hansen
WAVERLY (SNR) - Bishop Emeritus Fabian W. Bruskewitz will lead a retreat called, “Holy Vocations: In the Footsteps of St. Junípero Serra” Oct. 2-4. The retreat is open to all men and women and will be held at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly.
Father Gary Coulter, director of Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House, said the retreat may be of special interest to Serra Club members because St. Junípero is their patron, but all Catholics would benefit from the topics Bishop Bruskewitz will discuss during the weekend.
“It’s about how we can live holiness in our vocations,” he said, whatever that vocation might be: married, single, priest or religious.
St. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who was a missionary to the Americas, is to be canonized later this month by Pope Francis when he comes to the United States.
Born on a Mediterranean island in 1713, Miguel Jose Serra grew up helping his father harvest olives in the morning and learning Latin, plain chant and catechism at a Franciscan church in the afternoon. Early on, he adopted Franciscan missionaries such as Raymond Lull and St. Francis of Assisi as his role models.
After having been turned away earlier for being too young and sickly, he became a Franciscan novice shortly before his 17th birthday. In addition to following the order’s practice of prayer, spiritual reading, silence, and physical chores, St. Junípero spent a great deal of time studying the life of the newly canonized St. Francis Solano, who had been a Franciscan missionary.
When making his final vows in 1731, he took the name Junípero after the companion of St. Francis of Assisi. As he was equally studious and eloquent, the Franciscans made him a lecturer of philosophy. He eventually received his doctorate and was appointed to teach at Lullian University.
It wasn’t long before St. Francis Solano’s tireless work against slave traders and love for Africans and Native American inspired St. Junípero’s own missionary zeal. In 1750 at the age of 37, he arrived in Mexico City. He spent the rest of his life working with people in the New World.
Eventually, St. Junípero took over the Jesuit missions in California after the Mexican government expelled those brothers over a misunderstanding. He embodied grace to many indigenous people who were hearing the Gospel for the first time.
Though he often had to defy local government as well as battle through rugged climate and primitive conditions, St. Junípero Serra is credited with giving the Church a firm foundation all along the west coast of what is now the United States. He founded 21 missions while patiently and persistently sharing the love of Christ with local Native Americans, which resulted in thousands of conversions.
At the age of 70, he died cradling the Cross of Caravac, a crucifix depicting the Blessed Mother at its base with tiny relics of Raymond Lull imbedded in the wood.
Pope John Paul II beatified Friar Serra in September of 1988. Last January, Pope Francis announced that St. Junípero Serra would be canonized during the Holy Father’s trip to the United States this month.
“He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country,” the pope said in his May 2 homily.
The Holy Father also noted that all Catholics should look upon missionary disciples like St. Junípero as an inspiration, because they were “moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, (they) went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity.”
Pope Francis asked whether his listeners possess the same “generosity and courage” to respond to the same call to worship and follow God, “to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy.”
He added his desire that through St. Junípero Serra’s witness of holiness, “may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church,” he said.
The retreat will begin on Friday evening and end after lunch on Sunday. Activities include Mass, talks and meditations by Bishop Bruskewitz, an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance, and more. Attendees stay in private rooms, and three healthy meals, snacks and beverages are included in the $170 retreat fee.
Above all, there will be opportunities for meditation and reflection that can lead to significant spiritual growth.
“It’s open to everyone who is interested in the topic,” Father Coulter said.
A limited number of rooms are available at the retreat center. To register, visit www.goodcounselretreat.com or call (402)-786-2705.
Related item: Celebrating the canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra