Photo courtesy of Richard Wong.

Catholic believers pray for the intercession of the saints in heaven so that they may pray for us on our behalf. Saints are able to intercede on our behalf and offer up to God the prayers of those on Earth.

Patron saints are recognized as the heavenly advocates and special intercessors for many things, even states. If you want to ask for the special intercession on behalf of your state, do you know who to pray to?

Saint Junípero Serra was canonized by Pope Francis in Washington D.C. in September 2015—the first canonization to take place on American soil. Serra is considered a patron saint of California, where he played an instrumental role in building the Church on the west coast of America.

Serra was born into a small farming family in Spain in 1713. At the age of 15, he studied philosophy at a Franciscan monastery. Serra obtained his doctorate in theology and by 1749 he was called to become an Indian missionary in America.

Serra sailed for America and landed in Veracruz, Mexico on December 7, 1749. Although horses were supplied for the friars, Serra elected to walk the 250 miles between Veracruz and Mexico City.

During his time serving with the Pame Indians between 1750 and 1758, Serra not only oversaw construction of a church, which is still in use, but developed his mission in both religious and economic directions. Economically, his mission prospered through the introduction of domestic animals, agriculture and the development of commerce. He also defended Indian rights against non-native settlers in the area. During building operations on his church, he worked as an ordinary day laborer.

In 1768, Serra joined an expedition to Upper California. On March 28, 1769, Serra left the mission at Loreto on muleback, arriving in San Diego on July 1. Serra kept a diary of his journey, during which he suffered greatly from an ailment in his legs and feet and had to be carried on a stretcher. Serra devoted the next 15 years of his life to evangelical work in Upper California. During that period, he founded nine missions. By the end of 1784, Indian baptisms at the first nine missions reached more than 6,700.

Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo, which he established, on August 28, 1784 at the age of 70 and is buried in the floor of the sanctuary there. He is the subject of several dozen biographies in various languages, and his life is studied in California schools to this day.

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Kelly Legg has been writing for the Osprey Observer as a freelance writer for three years, and has recently taken on the role of managing editor for the Christian Voice newspaper. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications. She currently resides in Riverview with her husband and three children.