Pope to Canonize Junipero Serra During Fall Visit to U.S.

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

Blessed Junipero Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis during his visit to the United States in September at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The following is a compilation of recent news from the website of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, composed of provinces from the United States, England, Ireland, Lithuania and Malta

When Pope Francis announced his plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra this September, even the vice postulator for Junipero’s sainthood cause was surprised.

Fr. John Vaughn, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, told Catholic News Service that he had heard that Pope Francis considered Bl. Serra to have already met the criteria for sainthood, but the pope’s announcement was still unanticipated.

“This is a great honor for the province,” Fr. Vaughn, the Order’s former General Minister, told the Catholic News Service. “We’ve always looked to Serra as the ideal for how to preach the Gospel, as he said, ‘always go forward, never back.’”

Canonization in Washington
The cause for Bl. Serra’s beatification began in the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno, Calif., in 1934, and the diocesan process was completed in 1949. On Sept. 25, 1988, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Pope Francis has hailed Bl. Serra, founder of the California missions, as “the evangelizer of the West in the United States,” and has waived the requirement that the friar have been involved in verifiable miracles in order to be proclaimed a saint.

On the papal flight from the Philippines to the Vatican, the pope announced that he plans to perform the canonization ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The canonization would likely take place on Sept. 23, with the Mass being open primarily to “bishops, consecrated and religious men and women, seminarians and representatives from humanitarian and Catholic charitable organizations,” according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations.

The agenda for the pontiff’s trip to the United States — including visits to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and New York City to address the United Nations — does not allow enough time for him to travel to California, where the 18th-century Franciscan friar ministered. St. Barbara Province’s website contains a biography of the future saint.

Sacred Heart Friar Named Archbishop
In other news from the English-speaking Conference, on Jan. 12 Pope Francis named Fr. Fernand Cheri III, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, La. His ordination will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on March 23 at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

Fr. Ferd was born in New Orleans on Jan. 28, 1952 and raised in the city. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese there on May 20, 1978. He served in several parishes, as well as in the campus ministry at Quincy, Ill, University and Xavier University in Cincinnati.

He entered the Franciscan Order in 1992 and made his solemn profession in 1996. Since becoming a friar, he has served as pastor and guardian, as a member of his province’s council and in campus ministry at both high schools and colleges. He has also been director of the province’s office of friar life, as well as vocation director.

Fr. Ferd, a nationally renowned archivist of black religious music, has written several articles and books on black Catholic worship and liturgy. A revivalist who preaches across the country, he draws his strength from God’s Word in Scripture: “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” (2 Cor 12:9)

“I look forward to working with the people of New Orleans again,” Fr. Ferd told the Catholic News Agency soon after his appointment was announced. “I never left New Orleans. It’s always a part of me. Wherever I go, I bring New Orleans. It’s going to be great to be back in the city and reconnect, reinvigorate all the ways I grew up in the Church.”

Other topics that the ESC has publicized recently through Facebook and Twitter include:

  • The creation of a new Franciscan province in Spain, a union of six of the eight OFM provinces that had previously existed there, as well as the small custody of San Francisco Solano in Peru
  • A photo of friars — including Raphael Bonanno, OFM, Lawrence Ford, OFM, Christopher Keenan, OFM, Howard O’Shea, OFM, and Brian Smail, OFM — who attended the interprovincial retreat on the themes of Blessed John Duns Scotus, offered by Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, in New Mexico from Jan. 5 to 9.
  • The death of the oldest friar in the conference, Fr. Felix (John) Reczek, OFM, of Assumption Province, on Dec. 21. He was 101 years old, a professed friar for 77 years and a priest for 70.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.