Serra and sainthood: one Native Californian’s thoughts

"No Sainthood for Serra" rally

A “No Sainthood for Serra” rally at SF’s Mission Dolores (Monique Sonoquie photo)

When Pope John Paul II beatified Junípero Serra in the late 1980s — bringing him that much closer to canonization or sainthood — there was outcry from Native and non-Native Californians. “What?! The Franciscan friar who established California’s Spanish mission system on his way to joining the pantheon of saints?”

Now, as Pope Francis prepares to canonize Serra, the controversy has reignited.

“Is he not representative of the death, disease and cultural devastation of Spanish colonization?” asks Ph.D. candidate Olivia Chilcote — a member of the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Mission Indians — in a recent blog post.

“Pope Francis is not canonizing Serra, the individual,” she writes, “so much as he is canonizing the  expansion of Catholicism in the Americas and the systemic colonization that changed Indigenous peoples’ lives forever in unalterable ways.”

Read Olivia Chilcote’s piece on the Berkeley Blog.