CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. - When Pope Francis announced in
January he would canonize Blessed Junípero Serra, the
announcement surprised people.
He had bypassed the verification of a second miracle
attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood,
which is generally required for canonization.
It was news that raised the eyebrows of Rosellen Sanna. She
and her husband have been parishioners at San Carlos Borromeo
de Carmelo Mission for nearly 20 years.
"We both have a lifelong love for the missions," she told
Catholic News Service. "We've always been fascinated by
Father Serra himself."
Sometime around the early '80s, Sanna said she picked up a
holy card at Mass. It had an image of Blessed Serra on it
that asked people to pray for the Spanish missionary's
"My mom was in her 70s ... very healthy in most respects and
keen. And she was a real lover of California history," Sanna
said. Her mother had developed a lesion on her leg that would
"She'd gone doctor to doctor ... and everything the doctors
tried to do didn't help."
The family knew Blessed Serra, too, had been afflicted with
an incessant leg sore. So they and members of their Bible
study group began to recite the prayer on the holy card.
Eventually her mother's ulcer cleared up.
"She really was healed, and we give that credit to Blessed
Junípero Serra," said Sanna.
Looking back, Sanna said she probably should have filed the
paperwork detailing her mother's healing for his sainthood
"I feel a little guilty. Because we were so busy raising our
kids, five daughters, we never filled out all the paperwork
or submitted the data as a miracle."
She said she and the Carmel Mission family are "grateful and
blessed and privileged" to be a part of Blessed Serra's
The one miracle attributed to the friar's intercession and
deemed credible by the Vatican was a case involving a young
American nun diagnosed with lupus. Franciscan Sister Mary
Boniface Dyrda attributed her inexplicable cure in 1960 to
the prayers she offered through Father Serra. She died in
Regarding the lack of a second verified miracle for the
Franciscan missionary, it is said Pope Francis considered
Blessed Serra to have already met the sainthood criteria
because of the way he brought the Catholic faith to
California and the native populations.
The pope will canonize him at a Mass Sept. 23 at the Basilica
of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in
Washington. St. John Paul II beatified him in 1988.
Blessed Serra himself was very devoted to the saints and
Mary. California's historical missions bear the names of
those he looked to for protection.
During his journey to America in 1749, a raging storm at sea
nearly brought his missionary aspirations to a halt.
He and other friars, fearing for their lives aboard the ship
named Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe),
decided to call on a "special patron" for protection. They
each wrote the name of saint on a piece of paper agreeing to
offer a special Mass for one chosen by lot.
Out of a bowl, they picked the name St. Barbara, whose feast
day it was that Dec. 4. According to the story told by one of
the friars present, the padres cried out, "Viva Santa
Barbara." and the storm immediately fell quiet.
Blessed Serra believed it was through the intercessions of
Mary and St. Barbara that they had survived the ordeal.
He dedicated his missionary work to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
And in 1786, the 10th of California's 21 missions was
established in St. Barbara's name.