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serra History

In September of 1944, Junípero Serra High School opened its doors with a faculty of five and a student body of 86 freshman and sophomore boys. Established by Archbishop Mitty as a college-preparatory high school for boys in San Mateo County, Serra was named in honor of Padre Junípero Serra. It was the first Catholic high school west of the Mississippi to be staffed entirely by diocesan priests. Serra was originally located at Columbia Drive and the Alameda de las Pulgas in San Mateo (the current site of St. Bartholomew's Parish).

A notable increase in enrollment during the 1940s and early 1950s made it imperative to expand the facilities on the old site or to find a new location and build a larger school. In 1952, the present 12-and-a-half-acre site was purchased by the Archdiocese from the San Mateo Gymkhana Club. Reverend Edward R. Allen became the new principal to guide the school during this time of rapid expansion.

There were 576 students and a faculty of 21 in 1955, when classes began at the new campus on West 20th Avenue in San Mateo. As principal from 1955 to 1961, Reverend Thomas I. Kennedy helped to meet the needs of a massive population increase in San Mateo County. Monsignor James F. Maher, who was the principal from 1961 to 1967, made sure that Serra continued to be recognized as an academic leader. As the number of laity on the faculty and staff increased, a greater effort was made to try to meet their financial and retirement needs - thus enabling the school to retain a stable and qualified faculty.

In the years after the Second Vatican Council, when society struggled to deal with the upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s, Serra maintained its commitment to the Catholic community of San Mateo County. Reverend Harold J. O'Donnell succeeded Monsignor Maher as principal in September of 1967. He guided the Serra community during those turbulent years, until Reverend Ludwig M. Andre became principal in 1970.

In the mid 1970's, Serra responded to the ever-growing academic and spiritual requirements of the school community by restructuring the school's administrative staff, expanding the curriculum, converting the role of chaplain to a Campus Ministry position, and implementing numerous campus improvements.

In 1978, Michael Peterson became the first lay person to serve as principal. Reverend Stephen H. Howell was simultaneously appointed to serve as Serra's first president. Under this new model, Serra's reputation as a Catholic school with a strong college preparatory focus flourished. Those who led the school during this period ensured that the school "developed the gifts and talents of each student and fostered Gospel values in an environment of academic excellence and mutual respect."

During the 1980s and 1990s, several development efforts successfully raised funds that led to the renovation of school facilities. In addition, new advances in technology were introduced to the faculty and students. In 1999, a new campaign began to provide Serra with state-of-the-art facilities and an endowment that will enable Serra to continue its important mission well into the 21st century.

From 2002 to 2004, Reverend Joseph P. Bradley '73 served as Serra's president. Under his leadership, the school continued to provide excellent programs that emphasized developing each student's spiritual and intellectual growth. Lars J. Lund was appointed principal of Serra in 2003. Following the successful principal-president leadership model, Barry Thornton, Ed.D. became principal in 2008 and Lars Lund assumed the role of president.

Today, Serra continues to thrive as a well-respected, college-preparatory high school for young men who reside all over the Bay Area. Although times have changed and the world has evolved, the Serra community remains true to its core mission of developing young men of "faith, wisdom, service, community and leadership" who live their lives with integrity and care about making a difference in the lives of others.

Blessed Saint Junípero Serra
1713 - 1784

Father Serra, a zealous and courageous missionary who traveled the length of California, and founded the Missions, was born on the Island of Majorca, November 24, 1713. After his ordination as a Franciscan, he taught philosophy and theology with great distinction at the Lullian University at Palma. In 1749, he volunteered for the Missions of the New World and sailed for Mexico to enter the Apostolic College of San Fernando. For the next eighteen years, he zealously labored at various Missions in Baja California. In 1767, when the Spanish governor exiled the Jesuits from Baja California, Father Serra was named president of the Missions there. Two years later, at the age of fifty-five and afflicted with an ulcerous leg, he set out on an expedition with Portola, traveling almost a thousand miles and landing at San Diego where he founded his first Mission. For the remainder of his life, he traveled the length of the State, founding eight additional Missions. Worn out by excessive toil, he died at Carmel, on August 27, 1784, at the age of seventy-one. A signal honor was accorded him in 1913. His statue was placed in the Hall of Fame in the Capitol at Washington. In 1934, at the request of the bishop of Monterey-Fresno and the Provincial of the Franciscans at Santa Barbara, his cause for sainthood was begun. This reached a successful conclusion in September 1988, when he was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II before a large concourse of people at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. 

Serra was canonized by Pope Francis on September 23, 2015, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., during the Pope's firs visit to the United States. Because of Serra's recorded acts of piety combined with his missionary efforts, he was granted the posthumous title Apostle of California.


1713 . . Miguel Jose Serra, born at Petra on the Island of Mallorca, Spain.

1729 . . At the age of 16 he entered the service of the Catholic Church. He soon entered the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, and and took a new first name, Junípero, that of St. Francis' beloved original companion friar.

1749 . . Father Serra volunteered to serve the Franciscan missions in the new world. He left Cadiz, Spain and sailed for Vera Cruz, Mexico, at the age al 36. He traveled by foot to Mexico City to dedicate his mission vocation at the shrine of Mexico's Our Lady of Guadalupe. His first assignment was in the Sierra Gorda in Mexico.

1767 . . The Franciscans of Mexico were asked to take over missions in Baja California. These remote facilities became Father Serra's responsibility.

1769 . . Spain began settlement of Alta California with the Sacred Expedition which Serra accompanied. The first destination was San Diego. It was on Presidio Hill where Serra planted the cross and dedicated the first mission in Alta California. At this same time, the first fortified settlement was founded. Serra himself established nine missions, with a total of twenty-one missions eventually being established along the El Camino Real, from San Diego to Sonoma, a distance of 700 miles.

1784 . . At the age of 70, and after traveling 24,000 miles, Father Junípero Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo and is buried there under the sanctuary floor.


San Carlos Borromeo, Carmel California
Founded in 1770
Serra's final resting place.

Content from:
Serra International & the Serra Club of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Serra was president of the following missions.
(all founded by the Jesuits)
1. 1697 - Nuestra Señora de Loreto
2. 1699 - San Francisco Xavier
3. 1705 - Santa Rosalía de Mulegé
4. 1708 - San José de Comondú
5. 1720 - La Purísima Concepción de 
. . . . . . . .María Cadegomó
6. 1720 - Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
7. 1721 - Santiago de las Coras
8. 1721 - Nuestra Señora de los Dolores
9. 1728 - San Ignacio
10. 1730 - San José del Cabo
11. 1733 - Todos Santos
12. 1737 - San Luís Gonzaga
13. 1752 - Santa Gertrudis
14. 1762 - San Francisco de Borja
15. 1767 - Santa María de Los Angeles
 was responsible for the founding of the first nine missions.
1) 1769 - San Diego de Alcalá
2) 1770 - San Carlos Borromeo
3) 1771 - San Antonio de Padua
4) 1771 - San Gabriel Arcángel
5) 1772 - San Luís Obispo de Tolosa
6) 1776 - San Francisco de Asís
7) 1776 - San Juan Capistrano
8) 1777 - Santa Clara de Asís
9) 1782 - San Buenaventura
The next nine missions founded by Rev. Fermín Francisco Lasuén.
10) 1786 - Santa Bárbara
11) 1787 - La Purisima Concepción
12) 1791 - Santa Cruz
13) 1791 - Nuestra Señora de la Soledae
14) 1797 - San José de Guadalupe
15) 1797 - San Juan Bautista 
16) 1797 - San Miguel Arcángel
17) 1797 - San Fernando Rey de Espana
18) 1798 - San Luís Rey de Francia
Founded by others.
19) 1804 - Santa Inés
20) 1817 - San Rafael Arcángel
21) 1823 - San Francisco Solano de Sonoma




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