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At Serra HS, new meaning to ‘always forward’

January 23, 2015
Catholic San Francisco

Freshmen at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo learn about Blessed Junipero Serra in their first theology class, from how he established California missions to sayings attributed to him: “Always forward” is a school theme, said Gary Meegan, chairman of the theology department.

The theme took on greater meaning with the pope’s announcement last week that he will canonize Father Serra, the 18th-century Spanish friar who founded a network of missions in California, in September when he visits the United States.

“I thought it was a really cool thing to happen my senior year,” said Glenn McDonell, 17, who said the students are speculating whether Serra will change its name to St. Junipero Serra High School. He cited Father Serra’s words “Although I may die on the way, I will never turn back,” and “always forward” as among the writings of Father Serra that the boys incorporate into their thinking.

The school prayer includes “In the spirit of Junipero Serra, let us never give up.”

“Despite the challenges, we are always moving forward and always drawing strength from God and God’s mission for our lives,” said Glenn, who works as a student leader in Serra’s campus ministry and helps with student retreats.

“Life is tough,” said Meegan, noting Father Serra’s life of constant pain from an injured foot as he traveled the West Coast is a great example for the boys of persistence and tenacity with the inspiration of faith. However, because the boys learn so much about Father Serra, they also think of him as “their cool friend,” Meegan said.

Serra president Lars Lund said Father Serra “evangelized in the context of colonization which we now know was very problematic. Father Serra in his time and place had to find his way forward and in his time and place he was able to find holiness. How do we in our time and place answer Christ’s call and find holiness? We use Father Serra as a model for that.”

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