By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
While skimming an article about Fr. Junipero Serra and his contributions to evangelization by founding missions in California, I had this “aha” moment: the City of Ventura, California is named after St. Bonaventure. Really? Yes: the Mission San Buenaventura located there lends its name to the shortened “Ventura” city name.
Of course. It makes all the sense that Fr. Serra would have given Franciscan names to each of the missions he founded, including one in honor of St. Bonaventure. Here I am, a Franciscan for a lifetime, and only now am I realizing that about Ventura, California? What other Franciscan gems are to be mined from the California missions?
So I delved into this more. Father (now Saint) Junipero Serra lived from 1713-1784 but did his California mission founding in the last 15 years of his life. The Mission San Buenaventura was the last of nine missions he founded in 1782.
Of those nine missions, seven are named after Franciscans:
- Mission San Diego (1769) named for the Franciscan St. Didacus;
- Mission San Antonio de Padua (1771) named for the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua
- Mission San Luis Obispo (1772) named for the Franciscan St. Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France
- Mission San Francisco de Asis (1776) named after St. Francis himself and is today Mission Dolores
- Mission San Juan Capistrano (1776) named for the Franciscan St. John of Capistrano
- Mission Santa Clara de Asis (1777) named for the Franciscan St. Clare of Assisi
- Mission San Buenaventura (1782) named for the Franciscan St. Bonaventure
It isn’t just the famous swallows who come home to Capistrano on March 19 each year but the Sylvania Franciscans also called Capistrano home when they taught at the school there for 17 years from 1928-1945. One of our most ardent educators, the late-Sister Felicia, was part of the group there and often spoke about the experience. She was principal of Little Flower School in Toledo where I attended and she was also my first principal when I was a young sister teaching eighth grade at St. Ann School in Cincinnati. It was obvious that Sr. Felicia held those Capistrano memories very dear.
The other two missions Fr. Serra founded had a Franciscan connection in their names:
- Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Carmelo (1769) named for King Carlos III of Spain; Cardinal St. Charles Borromeo supervised the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Knights of Malta
- Mission San Gabriel Arcangel (1771) named for the Archangel Gabriel who announced to Mary the Incarnation of becoming the Mother of God, a key Franciscan focus
We all know that San Francisco was named after St. Francis, but did you know that the City of Los Angeles has as its full name, “Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Portiuncula” or Our Lady Queen of Angels?
In addition there are several USA cities with Franciscan name roots:
San Antonio TX and St. Anthony ID – named after St. Anthony of Padua
St. Clair MI – named after St. Clare of Assisi because Lake St. Clair was discovered on her feast in 1679
St. Francis SD – from the Indian School’s name St. Francis (Assisi)
Santa Fe NM – full name is “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francesco de Asis, or, in English, The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi
San Bernadino CA – founded by Franciscan Father Francisco Dimetz 1810
One small but well-used short-cut road I and many other Cincinnatians frequently use is Francis Lane that connects the main artery of Columbia Parkway (US 50 east and west) with Victory Parkway (take this to Xavier University). Francis Lane is somewhat of a hairpin turn that you could easily miss if you’re not looking for it. But the street sign “Francis” is all you need. I think of Francis of Assisi. I think of Pope Francis. And I think of a long-in-heaven grandfather who always went by “Frank”. Just Frank. Never Francis.
Yes, our patron St. Francis of Assisi is all around us. We’re doing our best to keep him ever before us