Catholic Down to the Bootstraps: How Father Serra was Beatified

Fr. Serra’s Cause for beatification and canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church was opened in 1934. Fr. Maynard Geiger, archivist at Old Mission Santa Barbara, the headquarters of the Serra Cause, completed much of the historical research.

From 1941 to 1955 Geiger traveled in California, Mexico and Spain, compiling documentation for the Serra Cause and his biography, The Life and Times of Fray Junípero Serra (1959). Fr. Geiger died in 1977.

The Cause received its first vice-postulator with the appointment of Fr. Eric O’Brien in 1941. Fathers Geiger and O’Brien made several trips together for the Serra Cause. In 1945 Fr. O’Brien hired Kay Hardy to handle public relations for him while he toured California missions to gather evidence for the canonization process.

Hardy got her offer upon finishing a novena to Fr. Serra requesting help getting work. “So I ended up working for Fr. Serra after I asked him for a job!” said Carmelite Sister Francisca, OCD, (formerly Kay Hardy) [now in her nineties].

On the tour, conducted in the late 1940s, the two Franciscans questioned descendants of mission Indians and others who knew of Fr. Serra’s life from their ancestors.

Among the witnesses was Abel Espinosa, whose prayer that he would live long enough to testify for Fr. Serra was answered when, at 92, he provided testimony at the Carmel Mission. The trials were conducted with a “devil’s advocate,” Fr. Lucien Arvin. Fr. Arvin searched for negative evidence on Fr. Serra’s character.