The Diocesan Trials for the Canonization Cause of Junípero Serra began in 1948 and continued into 1949. Witnesses gave their testimony to an ecclesiastical court within the walls of Missions San Gabriel, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Carmel and San Francisco.
The judges were: The Vicar General of Monterey, Monsignor Sullivan and the Provincials of the California Jesuits, Fr. Joseph O’Brien, SJ and of the Redemptorists, and Fr. Gerald Bolger, CSSR.
The Oaths taken by the witnesses were in Latin, and were recorded by a priest designated for that duty. There was also present a “Devil’s Advocate,” a priest whose duty it was to find exceptions to the virtues of Padre Serra—in this case, Fr. Lucien Arvin, JCD of the Paris Foreign Mission Society.
Such was the background for some very human and delightful testimony given to demonstrate the holiness of Fr. Junípero Serra, a hard-working Franciscan Missioner in the Lord’s California vineyard.
The first hearing was a near-disaster. Archbishop James McIntyre and Bishop Timothy Manning were present to begin the hearings in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Fr. Eric O’Brien, OFM, had arranged this, some time before.