William Hannon had a special
dedication to one of California’s founding fathers-Franciscan
Friar Junípero Serra, the founder of California’s
William’s fascination with early California
history and real estate led to his admiration for
Father Serra. He often said, “Father Serra was
the first developer of California. If you buy real
estate, buy within a twenty mile radius of a Mission.
California’s twenty-one Missions are all near
fertile soil and water.”
To promote the spirit and contributions of Father
Serra, the William H. Hannon Foundation commissioned
an artist to design a life
life size bronze statue
Serra. From this single mold, the Foundation had almost
one hundred more statues cast and placed at the California
Missions and at various Catholic schools and universities.
The William H. Hannon Foundation has placed statues
Clara University in Northern California to the
of San Diego in Southern California.
One can find the statues of Father Serra in the playground
areas of many of Los Angeles' Catholic elementary
schools. William and other Foundation Directors would
travel to the schools personally to inspect where
Father Serra would stand, and they later would attend
the dedication ceremonies for the statues. William
called Father Serra, “the drinking fountain
father,” since he wanted the statue placed close
to a school’s drinking fountains so that children
could see Father Serra every day. At dedication ceremonies,
where a school’s student body often was assembled,
William would encourage the children to rub Father
Serra’s toe for good
luck. He would tell the children, “After
all, he walked all across California, so those toes
are lucky; maybe rubbing his toe will help on your
next big test.”
A devout Catholic, William wanted to renew an interest
in Father Serra and eventually have Father Serra declared
a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Today, the Catholic
Church is going through the lengthy process of establishing
Sainthood for Father Junípero Serra.
The Hannon Foundation continues its founder’s
interest in Father Junípero Serra. Each year,
it conducts an essay
contest for over forty Catholic elementary schools.
Fourth grade students visit the Missions, conduct
research and write essays about the life of Father
Serra. Two outstanding essays are selected from each
school, and the winning students are each awarded
William H. Hannon Scholarships toward their fifth
grade tuition. In addition, each school receives a
grant for tuition aid or computers.
The following is information on Fr. Serra taken from
the online edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia (2002)
by Kevin Knight:
Born at Petra, Island of Majorca, 24 November, 1713;
died at Monterey, California, 28 August, 1784. On
14 September, 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order.
For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector
of philosophy before his ordination to the priesthood.
Later he received the degree of Doctor of Theology
from the Lullian University at Palma, where he also
occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until
he joined the missionary college of San Fernando,
Mexico (1749). While traveling on foot from Vera Cruz
to the capital, he injured his leg in such a way that
he suffered from it throughout his life, though he
continued to make his journeys on foot whenever possible.
At his own request he was assigned to the Sierra Gorda
Indian Missions some thirty leagues north of Queretaro.
He served there for nine years, part of the time as
superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians,
and translated the catechism into their language.
Recalled to Mexico, he became famous as a most fervent
and effective preacher of missions.
His zeal frequently led him to employ extraordinary
means in order to move the people to penance. He would
pound his breast with a stone while in the pulpit,
scourge himself, or apply a lighted torch to his bare
He was appointed superior of a band of fifteen Franciscans
for the Indian Missions of Lower California. Early
in 1769 he accompanied Portolá's land expedition
to Upper California. On the way (14 May) he established
the Mission San Fernando de Velicatá, Lower
California. He arrived at San Diego on 1 July, and
on 16 July founded the first of the twenty-one California
missions which accomplished the conversions of all
the natives on the coast as far as Sonoma in the north.
Those established by Father Serra or during his administration
were San Carlos (3 June, 1770); San Antonio (14 July,
1771); San Gabriel (8 September, 1771); San Luis Obispo
(1 September, 1772); San Francisco de Asis (8 October,
1776); San Juan Capistrano (1 Nov. 1776); Santa Clara
(12 January, 1777); San Buenaventura (31 March, 1782).
He was also present at the founding of the presidio
of Santa Barbara (21 April, 1782), and was prevented
from locating the mission there at the time only through
the animosity of Governor Philipe de Neve. Difficulties
with Pedro Fages, the military commander, compelled
Father Serra in 1773 to lay the case before Viceroy
Bucareli. At the capital of Mexico, by order of the
viceroy, he drew up his "Representación"
in thirty-two articles. Everything save two minor
points was decided in his favor; he then returned
to California, late in 1774.
In 1778 he received the faculty to administer the
Sacrament of Confirmation. After he had exercised
his privilege for a year, Governor Neve directed him
to suspend administering the sacrament until he could
present the papal Brief. For nearly two years Father
Serra refrained, and then Viceroy Majorga gave instructions
to the effect that Father Serra was within his rights.
During the remaining three years of his life he once
more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco,
six hundred miles, in order to confirm all who had
been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled
leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies.
He confirmed 5309 persons, who, with but few exceptions,
were Indians converted during the fourteen years from
Besides extraordinary fortitude, his most conspicuous
virtues were insatiable zeal, love of mortification,
self-denial, and absolute confidence in God. His executive
abilities have been especially noted by non-Catholic
writers. The esteem in which his memory is held by
all classes in California may be gathered from the
fact that Mrs. Stanford, not a Catholic, had a granite
monument erected to him at Monterey. A bronze statute
of heroic size represents him as the apostolic preacher
in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. In 1884 the Legislature
of California passed a concurrent resolution making
29 August of that year, the centennial of Father Serra's
burial, a legal holiday. Of his writings many letters
and other documentation are extant. The principal
ones are his "Diario" of the journey from
Loreto to San Diego, which was published in "Out
West" (March to June, 1902), and the "Representación"