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Californian Knight recognized as Everyday Hero for his 800-mile pilgrimage to the 21 California Missions
San Mateo, CA — July 1 is the feast day of Saint Junípero Serra. Learn more about the holy friar, who soon-to-be Cardinal Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego in 2015 called a “foundational figure” in California history, from a man who literally walked in his footsteps.
Christian Clifford, author of books about Spanish-Mexican history in California, was on a quest to visit all twenty-one California missions, on foot! When asked why he did it, he shared, “I visited all 21 missions by car so I thought it would be nice to walk the entire chain. Being a Catholic school teacher for over twenty years, my hope was to get as close to the lives of the amazing people who were the first Catholics in California—indigenous, Spanish, mestizo—with the hope of being a better Catholic and teacher.” He achieved his mission and is featured in the third season of the Knights of Columbus multipart series “Everyday Heroes”.
The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882, is a Catholic fraternal benefit society with over 2 million members worldwide. The series “Everyday Heroes”, according to the Knights of Columbus, “focus the spotlight on these remarkable Knights whose courage, faith and commitment to charity embody the mission of the Knights of Columbus.” Christian Clifford is a 3rd degree member of Council 1346, founded in 1908 and one of the first five councils founded in California. They meet at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Belmont.
Clifford began his 800-mile journey in May 2018, the year marking the 184th anniversary of Pablo Tac’s enrollment at the Urban College, Rome, where the Native American youth and scholar attended seminary (learn more about Pablo Tac here). The bulk of his miles were walked in 2019. Clifford teaches theology at Serra High School in San Mateo and 2019 marked the school’s 75th anniversary and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first California mission at San Diego. Clifford finished his walk to the twenty-one California missions in June 2020 and believes it was appropriate, because 2020 marked the fifth year since the canonization of Junípero Serra.
Specifics for Clifford’s pilgrimage along the California Missions Trail were approximately 800-miles walked over 45 days, and approximately 298 hours walking. Clifford also raised over $2000 on Facebook and GoFundMe for The Campaign for the Preservation of Mission San Antonio de Padua Foundation. Founded in 1771 by Saint Junípero Serra, the third of the twenty-one California missions is the remotest and for many a favorite because of its authenticity. Clifford believes, “The Mission is a gem. Future generations must know of the roots of modern California and the Spanish missions are those roots.”
Clifford documented his adventure on the California Missions Trail in Pilgrimage: In Search of the REAL California Missions.