A Catholic teacher who finished a pilgrimage to the Spanish missions in California this week has emphasized his devotion to the first missions’ founder, St. Junipero Serra, and their influence on him as an educator.

Over the last two years, with a total of 45 days of walking, theology teacher Christian Clifford has trekked the California El Camino Real trail connecting all 21 missions. He finished the 781-mile pilgrimage June 22….

“I started visiting the missions and I really fell in love with them. I immerse[d] myself in learning more about it in the process. I [began] a real deep relationship with Junipero Serra,” he said.

After he began teaching theology at Serra High School in San Mateo, he decided to learn more about the school’s patron and drove to the state’s 21 missions….

In May 2018, he began his pilgrimage on foot, starting at the northernmost mission in Sonoma, Mission San Francisco Solano, and made his way south to Petaluma in the North Bay. He said it was difficult, especially the first day, and even dangerous at times, as he had to walk along highways.

“I thought I prepared myself, got all my bag together,” he said. “By the time I reached my hotel, I thought I was going to die. My blisters were horrible, I had the wrong shoes. But, what happens is over time, you speak with other people and you learn new tricks. By the end of it, I was very comfortable, even in difficult situations,” he said….

Clifford’s last portion was 138 miles from Mission San Fernando to Mission Santa Ines, in which he visited Mission San Buenaventura and Mission Santa Barbara. He ended his journey marking the fifth anniversary of Serra’s canonization….

He said the major goals of the pilgrimage were to draw attention to the holiness of Serra, and to raise awareness of the Mission San Antonio de Padua, which is struggling financially to meet earthquake codes required by the government.

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“The Mission Saint Anthony of Padua is first of all, really cool, because it’s the most isolated mission out of the 21, and it’s located on a military base, but you don’t need base access … You’re literally walking back in time when you go there,” he said….

The above comes from a June 28 story on Catholic News Agency.