Fermín Lasuén

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Fermín de Francisco Lasuén de Arasqueta (Vitoria (Spain), June 7, 1736 Mission de San Carlos (California), June 26, 1803) was a Basque [1] Franciscan missionary to Alta California president of the Franciscan missions there, and founder of nine of the twenty-one Spanish missions in California.

Missionary member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to proselytize or perform ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach The gospel in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology.

Alta California province of New Spain

Alta California, known sometimes unofficially as Nueva California, California Septentrional, California del Norte or California Superior, began in 1804 as a province of New Spain. Along with the Baja California peninsula, it had previously comprised the province of Las Californias, but was split off into a separate province in 1804. Following the Mexican War of Independence, it became a territory of Mexico in April 1822 and was renamed "Alta California" in 1824. The claimed territory included all of the modern US states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

Spanish missions in California historic religious outposts founded by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order to evangelize Native Americans

The Spanish missions in California comprise a series of 21 religious outposts or missions established between 1769 and 1833 in today's U.S. State of California. Founded by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order to evangelize the Native Americans, the missions led to the creation of the New Spain province of Alta California and were part of the expansion of the Spanish Empire into the most northern and western parts of Spanish North America.


Fray Fermin Lasuen as depicted on a cenotaph made for Fray Juniperro Serra Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel, CA) - Mora Chapel, cenotaph - Fray Fermin Lasuen.jpg
Fray Fermín Lasuén as depicted on a cenotaph made for Fray Juniperro Serra


Although he is sometimes called the "forgotten friar," Fermín Lasuén actually governed the California Mission system three years longer than his more famous predecessor, Junípero Serra. Lasuén was born at Vitoria in Álava, Spain on July 7, 1736 and joined the Franciscan order as a teenager, entering the Friary of San Francisco shortly before his fifteenth birthday on March 19, 1751. On March 19, 1751, Lasuén was ceremoniously invested with his Franciscan habit. [2]

Junípero Serra Christian missionary

Saint Junípero Serra y Ferrer, O.F.M., was a Roman Catholic Spanish priest and friar of the Franciscan Order who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, in what was then Alta California in the Province of Las Californias, New Spain. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988, in the Vatican City. Pope Francis canonised him on September 23, 2015, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., during his first visit to the United States. His missionary efforts earned him the title of Apostle of California.

Vitoria-Gasteiz Municipality in Basque Country, Spain

Vitoria-Gasteiz is the seat of government and the capital city of the Basque Autonomous Community and of the province of Araba/Álava in northern Spain. It holds the autonomous community's House of Parliament, the headquarters of the Government, and the Lehendakari's official residency. The municipality — which comprises not only the city but also the mainly agricultural lands of 63 villages around — is the largest in the Basque Autonomous Community, with a total area of 276.81 km2, and it has a population of 242,082 people (2014). The dwellers of Vitoria-Gasteiz are called vitorianos or gasteiztarrak, while traditionally they are dubbed babazorros.

Álava Province of Spain

Álava or Araba, officially Araba/Álava, is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lordship of Álava, former medieval Catholic bishopric and now Latin titular see.

In 1759, Lasuén left the Franciscan Sanctuary of Arantzazu (Gipuzkoa). [3] He then set sail from Cádiz with seventeen other friars while still a deacon to volunteer for ministry in the Americas. He arrived in New Spain in 1761 and was sent west to Las Californias in 1768. Following the establishment of Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769, he moved north to Alta California in 1773. He based himself in San Diego and remained there until 1775; he helped establish Mission San Juan Capistrano before the murder of Luís Jayme. Kumeyaay Indian unrest caused his return to San Diego.[ citation needed ]

Sanctuary of Arantzazu Church in Arantzazu, Spain

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu[aˈɾants̻as̻u] is a Franciscan sanctuary located in Oñati, Basque Country, Spain. The shrine is a much appreciated place among Gipuzkoans, with the Virgin of Arantzazu standing for the main worship figure and patron of the province along with Ignatius of Loyola.

Gipuzkoa Province of Spain

Gipuzkoa is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the autonomous community of the Basque Country. Its capital city is Donostia-San Sebastián. Gipuzkoa shares borders with the French department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques at the northeast, with the province and autonomous community of Navarre at east, Biscay at west, Álava at southwest and the Bay of Biscay to its north. It is located at the easternmost extreme of the Cantabric Sea, in the Bay of Biscay. It has 66 kilometres of coast land.

Cádiz Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Cádiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the Province of Cádiz, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.

In late 1776 he went to San Luis Obispo before again returning to San Diego in 1777 when he was made minister there. He was appointed the second Presidente of the missions in California in 1785, following the death of Junípero Serra, and transferred to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Lasuén continued the work begun by Serra, establishing 9 more missions, bringing the total to 18 (the final total was 21). He died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo on July 26, 1803. On his death he was succeeded by Esteban Tápis.[ citation needed ]

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Roman Catholic mission church in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo or Misión de San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, first built in 1797, is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California. Located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark. The mission was the headquarters of all Alta California missions from 1797 until 1833. It was headed by Saint Junípero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784. It was also the seat of the second presidente, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, who was in charge of completing nine more mission churches.

Father Estevan Tapis, O.F.M., was a Spanish missionary to the Americas.

Intellect, personality and character

Although of a more introspective and brooding temperament than his predecessor Junipero Serra, Lasuén was single-minded and a capable administrator, founding the remaining California missions. Captain Alessandro Malaspina described Lasuén as such: "...a man who in Christian lore, piety and conduct was truly apostolic, and his manner and learning unusual." [4] It is clear from his diaries that Lasuén struggled with loneliness and perhaps some depression brought about by the extreme conditions he encountered in San Diego when he was asked to return to restore order after the murder of Fray Jayme. Lasuén described the ardors of missionary life as such:

Alessandro Malaspina Spanish explorer

Alessandro Malaspina was a Tuscan explorer who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer. Under a Spanish royal commission, he undertook a voyage around the world from 1786 to 1788, then, from 1789 to 1794, a scientific expedition throughout the Pacific Ocean, exploring and mapping much of the west coast of the Americas from Cape Horn to the Gulf of Alaska, crossing to Guam and the Philippines, and stopping in New Zealand, Australia, and Tonga.

"A missionary priest has to engage in many duties, many of which only concern him as a means to something else. He is responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of people who are many and varied. He has individuals who are more dependent on him than small children, for there are many needs that arise...and many different things to be done for the different groups that make up the community. He is surrounded by pagans, and placed in charge of neophytes who can be trusted but a little..." [5]

At age 47, writing to his friend Fray Joseph de Jesus Maria Velez in 1783, Lasuén stated:

"I am already old and entirely gray and although [to some extent] this is caused by my age, yet the difficult exercise of my position here has also brought this about, especially during the five years I am about to celebrate as minister of San Diego. This land is for apostles only and its people call for apostolic men greater than I happen to be; but (thanks to God) I enjoy good health and shall try to use it to some good purpose, although somewhat languidly. [6]

His Christian zeal and sense of "civilizing" purpose led him to great lengths in order to acculturate Native Americans, even using their language in his pursuit, despite the Spanish king's prohibition in that respect. News of the mistreatment of Native Americans in the Mission of San Francisco reached governor of California Diego de Borica, also a Basque, who warned of a lawsuit against Lasuén should he not give up on his practices. [7]

Missions founded by Fray Fermín Lasuén

He also oversaw the expansion of many of the California mission sites and helped many other missions like Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.

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  1. Douglass, William A.; Douglass, Bilbao, J. (2005). Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. p. 192. ISBN   0-87417-625-5 . Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. Archival Center of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, "Private notes on California'a Catholic Heritage", ed. by Msgr. Francis Weber, not paginated.
  3. Anaut, Bernardo. "Fermín Francisco Lasuen". EuskoMedia Fundazioa. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  4. Archival Center of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, "Private notes on California'a Catholic Heritage", ed. by Msgr. Francis Weber, not paginated.
  5. Wise, Winifred, "Fray Junipero Serra and the California Conquest", New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967,pp. 154-155.
  6. Geiger, Maynard, OFM, "The Life and Times of Junipero Serra, Vol. II" Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1959, p. 322."
  7. Douglass, William A.; Douglass, Bilbao, J. (2005). Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. p. 192. ISBN   0-87417-625-5 . Retrieved 16 February 2014.