Controversy over pope's canonization of missionary

Pope canonizes controversial missionary 01:56

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The canonization of St. Junipero Serra is controversial.

At Mission San Juan Capistrano, Juniperso Serro was honored, but 430 miles north at Mission Dolores, protestors denounced him.

For Corrina Gould, Mission Dolores is sacred ground.

"I see pain for my ancestors. I see a change in our entire world," she said looking at the Mission.

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Painting of Spanish friar St. Junipero Serra at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, September 17, 2015. AP Photo

Thousands of her ancestors from the Ohlone Tribe are buried there -- in unmarked graves. For her, Serra left a legacy in his drive to baptize and assimilate California Indians, often beating and imprisoning them in missions.

"Once you were baptized and became Catholic then you lost your freedom all together," she said. "You become the property of the Church."

"But Serra doesn't see that. He sees Indians as naked, as hungry, as hungering literally for food and for salvation in Christ," said History Professor Steven Hackel.

Hackel says for many Hispanics in California, Serra is seen as a founding father.

His presence is everywhere.

"I think what the pope is really trying to do is open up an understanding of our American origins," Hackel said. "It wasn't just Anglo-American protestants, but Catholic priests throughout the continent."

"Father Serra was a Spaniard. He was European, therefore he was white. He was not Hispanic," Gould said.

Gould believes by making Serra a Saint, the Church is ignoring an ugly chapter in California history.

"The mission system that he brought with him created total destruction of who we were as a culture and people," she said.

Serra is the first Spanish speaking saint from the United States. Pope Francis personally fast tracked his canonization, waving the rules that usually require two miracles for sainthood -- to just one.