By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Students and staff at St. Xavier High School were able to connect with the canonization of St. Junípero Serra in a unique way last week.
A first-class relic of the 18th-century Spanish missionary to California was on display in the St. Xavier High School media center.
Linda Schork, a theology teacher at St. Xavier and a native of Fremont, Calif., has been in possession of the relic for three decades.
When she learned the Franciscan missionary would be canonized, she said she immediately planned to display the relic so others could share in the history.
“I wanted to make it real for the students. I’ve spoken about Junípero Serra in my classes” and about his missionary work, she said.
Schork said she received the relic in 1985, when she was a postulant with the Benedictine Sisters. She and her mother visited the nearby Mission San Juan Bautista, where numerous family members, including her great-grandmother, are buried.
While at the mission, Schork said she met with a priest who had five sets of laminated cards on his desk.
They contained “slivers of Junípero Serra’s bone and coffin. He had just gotten them back the day before from having them sealed,” Schork said.
The priest, who at the time was involved in the cause for St. Junípero’s canonization, gave Schork one of the relics as she prepared to enter the novitiate.
“He was touched by our story. He told me ‘Your mission is to pray for this cause,’ ”
Over the years, Schork said the prayer card and relic remained on her dresser and she prayed the devotion often.
Schork, who asked for a dispensation from the Benedictine Sisters in 2010 and officially left the order, said the relic has been in her possession (as the priest instructed) all these years, although she has since misplaced the authentication papers.
Schork made note of St. Junípero Serra’s personal motto — “Always forward, never back.”
“I have had as my personal motto, keep growing and keep moving. … I think that’s really important — to be open, to keep learning and to challenge ourselves,” she said. “One thing I always tell my students is to keep becoming the self that God created us to be. You can’t do that if you are staying still.”