Did you know that the Trinity Dome features a litany of saints who are associated with the United States and the National Shrine? From Mother Teresa to St. John Paul II, these heroes of the faith inspire us to pursue the path of holiness. In this third installment of our Saints of the Trinity Dome series, we invite you to learn more about the lives of St. Martin de Porres, St. Junipero Serra, and St. Mother Teresa.
The patron saint of social justice, Martin de Porres was born out of wedlock to a Spanish official and a formerly enslaved Peruvian woman in Lima, Peru in 1569. Due to his father’s status as a government official, he effectively disowned his son and left Martin’s mother to raise him on her own. Martin sought employment at a young age, training to become a barber and perform minor medical procedures, such as tooth extraction and bloodletting, at just 12 years old.
He became a volunteer with the Dominicans at the age of 15, but was prohibited by Peruvian law from becoming a full member of the order due to his heritage. Initially, he served as a janitor, but his medical skills were soon noticed. He became an invaluable medical assistant, and eventually served as head of the infirmary. When he was 24 years old, Martin was allowed to profess vows as a Dominican Lay Brother, after the prior disregarded the Peruvian laws.
As he continued his service, he accomplished many great things for the impoverished people of his community, including building an orphanage and hospital for abandoned children, providing personal medical care for enslaved people and those living on the streets, and even starting an animal shelter. His deep care and empathy were seen by all who came in contact with him. He passed away in 1639 and was canonized in 1962.
Saint Junipero Serra is known for his determination to bring the Gospel to the people of the Americas. Born in Petra, Spain in 1713, he joined the Franciscan order at the age of seventeen. Known for his passion for missions, Junipero was also a scholar, earning his doctorate of theology from Lullian University, and teaching there as the Scotistic chair of theology.
In 1749, Junipero journeyed across the Atlantic, arriving in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and began his service among the Pame Indians of Serra Gorda. He learned their language, built a church, taught them agricultural methods, and even defended them against hostilities from the Spanish government and military.
He then traveled 900 miles to San Diego, where he founded the first of 21 California missions, nine of which he personally helped start. Over the course of his ministry, Junipero is estimated to have baptized over 6,700 indigenous people and confirmed over 4,500. Junipero Serra passed away at the age of 70 and was buried at Mission San Carlos. He was canonized at the Basilica in 2015.
Known popularly as “Mother Teresa,” Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia in 1910. At the age of 18, she joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ireland, and was given the name Mary Teresa. She then journeyed to Calcutta, India, where she taught at St. Mary’s School for Girls. After taking her final Profession of Vows in 1937, she became known as Mother Teresa, and eventually became the principal of the school.
In 1946, Mother Teresa received a further calling that she should care for the poor. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, caring for the impoverished and the diseased in the worst areas of Calcutta. The order expanded and soon served the less fortunate throughout all of India. Her work eventually gained international attention, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
She visited the Basilica multiple times during her life, and she was beatified a mere two years after her death, due to the significant impact of her ministry. The Missionaries of Charity Sisters carry on her legacy today, with over 4,500 members in 133 countries.
Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley
Cowan’s The Way of Saints
“Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” The Vatican
“Saint Junípero Serra,” USCCB.
“St. Martin de Porres,” University of Notre Dame