Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén

Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén Founded Nine Missions

Statue of Father Lasuen at Mission San Jose
••• Statue of Father Lasuen at Mission San Jose. ©2005 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén was a Spanish missionary who came to California in 1761. He founded nine missions and served as Father-President of the California missions for eighteen years.

Father Lasuén's Early Life

Lasuen was born on June 7, 1736 at Vitoria in Cantabria, Spain. He was described as a man of symmetrical build with light, somewhat red skin, a pockmarked face, dark eyes and dark, curly hair.

 

He became a Franciscan priest in 1752. In 1748, he and volunteered to work in the American missions. 

Father Lasuén Goes to the New World

Lasuén arrived in Mexico in 1761 and was sent to lower (Baja) California in 1768.

Father Lasuén in California

In 1773, he moved to "upper" California. He arrived in San Diego on August 30. Father Lasuén stayed in San Diego until June 1775, when he moved to Monterey.

Lasuén was unhappy in California. He often asked to leave and he wanted to become the personal chaplain of the commander at the presidio in Monterey. After a long negotiation, he finally refused the job.

In 1775, Lasuén and Father Gregorio Amurrio were appointed the first missionaries at Mission San Juan Capistrano. When they arrived, he said Mass and established the mission, but he did not stay there long. That was because news arrived that the mission in San Diego had been attacked and Father Luis Jayme had been murdered.

The soldiers and missionaries hurried back to San Diego. Back in San Diego, he built a new church and enlarged the mission compound.

In the summer and fall of 1776, the missions were re-opened. Father Lasuén went with Father Serra to San Luis Obispo. He stayed until 1777, when he was appointed minister of Mission San Diego.

 

Lasuén as Father President of the Missions

He stayed in San Diego until he became Father-President of the missions in 1785, after Father Serra died. After that, he moved to the Carmel Mission and stayed there until he died.

He was Father-President for eighteen years, and he personally founded nine missions in California. He also expanded many older missions and he was responsible for much of the missions as we know them today.

Because of his position, Father Lasuén met many people who wrote about him. Captain George Vancouver described him in 1792 as having gentle manners and a placid face. Alejandro Malaspina praised his good manners in 1791 and Charles Chapman described him as a worthy successor to Father Serra. Father Serra himself called Lasuén a religious man of exceptional example.

Lasuén was known as a good administrator, and it's a little-known fact that he served in California longer than the more famous Father Junipero Serra. About the work of a missionary, he wrote: "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..."

Lasuén never adjusted well to life in California and he repeated asked to be allowed to retire or transfer somewhere else, saying that only obedience kept him here. Even as he grew older, he kept asking for a transfer or retirement. He never left California, though, and he died at the Carmel Mission on June 26, 1803. He was buried in the sanctuary there.

Missions Founded by Father Lasuén