Man of the Year…After 300 Years

March 15, 2011 was the 3ooth anniversary of the death of Eusebio Francisco Kino – Father Kino, the Italian-born Jesuit missionary under contract to the king of Spain to create missions in New Spain.  He was celebrated and memorialized yesterday throughout the Pimeria Alta.  I am grateful I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend celebrations at two of the mission sites founded by this bigger-than-life, well-loved priest.

With five other volunteers from Tumacacori I traveled to Imuris, Sonora, Mexico to the ruins of the church at Cocospera, where regional dignitaries gathered with visitors and residents to participate in a Catholic Mass honoring Padre Kino.  In addition, an Apache holy man offered words of honor for Kino and privately blessed those who presented themselves to him.

Following this event, all participants were invited to Rancho de Cocospera for a traditional Mexican lunch at an old adobe homestead.

After lunch we then traveled toward Magdalena and the mission church there, where Kino died.  On the way we stopped in San Ignacio, and visited that mission church, the original of which was built by 1702.

We arrived in Magdalena mid-afternoon during many presentations by the dignitaries and other special speakers, before the beginning of the Mass, which began as we were leaving for dinner.  Father Kino’s remains are placed in a structure that allows viewing of those remains through windows.  Overhead is a dome, painted with a mural depicting Father Kino’s travels and connections with the indigenous people.

Father Kino established 20 missions, possibly more, in the Pimeria Alta area of New Spain.  He became renowned, honored, and respected during his many years traveling among these missions.

And now, 300 years following his death he is still beloved for his work and humane treatment of the people he came to convert and make into good Spanish citizens.

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