Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekend Rewind - San Xavier Mission

We're way behind in our postings, what with the Midwest travel and active work schedules. We need to blog, not from this last weekend, but the weekend before... Our friend Donna was visiting after the Thanksgiving holiday, and while out running some errands, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit San Xavier del Bac Mission.

As we arrived that Saturday, there was a lot of activity. Not only was there a junior rodeo going on as we entered the Tohono reservation, but there were a couple dozen vendors set up adjacent to the Mission selling their wares, which included jewelry, baskets and other crafts. The jewelry displays in particular attracted Melinda and Donna, and they spent a lot of time pouring over the silver and turquoise work that Hector Tsosie and his mother Elisabeth makes in Chinle, on the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona

The mission is a real Southwestern showpiece - the "White Dove of the Desert" rises like a mirage out of the Sonoran landscape. The mission is over 210 years old and continues to serve the Tohono O'odham community in the area. The mission was established in the 1690s by Catholic priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, a popular figure in the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. He went on to establish over 20 similar missions, and is also known as explorer and cartographer of the area, being the first to recognise the Mexican state of Baja as a peninsula and not an island as commonly thought at the time. The church was built in the 1790s, so recently celebrated it's bicentennial.

The mission underwent a massive restoration back in the 1980s, which included cleaning decades, if not hundreds of years of soot accumulation from burning candles from the colorful paintings and wall statuary. I saw it before and since, and the difference is amazing! The colors of the paintings and statues are bright and vibrant. Unlike most catholic churches I've seen, the interior is a riot of color, chock full of paintings and statues of saints and religious icons.

We even found a connection to our Illinois locale! The wooden statue of the female Indian in the rightmost image is of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Native American. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, the first Native American so honored, and so holds a special place to Native American Catholics. Besides the name of a parish in South Tucson, it is also the source of the name of the Tekakwitha Forest Preserve we've mentioned so often in our blog, located less than a mile from our home in St Charles, Illinois!

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