Mission Churches of the Sonoran Desert

Eusebio Fransisco Kino, S. J.

Statue of Padre Kino presently located at Imuris plaza, Magdalena

Statue of Padre Kino presently located at Imuris plaza, Magdalena

Eusebio Kino was born in 1645 in the Italian Tyrol. His family name was originally Chini, and there are still Chinis living in his home town of Segno. He was educated at Jesuit colleges, first in Trent, and later in Hall, near the Austrian city of Innsbruck. In 1663 he suffered a severe illness and promised his patron saint, St. Francis Xavier, that he would become a missionary if he recovered. He did recover, and embarked on the rigorous training of a Jesuit, which lasted until 1677. He was then sent to Mexico, where he attempted to establish a mission program in the dry and inhospitable region of Baja California. The time was not yet ripe for this enterprise, however, and Kino was reassigned to northern Sonora in 1687.

Thus began a career in the Pimería Alta that lasted until his death in 1711. An indefatigable traveller and worker, Kino started mission programs at twenty villages. He introduced Christianity and the Spanish Empire to what is now a wide area of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. He also introduced wheat and beef cattle into the region. Over three centuries after Kino's arrival, the regional Mexican and Native diet is still strongly based on beef, cheese, and wheat products.

Kino labored in the Pimería Alta until March, 1711, when he arrived in Magdalena to dedicate a new chapel to St. Francis, his patron saint. He fell suddenly ill and died near midnight on March 15, 1711. He was buried beneath the floor of the chapel he had come to dedicate. His bones were rediscovered in 1966, long after the chapel had disappeared from the scene. They are currently on display in their final resting place in the Magdalena plaza.

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