TUCSON, Arizona – For Rafael Barceló Durazo, who grew up across the Arizona border in the Mexican state of Sonora, Venerable Father Eusebio Kino is a symbol of unity.
Today, as Mexican consul in Tucson, he also looks to the famous missionary known as Padre Kino – and declared venerable by Pope Francis – as an example to follow.
“I have always admired the courage required by Padre Kino among the missionaries who came to a remote and inhospitable land and climate like Sonora and Arizona,” Barceló told CNS. “But he didn’t just come to carry his message of faith. He also came with great Christian love in his way of seeing the world and his relations with the indigenous communities of Pimería Alta and Pimería Baja.
Barceló was one of the participants in the ceremony and mass of “Three statues for three nations” in honor of the priest of Italian origin on August 8.
Held in front of the statue of “Padre on horseback” on the street bearing his name, the ceremony celebrated the 30th anniversary of the city of Tucson presenting the same statue to residents of Segno, Italy, the hometown of Padre Kino. A third statue can be found in Magdalena de Kino, in the state of Sonora, in northern Mexico, where the priest died in 1711.
A similar ceremony took place in Segno on the same day. The two celebrations were coordinated with videos from each event shared.
Silvia Chiave, Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles, represented the missionary’s home country at the Tucson ceremony.
“I am very grateful to the city of Tucson for inviting me and also for allowing me to rediscover this exceptional figure of Father Kino and his legacy,” she said during the ceremony.
Chiave read a letter from Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, describing Father Kino as “a pioneer of intercultural and people-to-people dialogue who promoted mutual understanding and solidarity”.
“These are values that the United States and Italy share and firmly believe in, and which must always be remembered, recognized and celebrated,” the letter said.
Born Eusebio Francesco Chini on August 10, 1645, in Segno, he entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest on June 12, 1677. When the young priest left for Mexico in 1678, he changed his family name to Kino. He is believed to have traveled approximately 50,000 miles and established 21 missions in what is now Arizona and Sonora.
Padre Kino also introduced European seeds, fruits, herbs, and grains to Native Americans, taught them more efficient irrigation methods, and introduced animal husbandry to Arizona.
Rosie Garcia, president of the Kino Heritage Society, said she hopes the event will serve to spread Padre Kino’s cause of holiness throughout Arizona and across the country.
“It was really great to see the state, county and city presenting us with proclamations because it means they see Father Kino as a very important spiritual and historical figure,” Garcia said.
The ceremony also recognized Padre Kino’s August 10 birthday and the fact that a year had passed since Pope Francis raised his cause for canonization by declaring him venerable on July 11, 2020.
Retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson has declared Padre Kino worthy of holiness because of the way he cares for others.
“He was ready to leave Segno in Italy to come to Pimería Alta, in northern Mexico and southern Arizona,” Bishop Kicanas said. “Sometimes I wonder, as I drive around the Diocese of Tucson, I can’t imagine how Father Kino did in those days. It’s a miracle.
At a mass following the ceremony at the nearby St. Augustine Cathedral, Jesuit Father Greg Adolf said in his homily that Padre Kino invited people to experience a “new way of being human in a pierced and transformed humanity “.
While visiting a new village, Padre Kino was cleaning up an area and drawing a world map on the ground with a stick while showing people where they lived versus where he was from and where Jesus was ministering, Father Adolf said.
“He broadened their horizons,” he said. “The excitement of meeting new people, connecting with new tribes and hearing their wisdom, experiencing what they know during their long experience as people of the desert has created a reciprocity and great respect. “
Jesuit Father Chris Corbally, liaison between the Kino Heritage Society and the Jesuits in the United States, celebrated Mass. As an astronomer at the Vatican’s Advanced Tech Telescope outside Tucson, he sees Padre Kino as a source of inspiration.
“He is a pioneer, an explorer, and therefore every astronomer should be an explorer and a pioneer in certain ways,” said Father Corbally.
Alex Jacome helped raise $ 90,000 for the three statues when he got involved with the Arizona Historical Society. The neighboring mines donated copper for the manufacture of the brass used in the statues.
“The idea is, if we make one, what if we make more than one? We could do one for where he lived, where he died and where he was born, ”said Jacome.
Gwen Powell, an episcopal from Tucson who attended the ceremony, said she first heard of Padre Kino when she moved to Arizona and saw several places named for him. His death on March 15 is on the calendar of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.
“This statue, it is very evocative of humility, of service, of all that it is,” she said.
“Father Kino should remind us of our humanity and our purpose of serving the Lord. For me, it’s not a Catholic thing, it’s a spiritual thing.