THIRD CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF FATHER EUSEBIO KINO

THIRD CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF FATHER EUSEBIO KINO  

Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a missionary and Jesuit explorer, was born in 1645 in Segno, located in Trento’s Val di Non. He began his high school studies at the Jesuit College of Trento and finished them in Tirol where he recovered from a serious illness and vowed to enter the Society of Jesus to devote his life to the missions in India. A few years after his priestly ordination he was destined instead for the mission to New Spain, present day Mexico, where he arrived in 1681. Carrying out a truly unique apostolate during those years, Father Kino travelled nearly thirteen thousand kilometers on horseback through the desert, evangelizing the native peoples he encountered during his journeys with regular visits for teaching, worship and animating community life. He struggled to overcome local suspicion and prejudice by recognizing the dignity of the natives and by gaining their trust when setting up the many missions. After establishing a relationship on trust and dialogue, he taught them how to farm the land around the main, autonomous missions. He gave the people an education, land and a faith to cultivate. He died on 15 March 1711 and popular devotion to him spread immediately among the faithful and the natives throughout the vast territory he evangelized. During a pastoral visit to Arizona, John Paul II also had words of praise for him: «At great personal sacrifice, Father Kino worked tirelessly to establish missions throughout this area so that the Good News concerning our Lord Jesus Christ might take root among the people living here». His travel on horseback earned him the nickname, “the Padre on horseback”, and this is how he is depicted on the postage stamps.