Eusebio Francisco Kino, SJ (1645-1711)

eusebio-francisco-kino-bronze-by-suzanne-silvercruysEusebio Francisco Kino, SJ, was a Jesuit missionary and explorer in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States.

After his ordination in 1677, Kino was sent to lead a mission to Mexico. Transportation and other difficulties delayed his arrival in Mexico until 1681. Kino participated in a rather unsuccessful expedition to California between 1683 and 1685. In 1687, Kino joined a 1500-mile second expedition by way of Sonora, Mexico and southern Arizona to California.

During his travels, Kino personally baptized 4,500 people and traveled over 50,000 square miles on horseback. He established missions in San Miguel, Magdalena, Altar, Sonoita, Santa Cruz, and San Pedro valleys. An accomplished astronomer, mathematician, and cartographer, Kino mapped an area 200 miles long and 350 miles wide. Kino proved that Baja, California was a peninsula and not an island.

When establishing his missions, Kino taught the native inhabitants how to plant wheat, beans, squash, and other crops. People were also taught how to build durable homes and tend cattle. In the larger communities, Kino established schools for the children, teaching them reading and writing and the basics of the Catholic faith. Kino vigorously opposed the conscription of the Sonoran Indians for work in the silver mines.

Fr. Kino helped to establish the first permanent mission in Lower California. Other new missions in California were supplied with the food produced by this first mission. In all, Fr. Kino made some 50 expeditions, keeping detailed diaries and maps for those who would follow him.

In 1711 Kino returned to Magdalena in the state of Sonora, Mexico, to celebrate the dedication of a new church in honor of St. Francis Xavier. He fell ill while celebrating Mass on the day of the dedication and died that evening.

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