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Padre Kino Eusebio Francisco

Jesuitenkirche

Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, actually Eusebius Franz Kühn (born 10 August 1645 in Segno, today Taio in Trentino; died 15 March 1711 in Magdalena de Kino / Sonora, Mexico), was educated by the Jesuits in Hall in Tirol. Padre Kino was a Tyrolean Jesuit, who was active as a missionary and cartographer in what is today the south-west of the United States and north-west Mexico.

Padre Kino grew up in very simple circumstances. He was sent by his parents to a Jesuit school in Triento, where he learned to read and write. Afterwards, he came to Hall in Tirol which, in the 17th century, was one of the major population centers of the Alpine world. In Hall, Kino attended the Jesuit college. It was whilst at this college that Eusebio Francisco Kino had an experience that would decisively and dramatically change his life:

The young Eusebio became gravely ill. The physicians battled to save his life, his prospects appeared hopeless. For Eusebio, his great role model was Franz Xaver, and so he decided to hold a novena for him.
While he prayed the novena, he vowed to the saint that, should he ever recuperate, he would enter the Jesuit order as a missionary. This thought had already been going through his mind, for his cousin, Martinus Martini, had also entered the order and had become a respected cartographer and astronomer in China.

From: “To our friends – information about the southern German Jesuits”, Munich 2002, S. 7

After his time in Hall in Tirol, he went to Ingolstadt in Upper Bavaria. In 1665, he became a Jesuit in Landsberg, Bavaria. Kino was especially enthusiastic about the natural sciences and mathematics. After successfully completing his theological studies, Kino decided to work as a missionary in the Orient. In order to do so, he even declined a teaching position at Ingolstadt University offered to him by Bavaria’s prince.

As chance would have it, however, Kino was not called to the Far East, but rather to Mexico. In order to study the Spanish language, he was sent to Spain in 1678, followed three years later by an ocean voyage with 18 companions to Veracruz in New Spain. At that time, New Spain extended across large portions of today’s United States and Mexico.

A short time after arriving in America, Padre Kino undertook an expedition. Before his eyes, he saw first-hand the dreadful effects of the attempted colonization of south California by Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortéz. Only upon an agreement being reached between the Spanish crown and the Jesuits did the order assume sole responsibility for California. During this same expedition, Padre Kino also found out that Baja California was not an island, as had been assumed to that point, but rather a peninsular. In Baja California, he was entrusted with missionary work amongst the Guaymas and Seris peoples.

One of the focal points of his work was born some time later in Loreto. Under the leadership of Padre Kino, several missions were built within a brief period. His priorities included establishing a good relationship with the Indians and mediation between Indian tribes, who were often at a state of war with one another. Padre Kino maintained active, good contacts with numerous Indian tribes and, as a result, was often explicitly sought as council by tribal elders for their various concerns. The great trust shown by the indigenous people to Padre Kino was confirmed by the interest in them which he showed in return. And so it was that, amongst other things, he learned the language of the Pima Indians. It was a major goal of his to improve the economic and health situation of the Indians. Padre Kino brought his knowledge of farming methods to bear, as he did his expertise in working with iron.

In his role as a cartographer, he was the first to create topographical maps of the south-west of today’s United States: With his Indian-friendly mindset, however, he encountered a lack of understanding from many of his contemporaries. The Indians, however, because of the monk’s habit he wore, nicknamed him “the black farmer”.
Many places still bear his name to this very day, including Bahía Kino (bay) in the Gulf of California, the city of Magdalena de Kino in Mexico, as well as numerous schools and roads in Mexico and Arizona / USA.
Padre Kino was immortalized as one of those hundred great American figures, who had a statue dedicated to them in the “Hall of Fame” in the Capitol...
Many Mexicans venerate him as a saint, and many of them continue to strive towards his beatification.