San Xavier Field Trip

Field trips bring history to life; they take classroom learning to the next level, where students can touch, feel, and truly ingest content. I love taking students on field trips, and at Desert Christian High School, I have the freedom to do just that!

This month we’ve been discussing the era in American history called Westward Expansion. As a part of our studies in this era, we have explored the reasons for the European migration west. One such reason was missionary work: spreading the word of God to those who had not yet heard it. In Tucson, AZ, where our school is located, we happen to have a missionary church still standing from (actually even before) this era. Founded in 1692 by Father Francisco Kino, San Xavier is quite the historic place to visit.

Mission San Xavier, a part of New Spain, became a part of the new Republic of Mexico in 1821. Mexican material support for missions was non-existent, and in 1837 San Xavier’s last resident missionary in the 19th century departed the premises. Franciscan administration of all missions in the region came to an end in 1843 and secular clergy assumed responsibility for the churches, a circuit-riding Mexican priest visiting San Xavier perhaps once a year until the Mission became a part of the United States in June, 1854 with approval of the Gadsden Purchase.

During our field trip to the mission, students were asked to take photos of the mission and copious notes as the docent spoke. Back home for homework, these photos and notes were to be compiled into a “travel blog post,” whereby their “readers” could gain information about the mission and Father Kino, and see photos of both. Lastly, the students were to add in their recommendation (or not) of the tour and experience of the mission, so that “readers” could determine whether they would also want to visit. Below is a sampling of some excerpts and photos from the student’s “travel blog posts.”

——————— student work below ————————–

*On October 24, I had the pleasure of visiting, along with my US history class, the aged beauty of the San Xavier Mission. In all of its timeless design and intricate architecture, I could enjoy both design and history in an effortless blend (two developing interests of mine). Father Kino was the founding priest of the San Xavier mission. Though his activity in the mission itself might not have been as directly apparent as some might assume, his actions in establishing San Xavier were significant to US history, or more specifically, westward expansion.

*Father Kino was a man of sacrifice and compassion. He committed his life to the pursuit of the well-being of others. Aside from being the founding priest to the San Xavier Mission, Father Kino contributed much more to the surrounding area. In addition to San Xavier, Father Kino founded 20 other missions, however he never built a church. Hailing from Italy, his dream developed into wanting to become a missionary, and when a traumatic event enveloped his life, causing him to become ill, he cried out to God, swearing that if he recovered he would devote his life to God. Ironically, he only came to the San Xavier church about five or six times at most. He passed away in 1711 and was buried at Magdalena De Kino.

*All in all, I would not only recommend but insist that you find time, or rather make time, to visit the San Xavier Mission. Perhaps during your visit, you might just find a bit of yourself, if you’re lucky. History does not define us, but it does mold us. San Xavier, the church, Father Kino, as ancient as we may perceive them, are also apart of our history and play a certain effect in our modern day, thus when we learn more about history, we delve deeper into our own character and learn more about ourselves.

*It was interesting to learn about the San Xavier mission and Father Kino because I knew little about Catholicism and nothing about the mission which is sad because it is only an hour away. I thought the the entrance was beautiful and all of the symbolism was interesting to hear about, such as the four martyrs. I found all of the statues interesting also. They were made to look as lifelike as possible and their positions were as if they were in action, because statues paint a picture of thousands of words. This was especially important back then because practically everybody was illiterate.

*I think that this was a good educational experience. It taught me about the history of missionaries in Arizona and how they spread the word to the populous. It was good to learn about Father Kino especially how it is right in our backyard. The tour guide was very well equipped in answering questions and spoke with knowledge in the facts which he presented. I would recommend coming to San Xavier if you want to learn about Arizona history and specifically Tucson’s or if you just love to learn.

*I had never actually heard of Father Kino until my U.S. history teacher, Mrs. Thomas, mentioned him in our class. Discovering more about his life and work as a missionary was rather interesting. Also learning about how the mission had many struggles to work through before being able to function on it’s own and effectively. I had heard of the San Xavier Mission once before but I had never actually been there so seeing all this history from such a long time ago was really eye opening.

*Father Kino was a missionary from Italy.  He traveled approximately twelve hundred miles on horseback from Mexico City t0 reach Arizona.  He is widely known for advocating for the native Americans.  Father Kino was a cartographer, he made maps of the Sonoran desert which was unknown to many.  A statue of him is portrayed on Kino Parkway in Tucson Arizona.  Father Kino had the inspiration to build the church, but the project did not begin until sixty years after his death.

*This trip gave me glimpse into a part of history that I previously had very little information about.  The architecture, art and stories of those who came together to create the beautiful church inspired me and gave me a longing to learn more.  The towering ceilings and intricate paintings in the church, the historical pieces of symbolism in the museum, the local food and landscape are just a few of the things that stood out to me about this trip.

*I learned aspects of local history which taught me more about my city.  The combination of spanish and native american culture showed me the beauty of cross cultural encounters and the result of patience and hardwork.  This trip gave me insight on the rich history of Tucson as well as the first missionaries to come to west.

*This is experience was solely a positive one.  I would 100% recommend visiting this landmark if you find yourself in the Tucson area.  I recommend setting aside a decent amount of time to explore the church, take photos and have time to absorb the information.  I found the tour very informative but personally wished I had had a little bit more time in each room of the museum to look around and take photos.  After you look around I recommend trying the fry bread, which is sold by vendors in front of the church.  I was not able to try it but my friends all loved it.  This beautiful area is so rich in history and culture.  I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to explore it.

*I have learned not to take things that are “in your own backyard” for granted. I had no idea that my visit to San Xavier would end up the way it did. I would highly encourage to everyone that you find something or somewhere you haven’t been within your town and visit it. You never know what is going to happen. The use of symbols was absolutely brilliant and not one picture or word was superfluous to its surroundings. I found it interesting that they praised women in various ways throughout the church. Whether it was through symbols or an ornate statue, each woman (and sometimes martyr) was represented with grace and elegance and held a different story than the last.

*The most impressive part of all of this is that the artwork present in the mission has been tediously restored, and thus the art has lived on for more than two centuries. The “museum rooms” that are attached to the main building offer unique insight about what life looked like back in the mission’s early years.

*The San Xavier Mission is a series of missions and was founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1692. Two hundred years prior, Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. Christopher Columbus and many of the other Spaniards, soon upon settlement, treated the Native Americans there as objects, as mere objects of their own desires and their own will. Many of the Spaniards treated the Natives with cruelty. So for Father Kino to treat the Native Americans with such love and grace meant the world to them. He was a great example in showing God’s love. Although Father Kino was not alive to see the church of San Xavier completed, it was still his mission, it was still fulfilled, and it still continues to grow. San Xavier remains significant because it is a reminder of all Father Kino accomplished for the Native Americans. He brought hope to many people especially the indigenous people. San Xavier remains a working parish for the Tohono O’odham people, a native American tribe.  

*Visiting this place, I learned that it is important that someone stands up to injustices because if you don’t do it, chances are other people won’t do it either. I learned who Father Kino was and how integral he was to the forming of Northern Mexico and the Southwestern parts of the United States. He was also very important to the Natives, especially the Tohono O’odham for he was a strong advocator for them.

*In 1797, the Mission San Xavier was finally completed.The Mission was in Spanish control until the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 which placed the Mission inside U.S. borders. The Mission has also endured many natural disasters such as an earthquake and extreme lightning. In 1963, the Mission San Xavier became a National Historic Landmark. The Patronato San Xavier formed in 1978 for the purpose of preserving the mission. Now,the Mission San Xavier remains a working church and receives about 200,000 visitors a year.

*The Mission, specifically the front entrance and the interior of the church, display beautiful and intricate detail. A few of the many engravings upon the entrance are the 4 virgin martyrs, who all died for their cause and stood up for what they believed, and the rainbow arched above the doorway, which signifies entering into new life when going into the church. Within the church, every direction that you look there is an overwhelming amount of detail whether it be on the walls, within paintings, or even on the ceiling. Symmetry is also very prominent within the church; whatever may be on one side will most likely be found on the other.

*Visiting San Xavier is not only a learning experience, but also an experience filled with peace and tranquility. I appreciate that the staff is continuing to allow for this to be a safe place for prayer, worship, and thanks. As you walk throughout this historical landmark it truly feels as if you are engulfed within this earlier time period.

*This tour gave me a better  understanding of the people who first thrived upon this land before the Mission was built, the founders and creators of San Xavier, the journey of how the church came to be as well as the difficulties that went along with the construction, the significance of the artistry, and lastly, the ways that the church is still used to this day.I not only gained a deeper understanding of the history of the Mission, but also a better understanding of U.S. history and the role that the Mission played in this.

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