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Geographer, astronomer, explorer, rancher, missionary — and now Venerable

EUSEBIO KINO
Shutterstock | Jon Kraft
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Father Eusebio Francisco Kino excelled at everything, including virtue.

Eusebio Kino was born and baptized on August 10, 1645. His parents, Franz Kuhn and Margherita Luchi, were members of the local nobility. Their position enabled them to send their son to the more exceptional schools where it was quite evident that he was a brilliant child.  Since he demonstrated such an excellent learning ability, his parents sent him to the Jesuit College at Trent, where he studied science and mathematics. From there, he traveled to the Jesuit College at Hall, near Innsbruck, Austria. While there, he contracted an unidentified illness that almost took his life. 

Eusebio dreamed often, and when he was ill, he had a deep dream that frightened him greatly. He vowed that if his patron, St. Francis Xavier, would intercede with God to help him get better, he would join the Society of Jesus. His health did return, and for the rest of his life, Eusebio thanked God and Francis Xavier for his recovery. He even took the name Francisco and added it to his own. From then on, he was known as Eusebio Francisco Kino. He joined the Society of Jesus on November 20, 1665, when he was 20 years old. 

He received his religious training at such places as Freiburg, Ingolstadt, and Landsburg in Bavaria. He finished his journey to ordination on June 12, 1677, when he received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For years Father Kino had hoped to go to China, and he received word that he and a fellow Austrian were being sent. But it was not to be. Only one was destined for the Phillippines and the other for Mexico. The two men drew a slip of paper from a box. Father Kino drew Mexico. His dreams of going to China would not come true.

Being assigned to the New Spain was one thing, getting there another. Delays due to weather and sickness and various other conditions while crossing from Europe caused Father Kino to miss the ship that was to take him to New Spain. Father Eusebio would have to wait a year for another ship. He did not waste his time. During the time he waited, he studied the comet known as Kirch’s Comet. His findings were published as  Exposición astronómica de el cometa(Astronomical exhibition of the comet).

It was not until 1683 that Father Kino’s first assignment was reached and undertaken. The expedition he was directing arrived at the Baja California peninsula of Las Californias province. He established the Mission of San Bruno, but a severe drought forced them to leave the mission and return to the capital of Mexico City. 

Finally, on March 14, 1687, Father Eusebio Kino began his work in Pimeria Alta. He started the first mission in the area (now southern California, Arizona, and Northern Mexico). Father Kino followed ancient trade routes, which were later expanded into roads. He covered over 50,000 square miles on horseback while mapping an area 200 miles (329 km) long and 250 miles (400km) wide. Father Kino’s maps proved to be the most precise maps of the area for more than 150 years after his death.

Father Kino introduced European seeds to the indigenous peoples, enabling them to grow new fruits, herbs, and grains. He taught them new methods for raising livestock, including sheep, goats, and cattle. Amazingly, Father Kino’s first herd of 20 cattle brought into Pimeria Alta grew to over 70,000 head during the time he was there. Historians refer to Father Kino as Arizona’s first rancher.

Father Kino is honored both in Mexico and in the United States. He established close to 30 missions during his time in the southwest. Today there are towns, schools, monuments, and streets named after him, while statues of him are in many places, including the United States Capital’s Statuary Hall. The largest statue of Father Kino stands along the US-Mexican border in Tijuana.

There is much more, including the Kino Border Initiative, The Kino Heritage Society, Fundacion Kino, and the Kino Catechetical Institute.

On July 11, 2020, Pope Francis declared Father Eusebio Francisco Kino a man of “heroic virtue” elevating him to the title of Venerable. Next stop: Beatification

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