Mission to Arizona, 1916-1940: Father Augustine Schwarz, O.F.M.

Biography of Father Augustine Joseph Schwarz, O.F.M., 1887-1946

LAB MSS-153/2:1

Following his ordination on June 26, 1914, Franciscan Father, Augustine Schwarz, O.F.M., put in his request for service in China. The Bishop turned him down and sent him to Arizona instead. Father Augustine soon found himself at St. John the Baptist Mission and Boarding School in the then isolated Indian village of Komatke, some 14 miles southwest of Phoenix.

He found a well-established school of some 500 students when he arrived in 1916. During the next three years he supervised activities, visited the sick, and conducted services for the Indians at Fort McDowell, Florence, Wetcamp, and Hashan Kehk (Sacaton Flats).

At first, he traveled by mule, then by horse-drawn wagon, and finally, by the old touring car shown above. He also worked with St. John’s Mission Band supervising a national fund-raising trip in 1922. It was said that while at Komatke, he was nicknamed, “Shoozey,” by his colleagues.

He had two tours of duty (1923-1925 and 1930-1935) on the Apache Reservation, where he built St. Francis Mission Chapel and worked with the Native population. During his second trip, he wrote that he finished building the Cibecue Chapel in honor of St. Catherine.

LAB MSS-153/10:65

By far his longest service was on the Papago Reservation (Tohono O'odham Nation), where he built the first St. Joseph’s Chapel in Pisinimo (1920), Our Lady of Guadalupe at Cowlic (1921), and St. Paul’s Chapel in Fresnal (1940). In addition, he recorded visits to the villages of Kupk, Anegam, Ajo, San Solano, and Haivana Nakya. Father Augustine served as Superior of the San Solano Mission complex with headquarters at Topowa from 1927-1929 and 1935-1941. In 1941, he transferred to the St. Thomas Mission in Yuma, where he also served as auxiliary chaplain for army camps and Italian and German prisoners held in the area.

Father Augustine Schwarz was born in Chicago on August 16, 1887, the eldest of six children. He attended St. Joseph College in Teutopolis, Illinois for his religious training and said his first Mass at St. Augustine Church in June of 1914. He died of a heart condition at Queen of Angels Hospital, Los Angeles, California, on April 25, 1946.