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

Mission to Papaguería: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cowlic

Cowlic villagers joined forces in 1914 and built a two-room adobe, which served as both church and school for a number of years. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament had stopped by in 1917 and described it as a windowless building about thirty feet square.

There is no doubt that Father Augustine must have been thrilled to receive a letter in December 1920 from the Franciscan Monastery in Cleveland, to say that the Tertiaries of Cleveland wanted to sponsor a church in Cowlic as a monument commemorating the seventh centenary of the Third Order.

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He was told to build well and strong and that $3000 was available for the work. Father Augustine's photographs show that the new church was well on its way to completion by May 16, 1921.

Presumably construction stopped for a few days in March 1922, when a maverick snowstorm fell in the desert. photograph
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The interior furnishings were also well funded. This included the beautiful altar shown in the photograph, which was shipped from Chicago, along with three paintings by artist, Vladimir Shamburg.

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That altar was replaced during alterations in 1972 and perhaps looked very much like the 2002 photograph, which shows simple design and a minimum amount of furnishings.

The Bishop of Tucson dedicated Father Augustine's church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, in April 1922. The completed church faces west and is an example of rough stone adaptation of the mission revival style. A school forms a wing on the left, while a center section served as living quarters. In the early days, there was a Papago teacher, but by 1931, two sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary stationed at Topowa, traveled twenty miles every day to teach at the Cowlic school.

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Eighty years have passed and time has taken its toll. The little church stands proudly showing signs of age, while only the walls of the adjoining buildings remain.

photograph Various species of cacti have taken hold in the courtyard and stand guard around the dry and now silent fountain, while children play nearby.

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