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

Mission to Papaguería: St. Catherine's, Topawa

LAB MSS-153/21:98
  Father Augustine wrote that he was singing Solemn High Mass for the St. Francis Day Celebration at Topowa in October 1919 when this picture was taken. This would have been near the original church, which the Indians built of adobe in 1912 and dedicated to San Antonio, and where the first religious instruction on the reservation was offered that year.

The villagers built a new and larger church of local stone and when completed in 1925, it was dedicated to St. Catherine. They also constructed sturdy stone buildings to the east and south of the church that serve as a school and a convent for the sisters. A building to the west is the community house.

A year later, Tompowa was named headquarters of the Papago Mission. Father Augustine was appointed Superior to the Mission in 1935 and served in that capacity for the next six years.

LAB MSS-153/21:99

Father Augustine's 1927 Christmas photograph highlights the "crib" that he bought with an inheritance from his Aunt Phillipine and added to the church. It is interesting to note that St. Francis of Assisi introduced the concept of the Crib or Nativity Scene in the eleventh century.

St Catherine's church and school remains active in 2002 and photographs show the buildings have been well cared for over time. There have been some changes. For example, the stone walls of the church were plastered and painted white some years after its dedication.

There has been a noticeable shortage of priests and nuns to serve the reservation in the past few years. Therefore, residents rejoiced when Frederick Segundo of Topawa and two other colleagues were ordained deacons in an historic ceremony on May 27, 2001. They are the first Tohono O'odham clergy to serve the spiritual needs of their people.

LAB FILM S104:25 Church
LAB FILM S104:28 Convent

LAB FILM S104:30 School

LAB FILM S104:34 Old Feast House

Citations Papaguería Home