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

Mission to Papaguería: St. Joseph's Church, Pisinimo


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LAB MSS-153/24:108
Father Augustine's photograph of the first chapel at Pisinimo, shows adobe construction with a thatch room. It was probably taken about 1919 while the new church was being built.

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LAB MSS-153/24:107
  The Papago-style altar is also typical of the times displaying statues and sacred pictures, a processional arch, and rows of paper flowers placed on the wall.

 

The new church was well established by 1922 and a photograph shows a crowd seated for dining during the St. Joseph's Day feast. After services, the Papago ladies might have served fry bread, beans, steamed cholla buds and other desert delicacies to the assembled crowd. Father Augustine pointed out that the whole area served as the kitchen, dining room, and dancing floor.

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LAB MSS-153/24:123

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LAB MSS-153/24:116 St. Joseph's Church, 1920

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LAB MSS-153/24:114 The Altar

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LAB MSS-153/24:120
St. Joseph's Church was built by Father Justin Deutsch, O.F.M., who stands at the far left of the celebratory crowd at the March 25, 1920 dedication.

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LAB MSS-153/24:125
Later, a group of children lined up to have their pictures taken; none of them had yet been to school.

Things would soon change. "God is blessing our Papago mission at Pisinemo," wrote Bonaventure Oblasser wrote in 1930, adding "that attendance at school is increasing so much we are forced to hold classes in the chapel." Four years later, the villagers built a new adobe church while the old church, San Jose, became the schoolhouse.


Some time in the seventies, a local artist painted traditional pottery and basket designs in bold colors on the exterior of the church and the school, while the saguaro heads were topped with metal crosses.


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LAB FILM S104:60
These changes were erased over time, and in April 2001, the 1934 structure, now in earth tones, blends with the environment.

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LAB FILM S104:51
  The earlier church/school, San José, shows many signs of age. The original snow roof (constructed by the same German carpenter who built St. Clare's roof in Anegam) is lowered and replaced; a door has been cut in one of the windows; and a peeling coat of whitewash obscures any decorative color that once covered the outer walls.

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LAB FILM S104:56
  The Man-in the-Maze basket design on the aging door, a symbol of Tohono O'odham (Papago) identity, represents the path that the figure at the top must travel in the course of life in the quest of wisdom.

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