Arizona, Catholic Church in
ARIZONA, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
A state in the southwest U.S., one of the Rocky Mountain states, admitted (1912) to the Union as the 48th state, bounded on the north by Utah; on the west by the Colorado River, Nevada, and California; on the south by Mexico; and on the east by New Mexico. The capital and largest city is Phoenix. The two dioceses within its boundaries, Tucson and Phoenix, are suffragans of the Metropolitan See of Santa Fe, NM. In 2001, Catholics comprised approximately 23 percent of the total population.
The Missions Era. The Roman Catholic historical heritage of Arizona dates back to 1539, when a small expedition under the leadership of Franciscan Fray Marcos de Niza (of Nice), provincial of the Franciscans of New Spain arrived in the land of Pimería Alta. Spanish viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, had dispatched Fray Marcos north into the region from the Valley of Mexico. Fray Marcos, with Estevan, the Moor companion of Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Baca on the latter's earlier return to Mexico from Florida in 1536 serving as a guide at the vanguard of the expedition, made his way as far northeast as the land of the Zuñi-Cibola. The 1540–1542 Spanish expedition of Francisco Vâsquez de Coronado brought additional missioners into the area, traveling even farther east to what would be present-day Kansas.
A more concerted evangelization effort among the natives of Arizona began later with the appearance of other Franciscans, venturing west to the land of the Zuñi from New Mexico, and Jesuits, with Father Eusebio Francisco Kino as their leader. In April of 1598 Juan de Oñate crossed the Rio Grande into what was then called the Kingdom of New Mexico, after having stopped his expedition for un día de dar gracias (a day of thanksgiving). The Franciscans who came to New Mexico as a part of the Oñate entrada, missioned into the northern reaches of the land at least as far as Santa Fe. There they erected, possibly as early as 1610, what is today recognized universally as the oldest church still in use in the present-day United States, Mission San Miguel. Eventually, the Franciscans made their way west to the land of the Zuñi in future Arizona. Laboring among the Zuñi for some time, the Franciscans saw their endeavors interrupted with the Pueblo Revolt at Santa Fe, NM in 1680. Even though the Spanish Catholic presence returned to Santa Fe in 1692 under the devout Catholic leadership of Don Diego De Vargas, governor of New Mexico twice, from 1692 to 1697 and again from 1703 to 1704, further Franciscan evangelization of the Zuñi from New Mexico failed to materialize.
In the meantime, the work of Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco kino began in the southern part of the region, south of the Gila River. Kino was born in the small Italian mountain hamlet of Segno near the border of Switzerland on Aug. 10, 1645. Completing his studies and religious formation as a Jesuit, Kino was ordained and from Oettingen University in Germany was selected to venture to Mexico as a missionary, departing the Spanish port city of Cádiz in January 1681. Eventually arriving in Mexico City, Father Kino missioned in Baja, CA, for a period of time before ultimately being dispatched to the vast lands of New Spain's (that part of the territory referred to as Nueva Navara) Primería Alta. There he was to peacefully promote the economic and social well being of countless natives while catechizing among them.
In that work he founded 22 churches and missions for the natives' sacramental lives, the best known of which was San Xavier del Bac Church in Tucson, AZ. Father Kino never remained permanently at Mission San Xavier del Bac. Instead, he spent some 24 years headquartered at the first major church that he founded back in 1687, that of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Cosari, more than 100 miles south of San Xavier del Bac in Sonora's valley of the Rio de San Miguel. Father Kino continued in his labors and other missionaries increasingly came to assist him in evangelizing the peoples of Sonora-Arizona, the Primería Alta. Outstanding among those missionaries extraordinary was Father Augutin de Campos, who was by Kino's side when the Jesuit from Italy died on March 15, 1711 in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico.
Catholic evangelizing among the natives south of the Gila River continued after the death of Father Kino. Beyond the region where an imaginary line might be drawn from Tucson in the south to present-day Flagstaff in the north all the way west to Kingman and the Mojave Desert, the land was mostly parched and difficult to settle. The Spanish royal government discouraged migrants (the Irish, for example) from entering the land, who were neither Catholic nor loyal to Spain. Because of their centuries-long struggle with the English and the latter's occupation and attempted Anglicization of Ireland, many Irish left their homeland and resided in Spain before venturing to the Americas. Some of those immigrants eventually came to Arizona. One such Irishman was Hugo Oconór. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1734 with the Gaelic name, Hugh O'Connor, he became a resister to the English presence in Ireland and eventually was forced to flee to Spain. He entered the Volunteer Regiment of Aragón and was sent to New Spain, serving first in Cuba and then in Mexico. The Spanish began to refer to him as Hugo Oconor. Because of his prominent red hair he also became known as "Capitán Colorado." From 1767 to 1770 he served the Spanish government as governor of Texas.
In 1772, the viceroy of New Spain named Oconor "Comandante Inspector," and assigned him the task of establishing order and security along the northern frontier of Spain's territory from Texas to California. While serving the Spanish Crown in that capacity, Oconor established the presido at Tucson near Mission San Xavier del Bac (1775). Later transferred to the Yucatán as governor, Oconor died there in 1779. Like Oconor, the last Viceroy of New Spain that the Spanish government dispatched to Mexico was Irish—Don Juan O'Donojú, more accurately known as Sean O'Donohugh. It was O'Donohugh who signed the Aug. 23, 1821 Treaty of Córdoba with Augustín Iturbide, granting Mexican independence and ensuring that the Catholic Church would be "established" in the new nation of Mexico.
Diocesan Foundations. Acting upon the request of Bishop Benito Crespo of Durango, Mexico, the Spanish Crown began to focus more attention on sending missionaries into the northern region of the Primeriá Alta. As had happened earlier to missionaries in other areas of New Spain, wherein indigenous peoples' revolts against the Spanish erupted (the Land of the Guale north of Las Floridas in the late 17th century, for example), priests were killed. In the case of the future Arizona, priests died in the Piman revolt of 1751. And then, in 1767, a final blow came to the Sons of Saint Ignatius and their dedication to Catholic evangelization of the Primeria Alta, when King Charles III of Spain, acting upon misguided advice from his liberal ministers, expelled the Jesuits from all Spanish lands. A year later, in 1768, Franciscans appeared in the Primería Alta to continue the work of missioning until a more hierarchically structured Church could be put into place.
From 1779 to the Treaty of Gudalupe Hidalgo, signed between the United States and Mexico in 1848, following the American annexation of much of northern Mexico after their invasion of that country in 1846, the land that was to become Arizona fell under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop of Sonora, Mexico. In 1850, Arizona became identified as part of the newlyestablished U.S. Territory of New Mexico. In 1868, Arizona became a vicariate apostolic, and a French priest from Clermont, Jean Baptiste Salpointe, was named vicar apostolic. Salpionte labored dedicatedly for 15 years to build up the Catholic presence in Arizona. In April 1884 he was named coadjutor archbishop of Santa Fe, but served as apostolic administrator of Arizona until May 1, 1885. On Aug. 18, 1885, Salpointe succeeded former Archbishop John Baptist Lamy as head of the archdiocese. Back in Arizona on that same day of May 1, 1885, Father Peter Bourgarde, also from the Diocese of Clermont, was consecrated a bishop and vicar apostolic of Arizona. Several years later, on May 10, 1897, he became the first bishop of Tucson. In June 1900, another French priest, Henri Granjon of the Archdiocese of Lyon, assumed ecclesiastical authority over the Diocese of Tucson. Granjon would emerge as one of the Tucson diocese's longest serving and most dedicated ordinaries, focusing especially on the needs of the poor Hispanic Catholics of his diocese.
The first American-born bishop of Tucson, and the ordinary who headed the diocese for almost 37 years, was Bishop Daniel James Gercke of Philadelphia, PA. Gercke was ordained bishop of Tucson on Nov. 6, 1923, and he served until his retirement in September 1960 at the age of 80. He passed away in Tucson, March 19, 1964. Gercke's coadjutor, Francis J. Green, assumed leadership of the diocese before retiring in July 1981. Green was succeeded by Manuel D. Moreno, the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, who was appointed to Tucson in 1982.
With the steady growth of Arizona' population, a second Catholic diocese (Phoenix), was established on Dec. 2, 1969. The Most Reverend Edward Anthony McCarthy became the new diocese's first bishop. He served until July 5, 1976, when he was named archbishop of Miami. The second bishop of Phoenix, James S. Rausch, was installed in March 1977 and administered the diocese until his death in May 1981. He was succeeded by Thomas J. O'Brien who was installed in January 1982.
The two dioceses, together with the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, whose territory extends across the border, form the Arizona Catholic Conference. This organization enables the various dioceses to collaborate in applying Catholic social teachings to public policy that affect issues like education, family life and immigration.
Bibliography: h. e. bolton, Spanish Exploration In The Southwest, 1542–1706: Original Narratives of Early American History (New York 1963); Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino (New York 1936). e. j. burrus, ed. Kino and Manje: Explorers of Sonora and Arizona (St. Louis 1971). p. foley, "From Linares to Galveston: Texas in the Diocesan Scheme of the Roman Catholic Church to the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture v. 8 (1997) 25–44. r. e. nordmeyer, k. mccarthy and c. polzer, Shepherds in the Desert: A Sequel to Salpointe (Tucson 1978). c. polzer, A Kino Guide: His Missions-His Monuments (Tucson 1976). j. b. salpointe, Soldiers of the Cross: Notes on the Ecclesiastical History of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado (Banning, CA 1898). d. tejada, The San Miguel Chapel: Oldest Church in the U.S. (Santa Fe 1968).