Alberto Chini is president of the Associazione Culturale Padre Eusebio F. Chini, or the Cultural Association of Father Eusebio F. Chini. Chini was Kino's birth name. From his home in Segno, Alberto Chini answered questions through e-mail. His writing was translated by Alvillar and Sister Rina Cappellazzo, the Tucson Catholic Diocese's vicar for religious. "Segno today is a town of approximately 700 inhabitants who remember with pride their illustrious one," Chini wrote. "In (Kino's) honor in 1991, on occasion of the installation of the statue on horseback donated by the Historical Society of Tucson, the Piazza was renamed to carry his name today." On June 16, Segno residents will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tucson's donating the equestrian statue. Chini said the festivities will be "in recognition of the community of Tucson, who have actively seen Father Eusebio's work and whose memory is indelible in their hearts." Chini said while they know Father Kino attended a Jesuit university in nearby Trento, they know little of his childhood. "We know he was an only son of four children of Francesco a Margherita," he wrote. Times were difficult, and Kino learned to "live within limited means." This, Chini wrote, appears to have prepared Father Kino for a life of poverty.
Padre Kino is credited with bringing Christianity here without using the military approach. He peacefully founded 21 missions in the Pimería Alta, or the land of the upper Pimas, in what is now northern Sonora and Southern Arizona, in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The missions include those at San Xavier, Tumacácori and Guevavi. Kino - whose likeness sits on horseback at 15th Street and Kino Parkway and in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, as well as in Segno - introduced cattle and new crops to the region.
In 1700, he laid the foundation for a mission at the village of Bac, on the Santa Cruz River near modern Tucson, to be named after his patron saint, St. Francis Xavier. It was never built. Construction on the chuch we know as the "White Dove of the Desert" began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Kino was 65 when he died in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. His bones remain on display in the courtyard of the mission church that he established there.
A local organization, the Kino Heritage Society, is dedicated to educating the public about Kino and is working to have him canonized. Raul Ramirez, secretary of the society, said Kino is at step one toward Catholic sainthood, which is being recognized as a servant of God. "This year, he can likely move to the second step, become venerable, which means that we can pray to him for intercession," he said.
Alvillar's passion for Father Kino and his legacy are what led her to the ancestors of the famous Jesuit missionary. She and her husband hope to visit Segno again this fall. "You can go up to the well where his mother drew the water and you can walk the streets where he walked," she said in explaining her passion for the small village. "Knowing (the Chinis) helps you understand where you are today. It helps put it all in perspective. It makes history come alive." Alberto Chini said hospitality between Tucsonans and Segno residents is well reciprocated. "We have received a magnificent acceptance and in particular from Gloria," Chini wrote. "We have been able to see with how much affection Father Kino is remembered, his figure is breathed in the air of Tucson."
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