Ángel Alonso de Prado


Ginny Sphar

A healthy friar took Father López’ place at Tumacácori but he also hated it.

Tall, fair skinned, with brown hair, brown eyes, and a long face, Father Ángel Alonso de Prado was yet another of the ill-suited interns who came in with Father Visitor Bringas. He had been at Caborca. He was older than Bordoy by nearly five years, but had not been a Franciscan as long.

Father Ángel was born in the villa of Bentretea in the archdiocese of Burgos. On March 1, 1782, one day after his twenty-third birthday, he committed himself to the Franciscan novitiate at La Cabrera, 30 miles north of Madrid. He volunteered for overseas missions in 1789.[1]

After he had been at Tumacácori only one week, he knew it was a mistake. On May 30, 1797, Father Alonso wrote to the Father Guardian of the college. “My Father Guardian, I am not for the missions. I know it because God in His infinite judgment seems each day to be withdrawing farther from me because of my sins. I am going out of my mind with so much confusion, and if I don’t return at once to the college they will soon have on their hands another Salazar (Esteban de Salazar, one of the original 15 Querétaran friars in Sonora, whose experience in the missions caused him to consider suicide), unless God remedies the situation. I therefore beg you for the love of God to send me a pass for the college. God will reward you, and it will be a great favor to the missions where they might station me.”[2]

He also described the dire state of the mission.

Father President Iturralde made Father Ángel responsible for Tubac. He had written to Bishop Francisco Rouset asking that the faculties of interim chaplain previously conferred on Ramón López be granted to Prado.[3]

This really bothered the already disquieted grey robe. Exactly what was his obligation? Was he formally bound as a parish priest or was it a matter of charity? “This,” he wrote, “is a centipede,” a problem with 100 legs and a bite which only the wisest heads at the _______ could resolve. The Indian women who hung around the presidio scared him. Some friars were actually accepting fees—10 pesos for a marriage and a peso for other services. His conscience could not reconcile this with his vows of poverty.

Everywhere Father Ángel looked he found another centipede. The dilemmas he described had perplexed Christian missionaries from the time of St. Paul. In the case of heresy or of formal apostasy among mission Indians, whose responsibility was it to punish them, the friars or the bishop? In closing, Father Ángel begged again to be withdrawn. If not, “send me two pairs of sandals.”[4]

[1] Certification of sailing, December 17, 1789, et al. Madoz, Diccionario, Vol. 4, p. 231. Cardoso, Lista.

[2] Prado to Ramis, Tumacácori, May 30, 1797, CC, misc. Salazar to Gil de Bernabé, Tubutama, May 31, 1772, CC, 202.12.

[3] Iturralde to Rouset, Tubutama, May 31, 1797, AMS.

[4] Prado to Ramis, May 30, 1797. Five weeks later Prado, concerned by the possibility of finding himself at times alone at the mission, requested that the bishop modify the faculty to celebrate two masses every day of obligation for the benefit of the people of Tubac. The bishop granted his request. For a period of three years Prado or his successor, bound to say one mass at Tubac and one at Tumacácori on feasts of obligation, might dispense with mass at the mission on those days the Indians were not obligated, unless 12 or more obligated persons showed up. Prado to Rouset, Tumacácori, July 4, 1797, and Rouset to Prado, Hacienda de Pánuco, August 26, 1797, AMS.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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