Joseph Ignacio Ramirez Arellano


Ginny Sphar

Whether on business or sick leave, Father Gutiérrez was away from Tumacácori during the winter of 1804-5, between November and the following May. A devout but sickly 34-year-old Mexican, who had been with Father Llorens at San Xavier since the summer of 1802, rode down to Tumacácori to fill in.

Father Joseph Ignacio Ramírez de Arellano from an old family of Puebla de los Angeles had been invested with the Franciscan habit only six years before, on December 11, 1798, at the College of Querétaro. He had been a grammar and philosophy teacher at the Colegio Carolino in Puebla before that. A mature adult, he really wanted to be a Franciscan. He wrote often to his mother and brother. When he got to San Xavier[1] he continued writing, and told of the variety of fruits in the mission garden, his heat rash, summer storms and winter cold. He also wrote of the friars’ frustrations “the neglect on the part of the government, if not the calculated disregard, to work for any advance here, stupefies us.” Ramírez probably worried his mother with his accounts of the Apaches. “They go about the whole area robbing and killing to get what they can,” he wrote. “They have nothing else to do or nothing else to think of, nor are the many presidios located here for that reason only, of any avail to restrain them.”[2]

Apparently at Tumacácori he was too busy to write. When Gutiérrez returned in May, his replacement was battling what may have been an epidemic. In a span of ten days he buried seven persons. Father Ramírez rode back to San Xavier. The next letter his mother received was from Father Llorens.

On September 6, 1805, the very day Father President Moyano wrote the College asking that Father Ramírez be recalled because of habitual illness, Ramírez was seized with a fever. It kept mounting and on September 26, 1805, he died, attended by what the friars interpreted as a sign from heaven. That night as the body lay in the church at San Xavier, lit by candles, those who kept vigil noticed the dead friar’s face and tonsure glistened. They were moist. He was sweating. A healthy color had replaced the grayness of death. Yet he was plainly dead. Father Llorens conferred with the two other religious who planned to assist in the funeral the next day, apparently Gutiérrez and Father Pedro de Arriquibar, since 1795 the chaplain at Tucson. They would not bury the body as long as the miraculous phenomenon persisted, for “without doubt God wants to manifest by that means the glory his servant is enjoying.” Word had spread to the Tucson presidio and people flocked out to the mission. Hours later the sweating ceased. Only then did they lay Father Ramírez to rest.[3]

[1] Certification of sailing, Marqués del Surco, Cádiz, November 14, 1789, AGI, Mex., 2735. Lista de los religiosos, Rivera, CSCQ, September 22, 1795, ibid., 2737. It would appear that Fernández Saravia, Joseph Ignacio Ramírez, and Gregorio Ruíz were three of the four who rode north from the College in early 1802 “with Father President.” Geiger, “A Voice from San Xavier del Bac (1802-1805),” Provincial Annals, Vol. 16 (1953), p. 7. For some reason Gutiérrez entered the three baptisms celebrated by Fernández Saravia (February 19, March 31, and June 11, 1804); the latter only signed them. DCB. CSCQ, Libro de difuntos.

[2] Geiger, “Voice from San Xavier,” pp. 5-11, and Miguel Marín H., “Un missionero poblano en la Pimería Alta,” Abside, Vol. 32 (1968), pp. 404-25. Ramírez’ parents were Joseph Ramírez de Arellano and Josephina Espino Barrios. He had been ordained at Valladolid (Morelia) on March 19, 1800, the feast of Saint Joseph.

[3] Between December 1804, and May 1805, Ramírez buried 16 bodies. DCB. Geiger, “Voice from San Xavier,” pp. 10-11. Moyano to Father Guardian, November 4, 1805, as quoted in CSCQ, Libro de difuntos.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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