Reburial Of Two Tumacácori Franciscans

Two Franciscans, Baltazar Carrillo and Narciso Gutiérrez. who served the Tumacácori Mission and were instrumental in starting the construction of the present church that still stands at Tumacácori National Historical Park, both died before it was completed. Each was buried beneath the floor of the Jesuit church that was in use in their day. When the new Franciscan church was finally completed, the bodies of both missionaries were disenterred by Padre Ramón Liberós and reburied beneath the steps of the new church. In 1935 their bodies were once again disenterred and taken for reburial at the San Xavier Mission, where they still lie in rest today, the thinking being that it would be a more sacred burial place there where 60,000 visitors to the National Historical Park would not be walking across their graves. The superintendent of Tumacácori National Monument at the time told the following story:

Louis R. Caywood
Louis R. Caywood

NPS Photo

Bodies of Franciscan Priests Reburied

by Louis R. Caywood

On the morning of February 21, 1935, at 8:00 a.m. at the Mission of San José de Tumacácori mass was said by Rev. Francis Bree over the mortal remains of two pioneer Franciscan priests who long ago trod the desert valleys of this region working among the Indians. Following this brief mass the remains of Padre Baltazar Carillo and Padre Narciso Gutiérrez were escorted by three National Park Service men over the long 40-mile trek from San José de Tumacácori to San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, Arizona. Many times had these padres made the long trip by foot or horseback but that day they were taken over the same route to their last resting place.

The arrival at San Xavier might well bring to mind the arrival of these same priests in early days. Indians were stationed on the hill to the right of the Mission and upon sight of the procession were seen running down the hill to tell others of the arrival.

But this time hundreds of people including high prelates of the Catholic Church, Franciscan brothers, nuns of two Catholic sisterhoods (St. Josephs and Immaculate Heart), and many townspeople were here to welcome back these old Padres to the Mission which was once theirs. Two prelates of the church – Most Rev. Daniel J. Gercke, D.D., Bishop of Tucson, and Most Rev. Edmund Gibbons, D.D., Bishop of Albany, N.Y. – joined with modern Franciscans in honoring the two pioneers.

The National Park Service men, Walter G. Attwell, Associate Engineer, Gene H. Gordon, Assistant Engineer, and Louis R. Caywood, Park Ranger, assisted by Mayor Henry O. Jaasted of Tucson escorted the bodies to the gates of the Mission where they were replaced by the Franciscan brothers, - the action significant of the transfer from the custody of the Federal Government back to that of the order in whose service the pioneers had labored. The bodies were placed before the Sanctuary where the services took place.

As the bodies passed down the Nave to the Altar a Franciscan choir sang the age-old Gregorian chant of the mass and burial service, a composition that has been used in the Church for more than 800 year. On the plain black casket resting outside the sanctuary rail were placed the symbols of priesthood – the golden chalice, the stole and missal. The casket was flanked on either side by burning tapers. Three veteran Franciscan missionaries of Arizona assisted at the solemn requiem mass which lasted almost an hour.

Father Pudlowski preached the sermon which paid high tribute to these early Franciscan missionaries. Mention, of course, was made of the Jesuits who preceded and in reality laid the foundation for the Franciscans. The Jesuits had been expelled after their long and arduous labors by Charles III of Spain in 1767. The Franciscans took over the work started by the earlier order. They went into the field in order to save the missions from the complete disintegration which threatened them.

Padre Baltazar and Padre Narciso were not among the pioneers but followed in about five years, and labored in the field for almost a quarter of a century. From 1780 until 1794 Padre Baltazar Carillo was superior at San Xavier. In 1795 he died and Padre Narciso Gutiérrez took his place until 1799. The first gave 24 years of service and the second 20-odd. Father Pudlowski, on behalf of the order, thanked Bishop Gercke and Bishop Gibbons and the representatives of the Federal Government for enabling the Franciscans to bring the bodies of their pioneers back to their home mission.

Bishop Gercke, in his sermon, paid high tribute to the early padres, after speaking of their lives and work among the Indians, he said: “Today they have come back home to rest under the shadow of this mission they built and loved so well. The history of the missionary work of the Franciscans brings us back over a period of nerly 400 years, for only 47 years after Columbus set foot in America, Padre Marcus de Niza came to what is now Arizona.”

Following the sermon and mass, Bishop Gercke donned black vestments and, wearing the mitre of the hierarchy, descended from the sanctuary to bless the bodies of the pioneers with incense and holy water.

Finally, a procession was formed at the Altar headed by a Franciscan cross-bearer, followed by the Franciscans, bishops, priests, Park Service men and nuns who all escorted the bodies to the Mortuary Chapel just outside the Mission. There the grave in the floor was blessed before the remains of the Franciscan pioneers were laid to rest in heir final resting place.

We, of the Park Service, who took part in the Procession from Tumacácori to San Xavier and the services following were much impressed by the sincerity and deep regard which the brothers showed during the elaborate requiem mass.

Last updated: May 23, 2020

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