Ponchie- the friar who baptized a cow

For my thesis I want to use archaeological data to reconstruct the life on a proposed Franciscanmission site in Mexico. However, the rocks and broken artefacts and only say so much. I really had to talk to someone who is currently living this. I needed to talk to a Franciscan friar who lives in a mission that serves an Indian community if I really wanted to see what I was expecting on the site in Mexico. I understand that evangelization has “progressed” from the 18thcentury to modern day but there must be an underlying modus operandi in the order that would ensure some continuity and uniformitarianism.


There did seem to be. Ponchie mentioned how he was there a guide. He never proselytized but rather catechized those who came to him, but he never went to them. He mentioned how this was a basis for the Franciscan order where instead of preaching, a missionary would go live with the “heathens” and then they eventually come to him. I found this interesting but I don’t think this would have always been the case, especially during the colonial era. Kino was Jesuit, not Franciscan, so the Tohono first had a different approach tried on them. Either way, it proved effective, with about 85% of the native population identifying as catholic. Ponchie did mention how while they are “Catholics” there is still a very strong influence of their culture and have never really been instructed fully in the catechism. For example, he was asked why he baptized a cow during Easter. He was originally taken back by the comment but then he remembered he said grace over the cow before it was killed and butchered for the dinner.


There was also the time he was asked to re-baptize a teenager. The mother came in with her son pleading he be re-baptized (a huge no-no for Catholics, it’s literally in the Creed). Again, his first reaction was “WTF”, but then he had to talk to her down and refuse, offering the anointment of the sick in the place of a baptism. She was pissed. This seemed to happen all the time. They are “Catholics” almost in name only. The Tohono still seem to have their own beliefs and they follow them in conjunction with at least exterior catholic influences.


Also, Ponchie went to Berkley. That’s awesome. He mentioned that’s where he learned to deal with more diverse opinions.


2 Replies to “Ponchie- the friar who baptized a cow”

  1. That’s an interesting story about the mother who wanted to re-baptize her son. Perhaps baptism has a reputation for being an especially powerful ceremony or maybe because of the illness, she figured it hadn’t been done correctly the first time.

  2. Father Ponchie is truly a legend. I love how you described his way of dealing with differences in beliefs and opinions – something I feel extremely necessary in achieving honest peace and faith. Based on what you mentioned about his acknowledgement that O’odham “Catholicism” is not completely Catholic, did you find out what Ponchie honestly thinks about their calling themselves Catholics? Does he silently disapprove or accept it as the way they inherited dual religions?

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