John L. Kessell has selected a most appropriate title for his in-depth study of Arizona’s southernmost Jesuit mission. The Mission of Sorrows was exactly what this title implies. First discovered by the great explorer but dubious missionary Kino, Guevavi became a resident mission in July, 1701. Its first resident missionary, Juan de San Martín, did not last a year. It took exactly thirty years to replace the departed Jesuit with another resident missionary, Juan Bautista Grazhoffer, who arrived in May, 1732, and was poisoned promptly the following spring. Grazhoffer was followed in turn by residents Felipe Segesser (1733-1734), Alejandro Rapicani (June, 1737—fall, 1740), José de Torres Perea (February, 1741—spring, 1744), José Garrucho (May, 1745—November, 1751), Francisco Pauer (December, 1753—January, 1760), Miguel Gerstner (January, 1760—May, 1761), Ignacio Pfefferkorn (May, 1761—May 1763), and Custodio Jimeno (July, 1763-July, 1767).
As a group the resident missionaries—as the author points out in this semibiographical study—had little success at Guevavi. Segesser succeeded in planting trees and keeping alive; he was unsuccessful in keeping the Pimas sober. Rapicani fought a good battle against the Spanish governors, Huidobro and Vildósola; after three years he advanced to another position. Perea, whose ministry among the Indians can be classed as distinguished, was transferred after a three-year stint, perhaps because of ill health. His immediate successor, the “fragile” Ildefonso de la Peña, lasted less than six months. José Garrucho, the Sardinian, clearly stands out as the most successful administrator at Guevavi. An indefatigable missionary, who served both natives and gente de razón and who battled both the rebellious Indians and incompetent government officials, Garrucho unfortunately was driven from Guevavi by the Pima Revolt of 1751. Garrucho’s period of prosperity at Guevavi was followed by a period of reconstruction when the Moravian Pauer distinguished himself by his work. Unfortunately, Pauer’s work was in vain. His successors, the Germans Gerstner and Pfefferkorn and the Spaniard Jimeno, were unable to conquer the diseases that devastated the Guevavi population even more than the Apaches’ hostility. Yet, it was neither of these two menaces that dealt the death blow to this spiritually and materially unproductive Jesuit mission—its euthanasic end came from New Spain’s greatest tragedy, the Jesuit Expulsion of 1767.
Although Guevavi is insignificant in missionary annals, Kessell’s study is of transcendent value. His excellently researched and well written monograph shows that the Jesuits, despite their reputation, were not supermen or wonder workers as missionaries. It further reveals that the Jesuits, not withstanding their power in New Spain, fared no better than the Franciscans in dealing with the settlers and the military. And, if one reads the volume very carefully, there are definite indications that Jesuits were unduly harsh and unforgiving in their treatment of Indian troublemakers and, consequently, very critical of mild officials. Finally, it succinctly points out that there is a difference between well known Jesuit personalities (i.e., Kino) and unknown but devoted village missionaries.