Benfield's 2013 Travels travel blog


Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church

Entrance Doors

Our Lady of Fatima


Baptismal Font

The Altar

Cathy and Father PJ (Florecito Pabotoa, Jr.)

Altar Pottery

Scenes on the Baptismal Font

Scenes on the Baptismal Font



St. Francis of Assisi

Navajo Madonna and Child

St. Kateria, Lily of the Mohawks

St. Katherine Drexel


The Stations of the Cross

Closeup of one of the Stations

Garcia's - where we had dinner

Cathy next took us to see Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Chinle, Arizona. We were lucky that the Pastor, Father PJ (Florecito Pabotoa, Jr.), showed up as we were wandering around the church. Cathy knows him and so he opened the church for us and gave us a private tour. This is an interesting church as it honors both Catholic Christianity and traditional Navajo spirituality.

Franciscan priests came to Chinle in the 1890's. They established their first church here in 1905. In the 1980's the diocese decided to build a new church. By then the Pope and American bishops were encouraging clergy to embrace other cultures while they spread the gospel. The first Mass was held in this church on Christmas 1989.

Here Mass begins with the blessings of the four directions in English. The prayer ends in "Let us always walk in beauty, walk in beauty, walk in beauty." The priest wafts cedar smoke with an eagle feather and blesses the people.

The inside entry doors have Navajo images of the Yeis, the holy people of the Navajo. They are a reminder to the people to walk a holy path.

The church is shaped like a traditional hogan with a sky hole in the top center of the building and a 6' hole in the center of the floor to expose the sacred earth. It reminds the Navajo people of the creation of the Earth. In their story of creation all forms of life came forth from a hole.

The Baptismal Font is over the hole in the center of the floor. The four stages of life are shown in the baptismal bowl: A baby on a cradle board, a young woman awaiting the future, a woman weaving a rug and an elderly man watching his sheep.

The tabernacle was made to look like a Navajo summer home and holds the Holy Eucharist. Cathy said this was stolen and then recovered.

The four mountains are sacred to the Navajo and there are paintings on the north, south, east and west walls.

We had a very interesting tour of the hogan Catholic Church. Then we headed out for dinner and ate at Garcia's. It was pretty good food and they had a fun gift shop.

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