Tour of Mission St. Michael's - Part 2
Oct 18, 2013
|We completed our tour of St. Michael's Mission with Cathy today. The mission was founded by Katharine Mary Drexel in 1896 and operated by the Franciscans on the Navajo Reservation.
Our first stop was the original adobe mission. Its historic interior have been preserved as a museum, interpreting missionary life and reservation life at the turn of the century. It is only a sub-divided stone building but it offers the best insight into the Navajo culture of the early 20th century. This mission of the Franciscan Friars had great influence on the Navajo people and their religious and school teachings.
Originally, this building was separated into four compartments which served as bedrooms and workrooms for the early Friars. One area of the museum has a replica of a Friars room as described by a sister of the Blessed Sacrament. Each room had a bed, a table, paper, two or three pair of trousers hanging on the door, an overcoat, a hat or two, a chair, a number of cigar boxes cut in half to hold letters, and it was lighted by windows about 3'x 4'.
There is a beautiful weaving called The Crucifix Rug in the Museum. The Dine are famous for their weavings. Spider Woman brought weaving to the people and their textiles have always been sought after. This weaving of the Crucifix was made for the Francicans at St. Michael's. It is said to have been woven by Asza' Yazhe, wife of Henry Chee Dodge who was a Navajo leader and in 1923 became the Navajo Tribal Council's first Chairman.
Our next stop on the tour was the Convent which had been the home of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament until last year. You can see where there was an addition to the building at some point. The highlight of this part of the tour were the beautiful stained glass windows in the Chapel of the Convent. The rooms in the convent now look deserted but some are used for various meetings.
We were off next to see the Prayer Chapel. The prayer chapel was built for the 500th Anniversary of the Native American and European relationships which was commemorated in 1992. The prayer chapel is built as a circular prayer Hogan with a dirt floor so that it would lend itself well to prayer meetings and healing services in the Navajo tradition.
The centerpiece of the Hogan chapel is a wood carving called the Redemption of Humankind. A German artist Ludwig Schumacher donated the 16' woodcarving sculptured from a single 500 year old juniper tree. He intended this to be an American Pieta and named it Redemption of Humankind.
We next took a short tour of some of the Rectory and then we were off to the swimming pool area. The pool is still used but there is a hot tub which isn't used anymore. The place is now mainly a greenhouse full of plants that one of the brothers uses to raise plants, flowers and vegetables. Cathy gave us a few of his tomatoes and if she can figure out what they are, I want to plant them in Texas. They were absolutely the best tomatoes we've ever had. Lee even ate them and he doesn't normally eat tomatoes!
After our tour was over it was time to say goodbye to Cathy and we certainly hope that it won't be as long before we see each again!!
There was a full moon on the way home that illuminated the New Mexico countryside. We were amazed that a couple of the pictures Mary shot out of the windows turned out pretty well. The truck isn't a smooth ride for pictures especially in the evening!