HERE IS a heartwarming dis-
connect when you talk with
Father Ponchie Vásquez,
O.F.M. The litany of grave social
problems in his ministry stands in
stark contrast to his bubbling good
nature. “What we do is physically
impossible,” he laughs.
He and one other Franciscanpriest cover a territory in Southwest Arizona the size of Connecticut, spiritually accompanying theTohono O’odham Native Americansin the Sonoran Desert. It is an areathat encompasses one of the oldest Catholic mission sites in theUnited States, dating back to 1687.
Their challenges—many similar tothose faced by missionaries centuries ago—could flatten the faint
Vásquez does whathe can; he lets hispeople teach himabout God; and herelishes the humanconnections of life in hisreligious community.
VÁSQUEZ at Mass at PanTak, Arizona. “Being amissionary,” he says, “meansto share one’s life, giveone’s gifts, and also receivethe presence of God in thepeople we encounter.”