(left) The Apse which includes the high altar, chancel and altar rail.
By Danielle Crounse
San Xavier Mission is just seven miles south of Tucson, and is easy to locate.
To get there, take Interstate 10 to Interstate 19 South and exit at the sign directing you to Mission San Xavier del Bac. You can see the bright white Mission from the highway. Admission is free.
Catholic services are still held at San Xavier: daily at 8:30 a.m. and Sunday at 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. There are no registered members of the parish, visitors and people from neighboring Tucson often pack the Mission on Sunday mornings.
Today San Xavier has more than a church to visit. A museum including many artifacts of the church is attached. There you will also see old gowns, books, dishes, etc. that were once used at the church. There are also several displays including maps of the surrounding area, historic photographs and explanations of the traditions of San Xavier.
A gift shop where southwestern goods are sold is also attached to the church.
San Xavier is under continual restoration. Decades of dirt and soot from devotional candles lit inside the church lead to a thick, dark build-up on the walls and statues.
Therefore, a move to preserve the beauty of the church began and cleaning of the soot is done on a regular basis. The exterior of the church is whitewashed as needed to keep its bright white appearance. Donations are always accepted for restoration.
Tips when visiting San Xavier del Bac:
1. If visiting during the summer months, dress cool, as it gets hot and stuffy inside the church. (Visiting the church in the warmer months of the summer should make for smaller crowds than the more comfortable winter months.)
2. When you enter the church you may choose to sit in the pews and listen to a tape of the verbal history of San Xavier.
3. Be sure to visit one of the many Tohono Oodam food stands surrounding San Xavier. Sample the Indian frybread, which is a thick dough that is formed into a round disk and dropped in hot oil and comes out as a crispy, bubbly bread. The bread is topped with your choice of red chile, beans, or the sweeter options like cinnamon, powdered sugar, or honey.
4. Also visit the Indian craft mall directly across the street from San Xavier where Indian jewlery, baskets and blankets are featured.