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In Memoriam: Kieran McCarty (1925–2008)
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In Memoriam: Kieran McCarty (1925–2008) Bernard L. Fontana [Eulogy delivered by Bernard L. Fontana at Mission San Xavier del Bac on Saturday, January 3, 2009, on the occasion of the funeral Mass for the Reverend Father Kieran McCarty, O.F.M.] “Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fall from the sky to the earth” (Rev 9:1). With Father Kieran’s passing, a star has fallen from the sky, ashes to ashes and dust to dust. In thinking about our friend, I’m reminded of what a friar once told me. “If you’ve met one Franciscan ... you’ve met one Franciscan.” If ever there were an examplar of that verity, it was Kieran Robert McCarty, a man known to his fellow friars and to his legion of friends as “Kiro.” It was when he became a Franciscan that he assumed the name “Kieran” after a pair of sixth century Irish saints, monastics who, appropriately enough, strove to preserve religion and learning in some of the darkest of the Dark Ages. Kiro was a person who compartmentalized his adult life. He was, above all, a Franciscan priest who felt deeply his fraternal calling. So was he an airplane pilot. A motorcycle driver. An accomplished musician who could fill a space with the sound of beautiful organ music. A back country adventurer who was completely at home in the seaside, foothill, and mountain villages of Sonora and Sinaloa where he sought out precious 17th, 18th, and 19th-century documents in churches both big and small, documents that he microfilmed and many of which he personally transcribed with a typewriter. Kiro was a scholar’s scholar and the peoples’ scholar. Generous to a fault, he stood ever ready to share his hard-won knowledge with anyone who asked, laymen, students, and professors alike. Father Kieran was a man hale, hearty, and well met. He liked good cigars. He smoked a pipe. He liked Sonoran bacanora and good martinis. Bernard L. Fontana is retired field historian at the University of Arizona and editorial advisor for Journal of the Southwest. Journal of the Southwest 50, 4 (Winter 2008) : 459–462 He liked good food, especially estilo sonorense, and he liked the camraderie of being surrounded by like-minded friends. His friends included his fellow friars, his fellow scholars, and people from virtually every walk and station in life: vaqueros, lawyers, tire salesmen, automobile mechanics, students, academics, airplane pilots, motorcyclists, masons, carpenters, and, perhaps above all, the O’odham people and the Mexican people who were in his parishes when he was a pastor here at San Xavier and in Altar in Sonora.  Father Kieran, who grew up in Santa Barbara and where he was ordained as a priest in 1949, spent the first three years of his religious vocation as an assistant in St. Francis parish in Sacramento. In 1954 he was pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Winlock, Washington, and the next three plus years found him in Scottsdale where he became field manager for the Casa de Paz y Bien, the Franciscans’ retreat house. Someone in the Order of Friars Minor recognized one of Kiro’s major strengths, and from 1958 to August of 1963 he was assigned as a research historian at the Academy of American Franciscan History in Washington, D.C. He earned his Master’s degree in Latin American history at Catholic University in 1960 and in 1963 was the editor of the prestigious history journal, The Americas. It was about then, some time in the early 1960s, that Father Kieran and I met and became friends from that day forward. We were carrying out archaeological excavations just to the west of this church when he showed up at the site wearing the uniform of a captain in the Air National Guard, a post as chaplain he held until his honorable discharge in 1964. We talked about research he was doing in Mexico at the time. This involved microfilming documentary sources related to Northwest Mexico, a project carried out under auspices of the Organization of American States, the Republic of Mexico, and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and which...