Chriss Murphy, of Trinity Artistic Creations Expressions, created this mural in celebration of St. Mary Mission’s 100th Anniversary in 2020 where S. Pat Bietsch and S. Marlene Kochert minister in New Mexico. In Chriss’ own words she describes why she created the mural. “Here is the finished mural that I’ve been blessed to create at St. Mary Mission in Tohatchi, NM on the Navajo reservation. It has been an artistic, personal and spiritual journey for me over the past three summers. I dedicate it to God for blessing me with talent and a desire to be adventurous, and to my husband and faith partner, Glen, who cooperated with me while I was away for up to two months at a time over the past three summers, and who willingly financed the whole project. This project was a total volunteer endeavor of our time, talent and treasure and a gift given to St. Mary Mission to celebrate their 100th anniversary, the Navajo members of the parish and all Navajo people. Thank you to the Friars, Sisters and the beautiful Navajo people for their trust, encouragement and friendship while I did what was asked of me. You are my friends for life!”
This is a history and explanation of the mural. For over 100 years the Dine Bi Eineeshodi, the Navajo name given to the Franciscan Fathers, have been the bearers of the Good News to the Navajo people. This mural was inspired by my love and respect for my faith, the Navajo people, the Franciscan Fathers, Sister and Brothers who have devoted their vocations in service to the Catholic Navajo people through the three parishes that make up St. Mary Mission. It began with St. Mary Church in Tohatchi (the white clapboard building), followed by St. Anthony Church in Naschetti (the stone building) and with the newest church St. Joseph Church (the Quonset hut) in Coyote Canyon.
Over 100 years ago the Franciscan Friars brought Christianity from St. Michael’s Mission in Window Rock, AZ when Father Berard Haile, at the bequest of the tribal leaders, traveled by horseback to the town of Tohatchi (in Navajo, “scratching for water”). In partnership with Navajo spiritual traditions, he established a devote community of faithful Roman Catholic believers that was dedicated on June 9, 1920.
The Navajo people and the church share the practice of , WOSHDII, the Navajo word for “ All Are Welcome”, as well as sharing a devotion to the Blessed Mother of Guadalupe and honoring St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. All the colors in the main mural and the panels were inspired by the Navajo pottery, Navajo rug designs, the New Mexican turquoise blue sky and the surrounding Chuska Mountains.
Looking toward the future of the growth of the mission on the Navajo reservation, we pray four times facing each sacred mountain direction, HOZHOO NAHASDLII , ‘when everything you are is in balance as the Creator intended for you”.
I am filled with heartfelt gratitude to the Navajo people, the Fathers, Brothers and Sisters of St Mary Mission, for the honor to express my interpretation of the 100 year history of the mission. This has been a journey of faith and growth in the gifts God has given me. I am so grateful for the lifetime friends I have made along the way and pray that God, our Father and Creator, continues to bless all the peoples of St. Mary Mission, today and for the next 100 years!