Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/José Maria de Zalvidea

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 15
José Maria de Zalvidea

by Zephyrin Engelhardt


Born at Bilbao, Vizeaya, Spain, 2 March, 1780; d. in 1846. He became a Franciscan at the convent of San Mames, Cantabria, 13 December, 1798, joined the College of San Fernando de Mexico in 1804, and entered the California Indian mission field in August, 1805. He served at Mission San Fernando till 1806; at Mission San Gabriel till 1826; at San Juan Capistrano till 1842; and at Mission San Luis Rey to the day of his death. He was a model missionary as well as an energetic and wise manager of the mission temporalities. Under his administration Mission San Gabriel especially reached its highest prosperity. From 19 July to 14 August, 1806, Father Zalvidea accompanied an expedition from Santa Barbara east and then south to San Gabriel in search of new mission sites, meanwhile baptizing many dying savages. He was well versed in the languages of the Indians. While his superiors regarded him as one of the best and most zealous of friars, the people looked upon him as a saint. "There is no evidence", says Bancroft, "that he ever had an enemy, or said an unkind word to any man." Even when quite old Father Zalvidea refused to avail himself of the privilege of retiring, because there would be no one to take his place, for the Mexican Government had declined to let any but Mexicans serve in the missions. Like all the other missionaries he would not approve of the methods of the Mexican politicians by swearing allegiance, refusing to do so on the grounds that he did not meddle with politics, but he offered to swear obedience in everything not against conscience.

Santa Barbara Archives: Records of missions San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano; ENGELHARDT, The Franciscans in California (Harbor Springs, Michigan, 1897); The Missions and Missionaries of California, II (San Francisco, 1912).

Zephyrin Engelhardt.