Franciscan Sister Sister Carla Riach marks the 50th anniversary of a tornado that struck the San Xavier Mission destroying not only the Franciscan Sisters Convent, but killing a young mother and young child in a neighboring house.
Fifty years ago this past August 27th a tornado ripped through San Xavier Village destroying six homes and the Convent. The Norris home across the road was leveled burying everyone. The mother, Lucy and 10 month old Manuel were killed.
Some of the Norris family and friends gathered August 27th for a Mass to pray for their family. Sister Carla was fortunate to be able to participate and meet Belinda, one of the survivors. The villagers were remembering that terrifying experience throughout the week.
Sisters Juanita, Georgeen and Martha could tell the story as first-hand witnesses. The Convent annals’ entry for August 27, 1964 says, “Sisters Martha and Juanita ran to a shelter in a part dug out under the convent. Sister Georgeen was in her classroom with a child. She closed the door and windows and they ran to the farthest corner.” Ivan Burrell shared that his aunt, Gloria Orosco was the child with Sister Georgeen.
The sisters were housed by the Mother Seton Sisters of St. John’s and later with the Holy Cross sisters of Santa Cruz Parish until trailers were set up for them. The front windows in the school, ceilings and roof were repaired and school started September 21st that year.
To read more about the tornado and see pictures of the damage Google August 27, 1964 Tornado in Tucson. The report of the Fire Department has a photo of the sisters surveying their damaged home.