New Mexico, Catholic Church in
NEW MEXICO, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
New Mexico, located in southwestern United States, was admitted to the Union in 1912. Bordered by Arizona on the west, Colorado on the north, Oklahoma and Texas on the east, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora on the south, New Mexico is a "triadic" state — three geographic areas, three cultures, three flags, three congressional districts, three dioceses. The land area of 121,364 square miles (5th largest) is roughly divided into the Great Plains in the east, the Rocky Mountains in the center, and high plateau in the west. The state is bisected by the Rio Grande, known in Spanish times as the Rio Bravo del Norte, which is a major source of irrigation. The state's major cities are Albuquerque (448,607) a major transportation and commercial hub of the Southwest; Las Cruces (74,267) the major city in the southern part of the state; and Santa Fe (62,203) the capital.
In 2001 New Mexico's population numbered 1,935,430 (37th largest) of which is 40.7 percent claimed Hispanic ancestry (highest proportion in the U.S.) and 9.5 percent Native American (highest after Alaska). The Hispanic population ranges from families who have been present in the state for nearly four centuries to recent immigrants. The Native American population includes the Pueblo people, whose historic villages dot the Rio Grande valley, and the Navajos, whose enormous reservation occupies much of northwestern New Mexico into Arizona. The 473,107 Catholics, about 24 percent of the state's population, are served by the Archdiocese of santa fe, and the dioceses of Gallup and Las Cruces. The Province of Santa Fe also includes the dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona.
New Mexico is a study in contrasts. Acoma Pueblo is the oldest occupied town in the United States, dating perhaps 1,000 years before the English settlement at Jamestown. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the country, the Palace of the Governors the oldest public building, and San Miguel in Santa Fe the oldest continuously functioning church in the United States. But in the 20th century New Mexico ushered in the atomic age. The Manhattan Project which developed the first atom bomb was housed at the government laboratories at Los Alamos, and the first bomb was detonated at Trinity Site on the White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo.
The Colonial Period. Early attempts at exploration and evangelization went hand in hand under the Spanish. A Franciscan friar, Marcos de niza (c. 1495–1558), assisted by a Moorish survivor of a previous expedition under Cabeza de Vaca, led a small expedition north from Mexico in 1539. The Moor was killed by the inhabitants of Zuni Pueblo, and the friar retreated south. Fueled by the friar's descriptions of Zuni, coupled with legends of the wealthy "seven cities of Cibola," a major expedition was mounted in 1540 under Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. For two years Coronado explored the present American Southwest, wintering twice along the Rio Grande. Although it failed to locate any wealthy cities, Coronado's expedition, wandering from the Grand Canyon to the Kansas plains, added immeasurably to the geographic knowledge of the Southwest.
When Coronado withdrew in 1542, several of the franciscans stayed behind and established a mission on the Rio Grande. All were eventually killed. Fray Juan de padilla (c. 1500–1544), the protomartyr of the United States, was probably killed somewhere in western Kansas. Fray Juan de la Cruz became the first martyr of New Mexico. Over the next half-century New Mexico languished on the back burner of the Spanish colonial empire. Religiously, there were forays into the area by several Franciscans, moved both by a missionary spirit and a sense of the millennial possibilities of the area. In political and geographic minds, the area began to take shape as the frontier against possible southern expansion by the English.
Finally in 1598, a serious colonizing expedition was mounted under Don Juan de Onate. Initially Onate established his capital at a pueblo called Ohkay Owingeh on the east bank of the Rio Grande which he christened San Juan de los Caballeros. Two years later the capital was moved to a new settlement named San Gabriel on the west bank of the Rio Grande at its confluence with the Rio Chama. In 1608 Onate resigned the governorship under pressure, and was replaced by Pedro de Peralta. In 1610 Peralta supervised the establishment of a new capital, La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, some 30 miles southeast of San Gabriel.
The early Franciscan missionaries were members of the Province of the Holy Gospel in Mexico, and although thinly spread among a growing number of missions, they were, by and large, dedicated, and in some cases talented, missionaries. Nonetheless, the friars were hampered by difficulties of personnel and resources. In addition, the reliance of the friars on presenting Christianity in the terms of a western European cultural milieu often placed them
at odds with the neophytes, especially in the areas of language, societal relations, and cosmology.
After the departure of Onate, the friars moved their headquarters from San Gabriel to the more centrally located pueblo of Santo Domingo. In 1616, New Mexico was designated a semi-autonomous Franciscan "custody" of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Fray Estevan Perea, the first custos, reported 11 missions, 20 friars, and some 10,000 Christianized natives. The needs of the missions were provided for by a triennial supply train from Mexico. Significant among the friars in this period was Fray Alonso de benavides (c. 1580–1636), appointed custos in 1623. He arrived in Santa Fe late in 1625 bearing with him the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, still venerated today in the Santa Fe Cathedral as La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Peace, the oldest Marian image in the country. Returning to Spain in 1630, he wrote a "Memorial" to the king and the Franciscan minister general, detailing the state of the province and the missions, and asking for the appointment of a bishop for New Mexico.
Isolated at the very edge of the Spanish colonial empire, the early years of the New Mexico colony were neither prosperous nor peaceful. The colony failed to produce much material wealth either for the colonists on the scene, or for the governments in Mexico City and Madrid. In most times the friars were at odds with the governors over the support of the missions and the treatment of the natives. When the friars and the governors were in agreement, it was often at the expense of the native peoples.
On Aug. 10, 1680 the pent-up rage among the Pueblo people, coupled with several years of agricultural failure, erupted in a full-scale revolt, remarkable for its ferocity and for the unity it produced, albeit temporarily, among the Pueblos. Under the leadership of a man named Po-pe, from San Juan Pueblo, the natives mounted a successful coordinated offensive despite language barriers. The missions were desecrated, 21 friars and 400 Spaniards were killed, and the rest took shelter at Santa Fe, which soon came under siege. On August 21, under the watchful eyes of the natives who were content to see them go, the Spaniards abandoned Santa Fe and trekked southward to El Paso, where they remained for the next dozen years.
In 1692, concerned about an unprotected border, and about the bad example the revolt presented to other natives, Spain commissioned Don Diego de Vargas to reconquer the province for Spain. Leading a contingent of friars, soldiers, and colonists north from El Paso de Vargas re-entered Santa Fe on Dec. 16, 1693. The pueblos were, for the most part, peaceably restored to Spanish and Christian hegemony—but with a difference. The cultural and religious sensibilities of the natives were treated with more respect than previously, and gradually a more authentically New Mexican spirituality began to emerge from the convergence of cultures. During the next century this spirituality flowered in several areas. Creating the only truly American form of religious architecture, the New Mexicans constructed churches of adobe and woodwork which seemed to blend in with the landscape. Native santeros developed an indigenous religious devotional art, both primitive and highly evocative. Finally, devotional sites, pilgrimages, celebrations, and confraternities, such as La Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (better known as the Penitentes ), evolved which combined aspects of the different cultures present in the province.
For almost the entire colonial period, New Mexico theoretically came under the jurisdiction of the vast Diocese of Durango, founded in 1620, which was for many years the largest diocese in New Spain. But at a distance of 1,500 miles from Durango, Santa Fe only experienced an episcopal visitation a handful of times over the course of two Spanish centuries, notably by Bishop Benito Crespo in 1730. In reality, the Franciscans were in almost exclusive control of the New Mexican church. However, they were not assiduous in developing native vocations in the province, relying instead on missionaries from Spain and Mexico.
Santiago Roybal (1694–1744), ordained a secular priest in Durango around 1730, was the first in a thin line of native New Mexicans, who, at considerable difficulty, left the province to be educated and ordained in Mexico, and then returned to serve as priests in the northern kingdom. Born near present-day San Ildefonso Pueblo, Roybal is presumably the first native of what is now the United States to be ordained a priest. During his priestly ministry he was the bishop's vicario in Santa Fe, but also the sole non-Franciscan in the province.
Nineteenth Century. The early 19th century was, in general, a time of decline for church structures in New Mexico. The emergence of independence movements in various areas of Spanish America diverted funds from the missions which were still supported by the Spanish crown. Once Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, New Mexico was theoretically no longer as remote from the national government. But in reality, the struggling newly independent government was even less likely to be generous with remote ecclesiastical outposts, and indeed was seeking money from the Church. In addition, the Mexican Congress ordered the expulsion of all Spanish citizens from the country with the result that by 1848 there were no friars left in New Mexico. And finally, Mexican Independence was not immediately recognized by the Holy See, resulting in a standoff over appointments to vacant sees. By 1827, there were no bishops in Mexico, resulting in no ordinations.
This combination of a lack of leadership, clergy and money was most painfully felt in New Mexico, at the fringe of the newly independent country. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were subsidized provisions for 22 priests in New Mexico. In the first three decades of the century, the Spanish settlements grew more numerous and more widespread, and the population itself grew in size and diversity as trade routes opened up with Missouri to the northeast. At the same time the bishops in Durango began to secularize the larger Spanish parishes beginning in 1816. But the changes brought by independence were quickly felt, and by 1829 there were only 12 priests in the province, mostly native New Mexicans, caring for a growing population with dwindling resources. As a result of these conditions, many churches fell into disrepair and ruin, and the sacraments were celebrated in the more remote missions less frequently or hardly ever. And in many of these missions the spiritual life of the mission was left to the leadership of lay groups, such as the Penitentes. Prominent among the New Mexican priests of this era were Juan Felipe Ortiz in Santa Fe, Jose Manuel Gallegos in Albuquerque, and Antonio Jose Martinez in Taos.
In 1832, Durango received a new bishop, Jose Antonio Laureano de Zubiria. Over the next 20 years, he would make pastoral visits to New Mexico (in 1833, 1845 and 1850). Zubiria appointed Father Ortiz in Santa Fe as his vicar for the area, and authorized Father Martinez in Taos to establish a rudimentary preparatory seminary. Over the next dozen years, a dozen young men who had initially been trained at Taos would return to serve as priests in New Mexico, raising the number of clergy in the province to 17 by 1851.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, ending the two-year Mexican-American War, brought New Mexico under the aegis of the United States. This change in civil control rather quickly resulted in a change in ecclesiastical government as well. The question of a bishop for New Mexico, which had been bandied about in Mexico City and Madrid for over two centuries, was decisively answered by the American bishops meeting in the Seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1849. In addition to asking for new archdioceses and dioceses, the bishops requested a vicariate to be established for the vast territory between California and the Rocky Mountains recently acquired from Mexico. Pope Pius IX responded on July 19, 1850 by establishing the Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico with the seat at Santa Fe. A few days later, the pope named Jean Baptiste lamy (1814–1888), a French diocesan priest working in the Cincinnati Diocese, as titular Bishop of Agathonica and first Vicar Apostolic. A native of Lempdes in the French Puy-de-Dome, Lamy was serving at Covington, Ky. at the time. He was consecrated on Nov. 4, 1850 at Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati, and, together with Joseph machebeuf, a comrade from France, arrived in Santa Fe on Aug. 10, 1851.
Lamy's new vicariate contained, by his own count, 68,000 Catholics, 8–9,000 Catholic natives, 26 churches, 40 chapels, and 12 native priests. At its height, Lamy's jurisdiction extended to all of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and part of Utah. Lamy's first concern was to build up the Church in New Mexico by means of a more numerous and better educated clergy and Catholic schools. Lamy recruited the Sisters of Loretto from Kentucky (1852), the Brothers of the Christian Schools from France (1859), the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati (1865), the Jesuit Fathers from Naples (1867), as well as numerous secular priests and seminarians from France and elsewhere. This growth was recognized by subsequent institutional development. The vicariate apostolic was erected as the Diocese of Santa Fe in 1853; Arizona and Colorado were erected as separate vicariates apostolic in 1868 with Machebeuf and another French missionary, Jean Baptiste Salpointe as first vicars; and Santa Fe was advanced to a metropolitan archdiocese in 1875.
Lamy's 35 years as bishop in New Mexico were not without difficulties. His struggle with the bishops of Durango over boundaries and jurisdiction went on for two decades. He was disappointed several times in his dealings with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs over education for the natives. And his dealings with the native clergy, particularly Father Martinez of Taos, remain controversial, sometimes resulting in suspension, and, in Martinez' case, excommunication. Lamy saw these priests as poorly educated and lacking in clerical discipline, at times to the point of scandal. On their part, the priests saw his introduction of European clergy, religious, and customs as disdainful of their own indigenous culture and religiosity. The gradual rise of the walls of Lamy's new French Romanesque cathedral (1869–1884) around the existing adobe parroquia of Santa Fe was perhaps emblematic of their sense of Lamy's supplanting the native faith.
As leader of the established Catholic faith of the Spanish inhabitants, but at the same time having been deeply steeped in Catholic European culture and thoroughly Americanized during his decade as a missionary in Ohio and Kentucky, Lamy was an important figure in 19th-century New Mexico, helping the area to mature religiously, and to transform its self-understanding from the northern frontier of an old kingdom to a part of the great American West. Lamy was memorialized by Willa Cather in her 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, and by Paul Horgan in his 1975 Pulitzer-prizewinning biography, Lamy of Santa Fe.
Twentieth Century. Lamy was followed by a succession of French archbishops: Salpointe (1885–1894), Placide Louis Chapelle (1894–1897), Peter Thomas Bourgade (1899–1908), and Jean Baptiste Pitaval (1909–1918). Salpointe prevailed upon Katherine drexel to send her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to Santa Fe in 1894 to staff St. Catherine's Indian School. In his retirement he wrote a history of the Church in the Southwest, Soldiers of the Cross, often used by later historians. While Bishop of Tucson, Bourgade reintroduced the Franciscans to New Mexico, inviting the brown-robed friars of the Cincinnati Province (not the blue-robed friars of colonial times) to staff the vast Navajo Reservation. When promoted to Santa Fe, Bourgade brought the friars to Pena Blanca in 1900, and gradually from there to many of the ancient pueblos, and other parishes in the state. Bourgade also helped found the Catholic Church Extension Society, and during his episcopate St. Joseph's Hospital was established in Albuquerque.
By 1918, with the outbreak of World War I, the availability of priests from France had ended, and with that in mind, Archbishop Pitaval resigned and suggested to the Holy See that a Franciscan be named to replace him since they would have the best likelihood of securing much-needed priests for the diocese. In 1919 Rome complied with his request and appointed the pastor of Pena Blanca, Albert T. Daeger, O.F.M. (1919–1932) as archbishop. In 1929, after a draught of many years, Archbishop Daeger had the joy of ordaining three New Mexican priests.
Daeger was succeeded by Rudolph A. Gerken (1933–1943), Edwin V. Byrne (1943–1963) and James P. Davis (1964–1974). Gerken had been the first Bishop of Amarillo, Texas; Byrne and Davis had previously served as bishops in Puerto Rico. The Byrne years witnessed the tremendous post-war growth in New Mexico including the establishment of the atomic energy laboratories at Los Alamos. To meet the growth, Catholic colleges developed in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and numerous new parishes and schools were opened, including 16 in Albuquerque alone. Byrne fostered native vocations by establishing a minor seminary at Santa Fe. Archbishop Byrne was also instrumental in the founding of three religious communities, the Servants of the Holy Paraclete, who work with troubled priests, the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a contemplative community, and the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, who care for the destitute. Archbishop Davis presided over the implementation of the Second Vatican Council decrees, and in 1967 moved the archdiocesan headquarters from Santa Fe to Albuquerque.
The growth of the Santa Fe metropolitan province is indicative of the religious, geographical, political and demographic developments in the Southwest during the past century. When Santa Fe was made a metropolitan archdiocese in 1875, it had two suffragans, the vicariates apostolic of Colorado and Arizona, which later evolved into the dioceses of Denver (1887) and Tucson (1897). A third suffragan was added in 1914, when the Tucson Diocese was divided and southern New Mexico and the West Texas Panhandle were formed into the Diocese of El Paso. The growth across the Southwest in the early decades of the 20th century was reflected in a series of ecclesial changes that affected the area in 1936–1941. In 1936 Los Angeles, Calif. was raised to a metropolitan see, and Tucson was placed in this new province. In 1939, northern Arizona was detached from Tucson and northeastern New Mexico was detached from Santa Fe, and a new diocese established at Gallup. Finally, in 1941 Denver was made a metropolitan archdiocese and at the same time divided with a new diocese at Pueblo. Thus from 1941 to 1969 Santa Fe had just two suffragans, El Paso and Gallup, and the province included New Mexico, west Texas, and northern Arizona.
In 1969, with territory taken from both Tucson and Gallup, a new diocese was created at Phoenix, Ariz. As a result of this division, Gallup lost most of its Arizona territory with the exception of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. Since three new dioceses were created in southern California in the same decade, both the new diocese at Phoenix, as well as Tucson, were returned to the Santa Fe Province. Finally, in 1982, southern New Mexico was detached from El Paso, and a new diocese established at Las Cruces. With its territory reduced to the West Texas Panhandle, the El Paso Diocese joined the other Texas sees as part of the San Antonio Province. This marked the first time that El Paso was not ecclesiastically joined to Santa Fe since the late 16th century. Thus the Santa Fe Province today comprises all New Mexico and Arizona, with the four suffragan sees of Gallup, Las Cruces, Phoenix, and Tucson, and a Catholic population of 1.2 million.
In 1974, with the retirement of Archbishop Davis, the archdiocesan vicar general, Robert F. Sanchez, became the tenth Archbishop of Santa Fe. A native of Socorro, he was the first New Mexican to head the archdiocese. Sanchez initiated a number of programs to better preserve the ancient culture of the archdiocese, especially its churches, and to better integrate the Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo cultures present in the state. In 1992-1993, a series of scandals compromised Sanchez' ability to provide leadership for the archdiocese. He resigned in 1993, and was succeeded by the Bishop Michael J. Sheehan of Lubbock, Texas. Sheehan has successfully led the archdiocese through a time of financial and morale crisis.
On the Threshold of the Third Millennium. At the beginning of the third Christian millennium the Santa Fe Archdiocese spanned 15 and part of an additional four counties in northern and eastern New Mexico with 275,955 Catholics in 90 parishes. The Gallup Diocese covered four full and four partial counties in western New Mexico, as well as two full and one partial county in northeastern Arizona with 54,258 Catholics in 58 parishes. The territory of Las Cruces Diocese consists of New Mexico's ten southern counties, with a Catholic population of 127,370 in 45 parishes. The first bishop of Gallup was a Franciscan friar, Bernard T. Espelage, O.F.M. (1939–1969). He has been succeeded by Jerome J. Hastrich (1969–1990), and Donald E. Pelotte, S.S.S. (1990–). Bishop Pelotte, a member of Maine's Abenaki Tribe, is the first Native American bishop in the United States. The Las Cruces Diocese has been served since its inception by Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, C.S.B. (1982–).
Several religious communities are important to the fabric of religious life in New Mexico. The Benedictines have two prominent abbeys—Christ in the Desert at Abiquiu with its striking church, and Our Lady of Guadalupe at Pecos with its extensive ministry in the Charismatic Movement. The Premonstratensians, or Norbertines, also have a monastic foundation at Albuquerque at Santa Maria de la Vid Priory. Since 1985 the Franciscans once again have their own Southwest jurisdiction in the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe headquartered in Albuquerque. Among the Franciscan ministries is Father Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation at Albuquerque. The Conventual Franciscans staff Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park in the Las Cruces diocese. The Christian Brothers staff the College of Santa Fe, St. Michael's High School, and the Sangre de Cristo refoundation center for priests and religious at Santa Fe. The Servants of the Holy Paraclete have their headquarters at Jemez Springs, and the Augustinian Recollects have a provincial delegate house in Mesilla.
Women religious have been present in New Mexico since the advent of the Sisters of loretto in 1856. Originally introduced to open schools and hospitals, today sisters from many different congregations are present in the state in parochial, educational, and healthcare ministries. There are cloistered Carmelite monasteries at Santa Fe and Gallup, a Poor Clares monastery at Roswell, and a Benedictine priory at Abiquiu. The Handmaids of the Precious Blood have their motherhouse and novitiate at Jemez Springs. The Canossian Daughters of Charity have a provincialate at Albuquerque, and the Felician Sisters at Rio Rancho.
The adobe churches of New Mexico—from Cristo Rey in Santa Fe, the largest adobe structure in the country, to the small village moradas of the Penitentes— constitute a distinctive and cherished artistic patrimony of the state, and a significant architectural contribution to the United States. Among the most-photographed are San Estevan in Acoma Pueblo, San Jose de Gracia in Trampas, San Miguel del Vado in Ribera, San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, and the famous pilgrimage Santuario of El Senor de Esquipulas in Chimayo.
Bibliography: h. w. bowden, "Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680," Church History 44 (June 1975), 217–288. a. chavez, But Time and Chance. The Story of Padre Martinez of Taos, 1793–1867 (Santa Fe 1983); My Penitente Land (Albuquerque 1974). p. horgan, Great River, the Rio Grande in North American History (New York 1968); Lamy of Santa Fe (New York 1975). j. kessell, The Missions of New Mexico since 1776 (Albuquerque 1979). f. v. scholes, Church and State in New Mexico, 1610–1650 (Albuquerque 1937); Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1659–1670 (Albuquerque 1942). m. j. sheehan, ed., Four Hundred Years of Faith (Albuquerque 1998). t. j. steele, p. rhetts, and b. awalt, eds., Seeds of Struggle/Harvest of Faith. The Papers of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Catholic Cuarto Centennial Conference on the History of the Catholic Church in New Mexico (Albuquerque 1998). f. a. domÍnguez, Missions of New Mexico, 1776, tr. e. b. adams and a. chÁvez (Albuquerque 1956). j. b. salpointe, Soldiers of the Cross (Banning, Calif. 1898). b. segale, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail (Milwaukee 1948).
[r. j. kupke]