Pastoral Letter on
the 150th Anniversary
of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

July 2003

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On July 29, 1853, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Santa Fe and appointed John Baptist Lamy the first Bishop. Within three years Santa Fe was raised from Vicariate Apostolic, a missionary territory, to a Diocese. By 1875 the Diocese became an Archdiocese. However, the church in New Mexico existed long before 1853. In fact, in 1998, we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the church in New Mexico, thanks to the efforts of the Spanish Franciscan Missionaries.

When Bishop Lamy arrived in Santa Fe, he found clergy and people who had kept the faith alive from those early beginnings. Lamy soon invited Jesuits, French priests, the Christian Brothers, Sisters of Loretto from Kentucky and the Sisters of Charity from Ohio to work with him and the native clergy to build up the institutional church and to respond to the spiritual, educational and physical needs of the people.

As we celebrate the Sesquicentennial this year, we stand on the shoulders of men and women of faith, our ancestors, who handed down the priceless treasures of our church. Succeeding generations of New Mexican Catholics will be standing on our shoulders. The kind of church we bestow upon them is already in our hands. It is in the process of becoming.

We celebrate the Catholic schools and catechetical programs that have assisted families in passing on the Gospel to succeeding generations. We celebrate the heroic efforts of yesterday and today’s Catholic parents who pass on the faith to their children. Today, we also recognize the challenge of assuring that our Catholic children are properly formed in their faith to meet the demands of the secular and materialistic culture which surrounds them.

Parents by their example and the living of their faith, remain the primary teachers of their children. Every effort must be made to support them and we do so through effective parish and Archdiocesan programs, prayer and example. There is more to passing on the faith than preparing children for First Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. Our youth must be prepared throughout their formative years for a life that lies ahead. Therefore, participation in faith formation programs for children, youth and adults is the key to assuring a proper understanding of the teachings of our church.

Pius IX stated in 1853 that his purpose in establishing the Diocese of Santa Fe was to assure a way to increase and support the Catholic faith in this vast territory. >From the very beginning, New Mexicans were challenged to evangelize and to spread their Catholic faith and traditions to others. Today we accept the challenge to reach out to inactive Catholics, the unchurched, and to persons who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. As evangelizers we call to mind the uniqueness that is ours as Catholics. The Eucharist in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, our spiritual food. The other sacraments which accompany us through our special moments of life. The fullness of the teachings of Jesus going back more than 2,000 years and devotion to Mary the Mother of God and the Saints which inspire us. We have Catholic treasures, sacramental's, special devotions like the Rosary, medals, and religious objects and altars that are in our homes, external symbols of our faith that open our hearts to a deeper religious practice.

One of the most effective ways to evangelize is through good liturgy. We pray for more priests, good preachers of God’s word, compassionate listeners, and leaders who bring their people to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith. Our parishes must have a welcoming spirit and vibrant faith. The challenge is ours, as we are reminded by our Sesquicentennial motto, to “Rebuild My Church.”

Our churches must have no barriers. Those whose ancestors date to the early settlers or Native Americans, or thousands who came to this Diocese over the years to the most recent immigrant must all be welcomed. Together we will sustain our rich Catholic heritage, of which Very Rev. James Defouri’s wrote in his book, “Historic Sketch of the Church of New Mexico.” This book, written in 1887, will be republished and will offer a historical review of what has been and an example of what must be carried forward for those who come after us.

I urge you to use the commemorative prayer card daily, be conscious of its title, “Rebuild Our Church,” and meditate on the words, especially, “Rebuild us in your image, in your love and forgiveness.” Participate in a parish novena beginning September 27 and concluding on the feast of St. Francis Assisi so that all Catholic people of the Archdiocese will make our 150th anniversary a prayerful and joyful celebration. I encourage you to be creative and plan celebrations at your local parishes.

In Santa Fe, this July, there will be Archdiocesan celebrations during the Spanish Market Mass when I will dedicate the San Jose altar screen in the Cathedral Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In August, the dedication of the statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha will take place when the annual Native American Mass is celebrated. Our Archdiocesan paper, "People of God" will present a special commemorative issue in September. I trust that you will find the content most interesting and a keepsake.

On Sunday, October 5, 2003, we will celebrate the Jubilee Eucharistic Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Francis where a number of Bishops from the region whose Dioceses were carved from what was originally the Vicariate Apostolic of Santa Fe will be present. During this liturgy, we will dedicate the new stained glass windows of Saints Francis and Clare in the sanctuary of the Cathedral, and rededicate its great doors with the addition of panels commemorating historic moments of early New Mexico. I will also bless the memorial chapel to the Bishops of Santa Fe and after the Mass all present will gather for a “fiesta” at Cathedral Park. While space in the Cathedral is limited, I encourage each and everyone to celebrate this day in your own special way wherever you are remembering that you are the living church, upon whose shoulders the future is being built.

With St. Francis our patron, I declare a year of Jubilee and Joy! A time dedicated to strengthening our Catholic identity and our unity with the Successor of Peter. May God continue to bless this historic and venerable Diocese

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa