With Pope John Paul II are (from left to right): Fr. Ron Bruckner, Pastor of Annunciation Parish, Albuquerque, NM, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe, Monsignor Joseph Pepe, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Dennis Garcia, Archdiocese of Santa Fe 3rd year seminarian at North American College, Rome.

The Greetings of the Archbishops and Bishops 
of the Provinces of Santa Fe, Denver, 
Salt Lake City, and El Paso

(Region XIII of the United States of America)

Presented by Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe

Your Holiness, John Paul II,

It is with joy that we, the Archbishops and Bishops of the two Provinces of Santa Fe and Denver and the Bishops of Salt Lake City and El Paso in the Southwest of the United States of America, gather with you in this city made holy by the ministry and martyrdom of the glorious Apostles Peter and Paul.

Our Ad Limina visit this year holds special significance for us Catholics of the Southwest: it was exactly 400 years ago that the Catholic faith, built upon the Apostles, was established in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In time the Church spread to the areas which we now serve as bishops. While this is but a short time when compared to the 2,000 year history of the Church, for us in the United States it marks the oldest permanent establishment of the Catholic faith in our country. This planting of the faith began with the seeds of struggle: the struggle of the Spanish Colonists and Franciscan missionaries to maintain their Catholic faith in an isolated and harsh environment, and the struggle to preach the Gospel to the Native Americans of the region. In this struggle there were often mistakes and disappointments. Yet by the grace of God the Catholic faith has endured and flourished in our land, bearing a rich harvest of faith in the Archdioceses and Dioceses we serve.

These struggles have not all been in ancient times. Some have been in our own day. I know, Holy Father, that you are aware of the painful difficulties that some of us faced but a few years ago. They were challenging times. However, we had trust in the Lord who is ever able to bring good out of evil. These difficulties became an occasion for us to examine our consciences, to humbly admit our own sins and failings, and to recommit ourselves to Jesus our Savior and the spread of His kingdom. Thus, despite the trials that we endure in our Episcopal ministry I am pleased to tell you that the faithful fill our churches in ever greater numbers, that works of mercy and evangelization are flourishing and, a most special joy to me, we have seen a dramatic increase in vocations to the priesthood in several of our dioceses. In all this we thank God, who rescues and sustains His people. God continues to grant a rich harvest of faith for the Catholic Church in our dioceses.

We wish to thank you for your tireless efforts in guiding the Church and in giving us encouragement in the exercise of the Office of Bishop. In particular do we express gratitude for your pastorally sensitive apostolic letter, Dies Domini, on the observance of Sunday Eucharist. This document on the proper observance and celebration on the day of the Lord is very well received and is bearing much fruit in the spiritual lives of our people.

Despite the blessings we also experience serious difficulties in the materialism and secularism which abound in our country. We are facing a severe problem in the shortage of priests in our churches just as the rest of our country does. A growing number of parishes are without a resident priest in many parts of Region XIII. Nevertheless, we continue to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life trusting that the Lord will not forget our urgent needs for priests.

We recall with wonderful memories your fruitful visit to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. Our Lord truly used you as His instrument in a powerful way as you encouraged large numbers of young people in the practice of the Catholic faith. Our youth love you and are grateful for your prayers and support.

On the occasion of the Cuarto Centennial of the Catholic faith in the Southwest, we together with all the clergy, religious and faithful under our care, wish to reaffirm our love and loyalty to you, the Chief Shepherd of the Church, and to the apostolic Catholic faith which you embody in the Office of Peter. As we ask your blessings upon the churches which we serve, we assure you of our constant prayers for your health and well-being and ask that God will continue to grant you wisdom, strength and peace as you nobly shepherd the Universal Church.

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