The Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s 150th-anniversary celebrations Oct. 5 were marked by a spirit of prayer and a rich display of the rich reality of the southern U.S. diocese.
More than 1,200 people gathered for an afternoon mass of thanksgiving at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. Archbishop Michael Sheehan concelebrated the mass in English and Spanish. More than a dozen other bishops participated at the mass as well. Anticipating a big crowd, video monitors were set up outside.
The mass began with a procession of America’s oldest statue of the Virgin Mary – La Conquistadora, a 300-year-old statue, which is about 50 cm tall. Traditional religious dancers, called matachines, whose costume includes a fringed mask, followed the statue. A bagpiper then led a procession of more than 100 bishops, priests and deacons. The diocese’s Vietnamese community sang the offertory hymn, a liturgical reading was read in Tewa, a Pueblo Indian language and the congregation sang an African American Gospel song.
The Catholic faith in the region began in 1598 with the arrival of Spanish settlers and Franciscan friars. Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Santa Fe, which then included the entire state of New Mexico as well as parts of Arizona and Colorado, in 1853. The pope named Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman, its first bishop. It became an archdiocese in 1875. The cathedral was built nine years later. Today, the archdiocesan territory takes in most of the state of New Mexico.
During the mass, Archbishop Sheehan blessed a new processional cross and a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi. He also rededicated the carved doors of the cathedral, which has new panels commemorating New Mexico’s history.
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, finally read the apostolic blessing sent by Pope John Paul II.