Santa Fe, NM: impressive stories of sacrifice and unity

I received a very interesting report by e-mail.  Good things are happening in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Here is an open letter from the Archbp. of Santa Fe, H.E. Most Reverend, Michael J. Sheehan:

[Text of Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan’s letter in December 2007 People of God]

As your Shepherd, I greet you in the name of the Lord and wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas! Later this month we will celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. One of the core teachings of Christianity is that God the Father sent his Son Jesus to be born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem for our salvation. Although Christmas has become highly commercialized in our secular western society, we must look through the tinsel, bright lights, and nicely wrapped presents to see what the season is all about: it is about Jesus Christ. It isn’t enough to celebrate His  birthday. Rather, He wants us to follow His message and be active in the Church that He founded. If you want to honor the Christ Child, be the best Catholic that you can be! I pray for your families and loved ones at this holy season that God may give you many graces at Christmas and in the New Year.

By the time you and other faithful readers of the People of God see this column, we will have welcomed former Episcopalian Bishop Jeffrey Steenson and his wife, Debbie, into the Catholic Church at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. As you know from recent news accounts, Jeffrey was the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande which covers New Mexico and parts of west Texas. I have been in conversations with him for several years as he has sought the truth of the Catholic faith. I admire him for the sacrifices that he is making in entering the Catholic Church at this moment in his life. He is leaving the security of his present position with the trust in God that things will fall into place for him and his family. Msgr. Douglas Raun of St. Thomas Aquinas was also present in Rome since he had been the theological advisor for Jeffrey. Jeffrey will ask the Holy Father for the Pastoral Provision which would allow him to eventually be ordained a Catholic priest.  The humble and sincere way that Jeffrey has made this decision and announce it to his own people has won respect and acclaim for his personal integrity and desire to be united to the Successor of St. Peter. We ask the Lord to bless him and his wife, Debbie, as they seek to follow God’s will in their lives.

In another noteworthy development, I share with you that I have appointed Rev. Carlos Conzales as Chaplain of the Latin Mass Community in Albuquerque. This is being done in accord with the Holy Father’s motu proprio loosening the restrictions on the celebration of the old Latin Mass. In November, I joined Fr. Carlos Gonzales and his community at Our Lady Queen of Peace on San Pedro in Albuquerque to announce my intention to regularize them and to bring them into full communion with the Catholic Church. Fr. Gonzales, who was ordained a priest by Archbishop Lefebvre before the Archbishop was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II, has gone to Rome and met with the authorities of the Ecclesia Dei Commission to receive approval to exercise his priestly ministry in union with Rome. The Latin Mass is at Our Lady Queen of Peace at 1420 San Pedro at 8:30 a.m. Fr. Gonzales will celebrate that Mass and then have the Tridentine Mass at noon on Sundays at San Ignacio. Catholics are welcome to attend either time, which gives another option for those who are drawn to the Tridentine Mass.

We welcome the Tridentine Community and ask God to bless Fr. Gonzales as he ministers to them. To be a good Catholic requires more than incense and Mass in Latin! It means union with the Successor of Peter and the Bishop whom he sends. I also take this occasion to invite back other Tridentine Catholics to union with Rome and the Bishop the Pope has sent to join the Tridentine Community. Let us pray that God will bring many graces to those involved!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,

+ Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe

 

Archbp. Sheehan wrote about two examples of men willing to make sacrifices and give up positions and support for the sake of their desire for unity with the Successor of Peter.

I think it is important to remember that for the sake of unity, some people make great sacrifices.  By "swiming the Tiber", they can lose everything they have, and put stress on their family ties.  These folks deserve some recognition and support.  I have always been impressed, for example, with the efforts of men like Marcus Grodi, whose Coming Home Network aims to help men who need some support when they give up so much to seek unity with Rome.

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17 Responses to Santa Fe, NM: impressive stories of sacrifice and unity

  1. Jeremy says:

    Exciting news!

    God bless, Archbishop Sheehan and these two courageous men!

  2. Andy says:

    Seven or more years ago now, I was exiting my El Paso, Texas apartment and saw curiously a man in a long black cassock also exiting the apartment complex and getting into his car. I thought it strange – I didn’t know any cassock-wearing priests in the diocese and certainly didn’t know any priests at all living in my apartment complex.

    A while later, I saw the same man in black cassock as I was pulling up in my car, he was approaching his car with a handful of odds and ends. I was determined to solve this mystery and find out who he was. I approached him with a “hello” and as he fumbled to free a hand to shake mine, several bottles of vitamins fell to the ground and went rolling underneath some parked cars. I would discover that he was a Catholic priest living in New Mexico, but traveled regular to El Paso to visit old friends and minister sacraments. When in El Paso, he stayed with his brother who had an apartment across from mine. This priest, I’m certain, is the Fr. Gonzales mentioned above in this message from Bishop Sheehan.

    A few months later, I got married and moved into a new house. I contacted Fr. Gonzales and asked him if he’d come to my home the next time he was in town and bless it. Also, we’d be honored if he’d offer a Tridentine Mass for us. At this point in time, my new wife and I were sort of newbies to the whole Latin Mass scene. We realized that the Faith wasn’t being preached in it’s fullness and that their was a lack of reverence in all the churches we visited in El Paso, but we weren’t committed Trads at this point.

    He came, blessed the home and ate dinner with us. He was a real man’s man. Well over six feet, probably 230 pounds, with large hands, he reminded me in size of what I imagined John Wayne. He talked for quite a while about the different dangerous beasts he had encountered while a missionary in Africa. He loved lions and their ferocious power. At the El Paso Zoo, he would visit the lions and other animals just to remind him of his times in Africa. On his last visit, he got up close to the lion cage and growled at the top of his lungs in a successful attempt to provoke the lion to show it’s teeth and growl back. Just the mental image of this larger than life black-cassocked priest giving a loud, deep roar to a lion in a cage still brings a smile to my face. Imagine the school children in the immediate area on the various field trips!

    He was also something of a health nut. He didn’t trust the FDA. He praised and extolled the nutritional value of sea salt, saying that the FDA approved processed version of table salt was tantamount to pure poison. He took all the vitamins and ate all the health food so as he said, “I can get my full 120 years on this Earth; because I need every single one of them to prepare myself for my Judgment.”

    My wife and I being young busybody 20-somethings were curious to know what his status was within the Catholic Church. He graciously told us. A few years prior he had left the SSPX because, as he said, “I didn’t want to be part of a parallel church.” He didn’t want to transition into one of the Ecclesia Dei orders or any order for that matter. Although still a solid traditionalist, he was sick and tired of the politics within religious orders. He desperately wanted to be a diocesan priest and was constantly writing to US dioceses asking for incardination.

    Through the years, I’ve sent him mass intentions and he’s always graciously helped us with these. It’s been many years now since I’ve seen him. But he still has a special place in my heart.

    God bless you, Fr. G. I’m so glad to hear this news. This reminds me that God is good. And, that He doesn’t abandon His flock. Never. Deo gratias!

  3. Anne Scanlon says:

    Praise God…how awesome…let us keep those prayers rising !!!!

  4. Woody Jones says:

    A couple of our parishioners, who had known former bishop Steenson from their own Episcopalian days, were in Rome for Cardinal DiNardo’s investiture and stayed over for the reception of (I guess for now) Mr. Steenson into the Church, by the former Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, Cardinal Law, who is now archpriest of S. Maria Maggiore. A couple of vignettes they related: Jeffrey Steenson told them he had not had to tie a tie for so long that he was having trouble getting the hang of it that morning before the ceremony, which perhaps brings home (although he was not saying so for that purpose) what a change this is for him and his family. It is a great sign of the Hope that the Holy Father has written so beautifully about.

    Second vignette: there was a Communist “manifestation” going on, so cabs were scarce after the ceremony; seeing the plight of our parishioner couple, Cardinal Law recruited his driver and they both drove the couple back to their hotel, where they had just time to collect their luggage and head for Fiumicino to catch a plane home. Evidently seeing a cardinal get out of the car to hold the door for two laymen was quite a sight for the staff at the hotel.

    With respect to Anglicans taking the plunge, the word at Walsingham (Houston branch, and where, incidentally, then-bishop Steenson snuck in for a Mass while his confreres were meeting down the road at Camp Allen last year) is that there are more in the works, and prayers for these intentions are strongly requested.

  5. magdalen says:

    Deo Gratias!

    May more good news be on the way!

  6. malta says:

    Fr. Gonzales gave a beautiful, holy Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the close of Mass Sunday before last at his chapel, now regularized, at 1420 San Pedro, Albuquerque. Fr. Gonzales is a great traditionalist priest, who the Archbishop has said will not be required to pray the New Mass. Fr. Gonzales is indeed a very large man, with a booming voice; a gentle giant with kind eyes and a great sense of humor. Kudos to both Archbishop Sheehan and Fr. Gonzales for seeing past their apparent differences in some areas related to the Mass of Paul VI, and regularizing a situation which will be to the betterment of all Catholics in the Santa Fe Archdiocese.

  7. Diane says:

    This is the kind of news that really makes my day.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Maria says:

    Hi Father Z, I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while now. (I even made a live journal feed so I can read over there) Yesterday after reading the Archdiocese’s newspaper, I was pleasantly surprised to read both news stories. I had wondered about what was going on with the former Bishop Steenson but had no idea that the Latin Mass community was coming back at all. I only learned of it’s existence this year.
    I have a neighbor, an older woman who really loves Latin Mass and we’ve talked about going to Albuquerque to one church where it’s celebrated, but we haven’t yet gone. I’ve never been and am too young to remember Mass in Latin I was born just as it switched. Anyway, I wondered if you’d get this news. I even contemplated transcribing it and sending it to you, but alas I don’t need to. I just wanted to say that I agree with all the other posters above, it is big, good new coming out of Santa Fe.

    Again hi! I may stop by more often.

  9. Maria says:

    Hi Father Z, I\’ve been lurking on your blog for a while now. (I even made a live journal feed so I can read over there) Yesterday after reading the Archdiocese\’s newspaper, I was pleasantly surprised to read both news stories. I had wondered about what was going on with the former Bishop Steenson but had no idea that the Latin Mass community was coming back at all. I only learned of it\’s existence this year.
    I have a neighbor, an older woman who really loves Latin Mass and we\’ve talked about going to Albuquerque to one church where it\’s celebrated, but we haven\’t yet gone. I\’ve never been and am too young to remember Mass in Latin I was born just as it switched. Anyway, I wondered if you\’d get this news. I even contemplated transcribing it and sending it to you, but alas I don\’t need to. I just wanted to say that I agree with all the other posters above, it is big, good new coming out of Santa Fe.

    Again hi! I may stop by more often.

  10. Al says:

    I had no idea that such a provision existed. You always learn something new here. Thank you.

  11. Mark says:

    Andy, thank you for sharing your story regarding Fr. G. – it brought me warmth on this cold and dreary morning.

    Benedicite,

    Mark

  12. momof7 says:

    Over the summer we had the priviledge to attend Philmont Boy Scout Ranch with the entire family.

    Mass was being offered there EVERY day for the Scouts coming and going on the Mountain Treks.

    There were several priests from the Diocese and from general conversation, good things are happening in this Diocese! PBJC..

    What a beautiful beautiful letter from the Bishop!

  13. Tom says:

    “I also take this occasion to invite back other Tridentine Catholics to union with Rome…”

    What is a “Tridentine” Catholic?

    I hope that the the Archbishop will also invite Orthodox Church members, Protestants and Jews (all non-Catholics, for that matter) to enter into Communion with Rome.

    What are the chances of the Archbishop offering that explicit invitation?

  14. malta says:

    Fr. Z: “Archbp. Sheehan wrote about two examples of men willing to make sacrifices and give up positions and support for the sake of their desire for unity with the Successor of Peter.

    As far as I know, Fr. Gonzales hasn’t actually given up a position or support in his
    regularization. In fact, he has now taken on double the work load since he is
    ministering to two communities now that the priest who used to minister to the Indult
    community is retired (Fr. Milan Garcia, who was a phenomenal priest).

  15. Brian2 says:

    Way to turn a nice story into an occasion for griping guys.

  16. “What are the chances of the Archbishop offering that explicit invitation?”

    The overall tone of the story, and the Archbishop’s statement, would seem to indicate that there is no reason why he would NOT welcome others who seek union with Rome. But “it takes two to tango,” and in the instances mentioned, there were “explicit” overtures from the other parties.

  17. Malta says:

    Tom writes: \”What is a Tridentine Catholic?\”

    I agree, this part of the Archbishop\’s statement is inexplicable: \”I also take this occasion to invite back other Tridentine Catholics to union with Rome.\”

    Maybe I find it inexplicable for reasons that you don\’t, but it is inexplicable nonetheless. Not to be a \”griping guy\” part deux, but certainly this is a very strange comment. I would even posit that the Council of Trent was more \”Catholic\” than the Second Vatican Council in the sense that the former was a dogmatic council, in line with other councils, and represented therefore what a council is supposed to be and historically has been, and the Second Vatican Council was a pastoral council, which even Richard McBrien\’s, \”Encyclopedia of Catholicism\” states is unique in the annals of Councils.

    But, really, let\’s give credit where it is due: Archbishop Sheehan has done a very good thing for the Archdiocese in Santa Fe in regularizing Fr. Gonzales, who, by all accounts, is, without question, a phenomenal priest!