All posts by Padre Juan

Born in Taos, NM--youngest of three boys. Ordained a priest for Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1964, served in several parishes, pastor in three. National special ministry twice: executive director of PADRES organization 1972-1975, coordinator of Tercer Encuentro Hispano de Pastoral 1984-1985. Author of RELUCTANT DAWN: A Biography of Padre Martinez published in 1975, second edition 2006. Retired from administration, and helping as a "supply priest" in Diocese of San Bernardino. Maintain blog dedicated to Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos (1793-1867)



Fr. Juan Romero

(Revised May 5, 2024)

  A dust-heap since the mid-1960s, the Duran Chapel in the village of Talpa near Taos, NM was built in 1838. Its adobe rubble may be in for a remake because of Doreen Duran, resident of Albuquerque, who has been working with family members and others towards its restoration. A short distance east of the famous church of St. Francis in Ranchos de Taos, it was originally dedicated in honor of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa in Jalisco, Mexico for which the northern New Mexican village was named. A decade before the Duran Chapel was built, a sister chapel was built in 1828. This first one, built in honor of San Juan de Los Lagos, remains in good condition and in active use as a chapel of ease for the famous church of St. Francis.  The presence of these two chapels named for Marian images from Jalisco so close together in northern New Mexico is a testament to commerce among traders along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro connecting Mexico City to Santa Fe

The Chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa (AKA The Duran Chapel), built in 1838 and re-roofed in 1851, was dedicated and given for the use of Padre Antonio José Martinez, Cura de Taos.

  The chapel’s intriguing history is the subject of a compelling book published in 1979, The Chapel of Our Lady of Talpa by William Wroth. The Taylor Museum of Fine Arts Center at Colorado Springs, Colorado published the booklet of one-hundred-plus pages and digitized it in 2008. The museum houses a first-rate collection of the original altar screen and accompanying santos by classic nineteenth century santeros, wood carvers of holy images. The publication offers an arquitectural blueprint of the chapel and other interesting data provided by the Works Project Administration (WPA) that President Roosevelt created to provide employment for artists, writers, and others during the Great Depression of the 1930s to early ’40s. Modern rebuilders of the chapel will certainly use the floor plan in its reconstruction.

  My interest in the chapel is personal and historical. My father’s mother is a descendant of Nicolas Sandoval who built the chapel. One of Sandoval’s daughters, Juana María, married a Duran from whom the chapel later took its name. One of Juana’s daughters, Margarita Vigil, married my grandfather Juan B. Romero for whom I am named.  Secondly, I am interested in the life and legacy of Padre Antonio José Martínez whose brothers in 1804 pioneered Arroyo Hondo twelve miles north of Taos and to whom my mother is related.  In 1973, I published Reluctant Dawn, a biography about the Padre, and I maintain a blog about him, <>.  More specifically, when the chapel was re-roofed in the summer of 1851, it was dedicated “a disposeción (sic) del presbítero Don Antonio José Martínes (sic)”.

Esta Adorasion [sic] de/ Mi Señora de Talpa/ Fue consedido y fabri/cado su oratorio A/disposecion [sic] del/ Presbitero Dn Ant/ José Martines/ el dia de hoy/

2 de Julio/ de 1851- José de Gracia [Gonsales]

This her prayer-chapel in veneration of my Lady of Talpa was today granted and refashioned for the disposition of the presbyter Don Antonio José Martínes

July 2, 1851 – José de Gracia [Gonzales]

  Expert santero Jose de Gracia, at the direction of Sandoval, inscribed this dedication on latillas (planks) in between the vigas (beams) on the ceiling. The date of the inscription was significant because it precisely marked the time that Bishop Juan B. Lamy was arriving in Santa Fe as the new Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico, now for three years part of the United States. Within the westward expansion of the United States, S.W. Kearny occupied Santa Fe in 1846. The US-Mexican War ended with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February 1848, and New Mexico then became a territory of the United States. Civic-political adjustments took place rather quickly, but adjustments within the ecclesiastical sphere dragged on. The American Bishops met at Baltimore in 1850 and petitioned Pope Pius XI to transfer jurisdiction of ecclesiastical affairs from the see of Durango in the Mexican Republic to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Holy Father named French missionary Jean Baptiste Lamy as Vicar Apostolic to the new Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico, a temporary missionary status dependent on the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. Father Lamy was ordained a bishop in 1850 but did not take charge until he was fully credentialed a year later.

  Ecclesiastical bureaucratic confusion occasioned a delay in the official transition of jurisdiction. Rome had mistakenly advised the neighboring Bishop of Sonra in Mexico   instead of the proper Bishop of the far-flung Diocese of Durango. Consequently, New Mexican clergy did not at first accept the change since Bishop Zubiria, their own ordinary or bishop-in-charge, had not formally been advised of the transfer of church jurisdiction. However, within a few months, and after a cordial meeting at Durango between Bishops Zubiria and Lamy, the confusion was resolved, and Bishop Lamy arrived in New Mexico by July 1851 to commence his new ministry. On July 1, a day before the Talpa Chapel was dedicated for the use of Padre Martinez, Bishop Lamy wrote a letter advising the clergy of New Mexico of arrival, and shortly afterwards he arrived into Santa Fe.


  Many of the images within the Chapel were related to the Penitente Brotherhood for whom the Cura de Taos was chaplain. As laymen, members of the Penitente Brotherhood could not celebrate Mass nor administer the sacraments, but they served as the as “the spiritual back bone” of isolated Catholic communities where priests were scarce. The brotherhood had a deep devotion to the suffering Christ inherited from its roots in medieval Spanish Catholicism which took the form of voluntary self-flagellation, the carrying of heavy crosses (maderos), and other forms of self-mortification. Although some of their past penitential expressions may have been exaggerated, Los Hermanos de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno modified those expressions in accord with the exhortations of Bishop José Laureano Zubiria of Durango. His Excellency in 1831 made his first episcopal visitation to the northern outpost of his far-flung diocese. During the Bishop’s visit, Padre Martinez finessed the occasion to be appointed as chaplain of the Hermandad. He thereby somewhat assuaged the Bishop’s concerns and exhorted the Hermanos toward moderate means of self-mortification. Bishop Zubiria followed up his visit with further correspondence in 1833. (Cf. Weigle, Brothers of Light, Brothers of Blood, 1976:195-6)

  Penitente leaders held an organizational meeting in 1835 that some leaders consider to be the formal beginning of the Brotherhood. Three years later, Nicolás Sandoval– an active and influential Penitente — established the private chapel of Our Lady of Talpa. Sandoval and Padre Martinez had mutual roots in Santa Cruz east of Española, near the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh/San Juan Caballeros at the junction of the Chama and Rio Grande rivers, the original site of the Spanish colonization of New Mexico in 1598.


  Antonio José Martínez was born 1793 in front of the Santa Rosa chapel in Abiquiú (still standing but in ruins) along the Chama River. At the age of 19, he married a distant cousin who died in childbirth. A couple of years later, the young widower decided to a become a priest. Leaving his daughter with her maternal grandparents, Martínez traveled one-way over a thousand miles from Taos south to the seminary in Durango. A bright student, he excelled in the study of Canon Law, and was ordained in 1822, a year after Mexico’s independence from Spain. He returned to Taos where he had grown up since the age of eleven, and where he lived with his parents after his ordination while recuperating from an asthmatic condition.

  After a few assignments outside of Taos, Padre Martínez in 1826 was appointed as priest-in-charge of his home church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Taos Plaza, dependent on the San Geronimo parish established at the Pueblo in the early 17th century. In the mid 1830s or early 1840’s, Our Lady of Guadalupe church at the Taos Plaza became the seat or headquarters of the parish, and Padre Martínez officially became its pastor. The Cura de Taos would play a powerfully influential role in both church affairs and politics of New Mexico until his death in 1867.

  After a sabbatical in Durango during 1842, Padre Martinez returned to Taos. Within a short time, the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe became a parish in its own right—no longer juridically dependent on the Pueblo Church of San Geronimo that had been the parish seat (headquarters) for over two centuries.  Padre Martinez was named pastor, cura proprio ofGuadalupe Church, no longer a mission of the Pueblo Church but now the parish headquarters. Soon thereafter, Governor Armijo certified Martínez as a civil lawyer, already recognized as an expert in Canon (Church) Law.


  These years were the precursor to the “transcendental epoch” in between the US occupation of New Mexico in 1846. the arrival of J.B. Lamy as the new bishop of New Mexico in 1851, and New Mexican statehood in 1912. (Benjamin Read, Illustrated History of New Mexico, 1912) As a major expression of Manifest Destiny, the American Army occupied Santa Fe in mid-August 1846. Steven Watts Kearny invited Padre Martinez and his brothers to swear allegiance to the United States and they did. Martinez took his printing press to Santa Fe and lent it to Kearny who printed his historic Law Code on it. Within weeks, Padre Martínez returned home and turned his seminary into a law school because he believed that, from now on, the one who would “ride the burro” of influence and authority in New Mexico would no longer be the clergyman but the attorney. (Cf. Santiago Valdez, Biography of Padre Martinez, 1877)

  Padre Martínez adjusted relatively quickly and rather well to New Mexico’s new political reality under the United States. However, for all his talents and accomplishments as the Priest of Taos and politician of New Mexico, Martínez had difficulties adjusting to the new ecclesiastical reality.


   In the early 1850s, Bishop Lamy traveled to France to recruit clergy for his new diocese and to Rome to take care of business. As travel companion and priest-secretary, he took with him Father Eulogio Ortiz, a former pupil of Padre Martinez at his home-preparatory seminary. He was also the nephew of Padre Juan Felipe Ortiz, former Vicarcio of Santa Fe on behalf of Bishop Zubiria of Durango.

  Padre Martinez in a letter to Bishop Lamy divulged his frail health with concomitant advancing age, but the Bishop took it as a desire to retire from the strains of parish ministry. While in Rome, Bishop Lamy met Basque priest Father Damaso Taladrid and recruited him to work at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Taos where Padre Martinez was in semi-retirement. Father Taladrid arrived in Taos in May 1856, and the Bishop appointed him to succeed Padre Martinez. However, the two priests would prove to have a rocky relationship.

  A significant pinch-point was the desire of Padre Martinez to preside at the wedding of a favorite niece at Guadalupe Church where the Padre had been in charge for three decades. Father Taladrid, however, did not permit Padre Martinez to preside at the marriage. As a result, the Padre arranged to have his niece’s wedding at his private oratory that he had just finished constructing at his own house nearby, a five-minute walk from the church. Since a Catholic wedding is supposed to take place in church, Bishop Lamy, in September 1856, penalized Padre Martinez with “suspension” for having presided at the wedding at his private house-chapel (oratory). The Bishop suspended the Padre’s “facutlties”, i.e., his license, to preach, hear Confessions (give absolution), and publicly celebrate Mass.

  In another incident, Father Taladrid found that Padre Martinez was celebrating Mass in “private unlicensed chapels in various communities”, and complained to Bishop Lamy. Shortly afterwards, by 1857, Father Taladrid was removed from the parish, likely for causing too many problems not only for the retired pastor of Taos, but also for its people.

[Some people] came to ask me to go to celebrate a low Mass on the 15th of this month [of September, feast of Our Sorrowful Mother, a special devotion of Penitentes] in a chapel under the title of Our Lady of Talpa [my emphasis] …. Father Martinez had celebrated it every year …. this priest was not authorized by any law to celebrate Mass in any oratory or chapel without previous permission from his legitimate Bishop.

(AASF, L.D.  1856, N0.  24; Quoted in Wroth, Talpa Chapel)


   Padre Martinez suggested to Bishop Lamy that he appoint Padre Medina as Father Taladrid’s successor. Medina was a young native New Mexican priest whom Padre Martinez had taught in his preparatory seminary at his house. However, the Bishop chose Father Eulogio Ortiz to succeed Father Taladrid and become the new priest in charge of Guadalupe parish. Father Ortiz was also a former student at Padre Martinez’ preparatory seminary, also nephew of Vicario Ortiz and traveling companion of Bishop Lamy. The Padre’s initial joy was soon dashed.  One of the “last straws” in the struggles between Padre Martinez and Bishop Lamy concerned the Duran Chapel and Father Ortiz.

  After his 1856 suspensio a divinis, “suspension from divine things” and 1858 excommunication, Padre Martinez was regularly using the Talpa Chapel that had become his base. His many relatives and partisans were regular attendees at the Chapel, and they supported their beloved, aging, and sickly priest who had served the community for three decades.

  The Duran Chapel was also a headquarters for the influential members of the Hermandad, Los Penitentes. As Holy Week approached in 1858, Father Ortiz arranged the removal of Penitente-related images and vestments from the chapel. Taking the santos and vestments at this sacred time was calculated to impede the Holy Week ceremonies scheduled to soon take place there. This outraged Padre Martinez who immediately communicated his anger and fully expected Bishop Lamy to severely reprimand the younger priest.  Martínez fumed to his Bishop:

Such abuses [of Father José Eulogio Ortiz] have reached such a point of monstrosity, Illustrious Sir…to commit the tumultuous and sacrilegious action with which he broke into the oratory of Nicolas Sandoval dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and–with his accomplices– carried off its santos with injurious violence that has motivated his shameful appearance before the court of Santa Fe. An action such as this man did is a double sacrilege [my emphasis] because it was performed inside a sacred place and to sacred objects, with smashing of the doors and threats with weapons.  The laws…describe excommunication for the authors of such violence, not to mention the penalties of the Civil law.  [my emphasis]

(Quoted in Talpa Chapel, p. 36; AASF, L.D. 1858, No. 17.)

  What is quite ironic about this outburst is the demand of Padre Martínez for the “excommunication” of Father Ortiz. It had the effect of triggering his own formal excommunication by April 1858, a few weeks after his letter to Bishop Lamy.

  Padre Martinez thereafter began to use as his base the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, AKA the Duran Chapel. The United States Census of 1860 claimed over 300 congregants for the chapel. They included family members and parishioners whose allegiance remained with the Padre. Father Angelico Chavez, dean of New Mexican historians, in his book My Penitente Land claims that the rupture was “not a true schism”. Nevertheless, there definitely was a split. The Padre’s younger son Vicente Ferrer Romero—a preteen when his father was suspended in 1856 and excommunicated in 1858—became a lay leader and effective circuit rider for the Presbyterian Church. The Padre’s youngest brother became a Presbyterian as did, for a while, Pedro Sanchez who had married the Padre’s favorite niece in his house chapel and authored a biography of the Padre in 1904. Sanchez, and hundreds of other relatives and partisans of the Padre who had left the church during the tumultuous times, returned after the Missions that Italian Jesuit Father Donato M. Gasparri preached at Taos in1869.  Nevertheless,

[the whole affair] left a wound in the side of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, which was long to heal, and the scar can yet be felt. To the Spanish American minority, however, the wholesale removal of the native clergy has been a tragedy, for it deprived them of their natural leaders capable of cushioning the shock of conquest for which as a group the Hispanos have never recovered.

(E.K. Francis, “Padre Martinez-A New Mexican Myth, New Mexico Historical Review, October 1956)

  “Never is a long time,” as my father used to say. The French clergy that Bishop Lamy recruited have disappeared, and native Hispanic vocations significantly increased by the 1970s. Robert F. Sanchez became Archbishop of Santa Fe on July 25, 1974 (died in 2012), the feast of Santiago – Patron Sant of Hispanic America. Until 1970, there was not one Mexican American or Latin American bishop native to the United States. That changed when Archbishop Patrick Flores was ordained Cinco de Mayo 1970. Since then (as of 2012) there have been many bishops appointed to serve in the United States: three Archbishops (San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia), ten Bishops, and thirteen Auxiliary Bishops. As important as hierarchy may be, the real cypher of missionary success is the growth of Latino Catholics well served. In 1970, the claim that “25% of the Catholic population in the United States is Latino/Hispanic” surprised many U.S. bishops. As a matter of fact, the Latino population has almost tripled since then, reaching over 60 million in the country, 18% of its total population. In some places such as the Archdioceses of New York and Los Angeles, Latinos make up more than half of the total Catholic population. Nevertheless, it remains a challenge to adequately serve that population. For various reasons, many have converted to other denominations. Lack of adequate service is one of those reasons.

  As Cura de Taos, the Padre occasionally opened his pulpit to a Protestant preacher. HIn his later years, he liked to use the Anglican Prayer Book, and seems to have flirted with becoming an Episcopalian. Anglican Bishop Talbot visited the Padre at his home, but the Anglican hierarch insisted that Martinez regularize his relationship with Teodora Romero, mother of his children. Despite being censured by his church, Padre Martinez, nevertheless, held on to his Roman Catholic identity.

  Willa Cather, according to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, put Padre Martinez writhing in hell. Her fictionalized account of the life of Bishop Lamy, whom she calls Bishop “Latour”, makes an ogre of Padre Martínez whom she calls by his proper name while making him a foil to her heroic bishop.

  Msgr. Jerome Martinez, former rector of the Cathedral-Basilica of Santa Fe and a Canon Lawyer, has opined that the “excommunication of Padre Martinez was invalid because it lacked the formality of three canonical warnings.” Certainly, no saint, Padre Martinez died reconciled to God and His Church through the ministrations of Padre Lucero, a former student of the Padre and pastor of neighboring parish in Arroyo Hondo. Lucero confessed, absolved, and anointed the Padre upon his death bed. It is common Catholic teaching that anyone who consciously and conscientiously celebrates these sacraments, popularly known as “Last Rites” enters directly into heavenly glory.

  A measure of the esteem in which Padre Martinez was held by the people of the villages of Taos, particularly the Penitente Brothers, is the fact that “more than 300 members of La Fratenidad Piadosa de Condado de Taos marched in his funeral procession in 1867.”  (Weigle, 1976:49) When the Padre died, the Assembly of New Mexico inscribed the phrase “La Honra de Su País” as part of his epitaph on the tall marble tombstone. When in 2006 the more than life-sized bronze memorial of the Padre was installed at the Taos Plaza, the NM State legislature reprised the phrase to name the memorial “The Honor of His Homeland”. In his book My Penitente Land, Fray Angelico Chavez—dean of New Mexican historians—called Padre Martínez “New Mexico’s greatest son”.

  It is my fervent hope that the restoration of the Duran Chapel, la capilla de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, will presage a healing of divided families, a peaceful reconciliation between historically divided countries, and an end to rancor among people with divergent views on politics or religion. Tolerance and full acceptance of one another despite differences within families and among nations remains a dream deferred. Yet the practice of these virtues is certainly God’s will for us: “Love one another!” Through the intercession of Our Lady of Talpa, may the restored Chapel advance fulfillment of that velleity.

[Fr. Juan Romero was born in Taos, ordained in 1964 for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles where he grew up since the age of four. He served in several California parishes from Santa Barbara to Orange County and was pastor of three. He twice served on the national level in special ministry: 1972-1976 as executive director of the Mexican American priests’ association PADRES based in San Antonio, and 1984-1985 as national coordinator of the Tercer Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral sponsored by the US Conference of Bishops andbased in Washington, DC. He is retired from administration, resides in Palm Springs where he serves as a “supply priest” for the Diocese of San Bernardino. He recently marked sixty years as a priest.]


February 29, 2024

[Fr. Juan Romero was born in Taos, ordained for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1964. In 1973, he authored RELUCTANT DAWN, a biography of Padre Martinez. A second edition was published in 2006 upon the installation of the memorial in honor of the Cura de Taos at the Taos Plaza. Romero maintains a blog about the Padre <>, is retired from administration, and still helps at parishes in the Palm Springs area where he resides.]


  In local folklore, Padre Martinez is considered the founder of the Taos News. Since boyhood, Padre Martínez had grown up in Taos. He was ordained a priest at Durango in 1822 and returned to Taos 1826 for a new assignment as priest in-charge of San Geronimo parish based at the Pueblo. The parish included several mission churches, among them Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Plaza. One of the first things the Padre did as priest-in-charge was to establish a school for girls as well as for boys at his home near the church. Education was one of his major passions. He later established a seminary (1835) at his home and then a law school (1846).

El Crépusculo de La Libertad – Taos News Precursor

  Padre Martínez did not actually begin the Taos News. Robert McKinney founded the paper in 1959.  His daughter Robin McKenna Martin was its printer for several years and has been the paper’s owner since 1978. She continues in that latter role until today. In a November 2023 Taos News podcast hosted by her daughter Laura, Robin boasted that the newspaper, according to the National Newspaper Association, was “the best [small-town] weekly newspaper in the United States”. Ms. Martin, however, credited the Cura de Taos with having founded El Crepúsculo de La Libertad, a precursor of today’s Taos News. She related that there were many papers in Taos County during the 1800s “mostly during the Gold Rush…. Revista de Taos began in 1908”, she commented and then proceeded to share some of the paper’s history according to family lore.

The name El Crepúsculomeans ‘gloaming’ in English…the time of day or night when the sun is below the horizon. It’s not quite dark so it can either mean dawn or twilight–the dawn of liberty as his supporters understood it, or the twilight of liberty as his detractors have called it.

When Mexico, then including New Mexico, became independent from Spain in 1821, two Abreu brothers brought a press up on the Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe. [They] printed [likely on a handheld press] a [broadside] paper critical of the [Mexican] government. As a result, civil enforcers hung the Abreu brothers by their thumbs in the Santa Fe Plaza and then flayed them alive. That was the end of the paper….

  Robin Martin continued relating the story to her daughter and podcast listeners:

During the depths of the depression [in the 1930s], your grandfather Robert was doing a lot of research into companies that were almost worthless…. He bought stock in them for pennies, and eventually they became very valuable because the land was recognized as being valuable. By 1949, he was married [to your grandmother] whose family had a ranch in eastern New Mexico. They bought the Santa Fe New Mexican, and the Taos News a decade later.

In 1959, your grandfather was at a party when he heard that the Taos News was for sale. He was sitting next to George O’Keefe at the pool at Lake Ranch. She mentioned to him that the newspaper in Taos had just shut down. He got up from the party and went back to Santa Fe, got a crew together and started the Taos News [under new management] with a publication on the streets by the following Thursday.


  Antonio José Martínez, eldest of his siblings, was born in 1793 at Abiquiú, NM six years before President Washington died, the year the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the Cotton Gin invented. The family moved to Taos when Antonio José was eleven. He was seventeen when Padre Hidalgo in 1810 gave his cry (grito) for Independence from Mother Spain. At age 19, Antonio José married a distant cousin, also from Abiquiú, but she died giving birth to their daughter. A couple of years later, the young widower traveled far south to the Durango seminary and four years later was ordained a priest in 1822, a year after Mexican Independence.

  A decade later in 1832, Padre Martinez preached a powerful panegyric exalting Padre Hidalgo from the pulpit of La Parroquia of Santa Fe, location of the future cathedral. A Mexican nationalist, Padre Martínez nevertheless was always well-disposed toward the ideals of the American government. He named one of his sons GEORGE (not Jorge) after George Washington, and was also partial to his contemporary Abraham Lincoln. Always favorable toward the ideals of the American government, Padre Martínez in later life was to become more so.


 The first printing press on the American continent was established at Mexico City in 1539, a century before any printing press arrived in the British Colony of Massachusetts or anyplace else in what is now the United States. The press that Padre Martinez eventually used was purportedly a Ramage press assembled in Philadelphia. According to the NM History Museum, Josiah Gregg (author of Commerce of the Prairies, 1844) is said to have brought the press on the Santa Fe Trail from St. Louis to Santa Fe in 1834. Gregg supposedly sold it to Ramón Abreu.

  However, another more circuitous narrative credits Don Abreu himself for being the key person in getting the press to New Mexico. This adventure likely took place at the instigation of Padre Martinez who served a few times on the Asamblea del Departamento de Nuevo Mexico, analogous to a state or territory of the Mexican Republic. Don Ramón Abreu was a native New Mexican who was serving in the Mexican legislature as secretary for the same Departamento. As politicians in northern New Mexico, both Don Abreu and Padre Martínez were well acquainted. It is not much of a stretch to think that Padre Martinez, planning for his educational endeavors, asked Don Abreu to obtain a printing press for New Mexico.  Abreu in 1832 contacted Don Antonio Barreriro, deputy from Mexico City, to arrange for the transfer of a printing press from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Abreu then contracted with Jesús María Baca of Durango, a printer by trade, to bring the press from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Padre Martínez may already have known José María from his four years in Durango when a decade earlier he studied there as a seminarian. Martinez and Baca may even have been schoolmates—a supposition.


  Two years after the encounter between Abreu and Barreriro, Jesús María Baca in 1834 transported the Abreu press from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Shortly thereafter Padre Martinez wrote the SPELLER-GRAMMAR dedicated to the “Children of the Martinez Family” published on the Abreu press that some have mistakenly deemed as New Mexico’s first book.


The NM State Archives, however, recognizes Manualito de Parrocos as the state’s FIRST BOOK published in 1839 on the Padre Martinez press. The Handbook for Priests, a bilingual ritual in Latin and Spanish, contained the rites of sacraments and some special blessings.

  The publication of the Speller five years before coincided rather closely with the first pastoral visit of Bishop José Laureano Zubiría of Durango. In the fall of 1834, he traveled a thousand miles to the northern extremity of his far-flung diocese. Bishop Zubiria had been a seminary professor of Padre Martínez and was familiar with the acumen and talents of the priest of Taos. The Padre asked permission from his former teacher to begin a preparatory seminary at his own house, and permission was granted.

  The Padre soon came to own the Abreu press, hired Jesus Maria Baca as his printer, and in late 1835 moved the press from Santa Fe to Taos. They used it for well over thirteen years to print religious pamphlets, educational materials, and political tracts. At some point during this period, the Padre published New Mexico’s first NEWSPAPER El Crepúsculo de la Libertad. After only six issues, however, Padre Martinez ceased publication to focus on his education priorities.

  Martínez began his preparatory seminary for the study of logic (introduction to philosophy), rhetoric, Latin and other topics for which he printed materials and was the primary professor. Graduating students traveled almost a thousand miles south to Durango to continue their seminary studies in philosophy and theology in preparation for priesthood. Sixteen such students were eventually ordained to the priesthood to serve the people of New Mexico. Other alumni eventually went into law, politics, or other stations in life.


  During the Chimayó Uprising of 1837, the Padre was conflicted since he was appointed chaplain for the New Mexican soldiers fighting on behalf of the Mexican Republic. At the same time, he felt closely related to his parishioners, fellow New Mexicans including Native American partisans from Taos and Chimayó. The “rebellion” needs to be seen within the wider context of war and the costs of war. General Santa Anna had been victorious against “Texians” who in the 1836 battle of the Alamo at San Antonio unsuccessfully tried to secede from the Mexican Republic. The following spring, however, General Sam Houston retaliated at San Jacino with his American soldiers and quickly defeated General Santa Anna’s troops. This victory gave Texas its independence from Mexico, assured expansion of Manifest Destiny westward, and ultimately led to the U.S. Mexican War a decade later.

 Santa Anna needed to recuperate funds for the great financial losses in Texas, so he sent Albino Perez as Governor to northern New Mexico to impose new taxes to recuperate monies. It proved to be an unpopular move and Perez proved to be an unpopular governor. Resistance turned harsh in the form of his decapitation. A couple of Native Americas succeeded as co-governors of New Mexico and they appropriately had their headquarters at the Palace of the Governors. Interestingly but tangentially, Don Ramón Abreu who had been a key player in the transfer of the printing press from Mexico City to Santa Fe three year prior, surfaced as a player in this Chimayó Uprising. H.H. Bancroft in his History of NM and Arizona mentions Abreu: “The alcalde was arrested at the governor’s orders (Albino Perez) by Ramon Abreu who is called prefect.” (The Revolution of 1837, #317)


  Padre Martínez wrote his AUTOBIOGRAPHY soon after the Chimayo War of 1837 and published it on his press the following year as Los Méritos del Presbítero Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos. In an 1840 revision of the autobiography, Martínez more truthfully and humbly refers to himself as “INTERIM CURATE” instead of as “Cura” that connotes the rank of pastor. He would not actually be named as the pastor of Taos until parish jurisdiction would be transferred from the church of San Geronimo at the Pueblo to the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Plaza. Both the change in jurisdiction and the promotion to CURA happened soon after the Padre’s return to Taos from Durango.


  One of the signature items printed on the Martinez Press was the autobiography Padre Martínez wrote following the uprising in 1837 and published a year later. On the title page, he referred to himself as the “Cura de Taos”. Eleven years prior, he had been appointed priest-in-charge of the parish in Taos and its missions, but he had not yet been officially named as “pastor”. As a young man and quite busy priest, the intellectually gifted priest had missed canonical examinations that were a requisite before one could be named to a pastorate. A year’s sabbatical would make up for that.

  In preparation for a sabbatical in Durango where he had spent four years as a seminarian, Martínez in 1840 prepared a shorter version of the autobiography for his ecclesiastical superiors. In the revision, Martinez did not mention either his prematurely deceased wife or his legitimate daughter who died at the age of twelve. Less so did he mention other children that he fathered after taking Holy Orders. Two were of special note: Santiago Valdez wrote a Biography of the Padre in 1877; Vicente Romero converted to the Presbyterian Church, became an effective circuit rider as a layman, and effectively used the Padre’s press to print Protestant tracts.


  Shortly after the Padre returned from his Durango sabbatical in 1842, the Pueblo church of San Geronimo, lost its status as a parish headquarters for the churches and chapels of Taos. The mission church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Taos Plaza was elevated to the status of parish, and Padre Martínez was named PASTOR officially meriting the title Cura de Taos. At about the same time in 1842, Padre Martinez asked for and received a license from the Governor to practice civil law.Since seminary days, Martinez was already accomplished in canon (church) law, and now was also recognized as a civil lawyer. This strengthened his hand in politics.


  At the end of summer 1846, there was a serious change in the political weather. Stephen Watts Kearny brought the US-Mexican War to New Mexico when he occupied Santa Fe. Kearny invited Padre Martínez and his brothers to swear American citizenship, and all freely did so. Shortly afterwards, Martínez moved his printing press from Taos back to Santa Fe where he made it available to the soon-to- become GENERAL Kearny who in turn used it to print his LAW CODE as well as other government documents.


  Forty-two years after coming to Taos as the priest-in-charge, Padre Martinez died in 1867. Just as the Grandfather’s Clock stopped ticking “when the old man died”, so also did his printing press cease to function in the same year as the Padre’s demise. Located at the printing office of the Cimarron News fifty-five miles northeast of Taos, the press was destroyed at the beginning stages of the Colfax County War. The war derived from the turmoil between new owners and old settlers with different claims to the Beaubien-Maxwell land grant. According to the NM History Museum, “the printing office was broken into…. The press and printing type were thrown into the Cimarron River…[and] no further record of the press or its parts has surfaced.”


  Robin Martin, heir of the Padre Martinez Press legacy, concludes her reminisces:

The original offices of the Taos News were in Cabot Plaza but then were moved to a location with the long porch directly south of Guadalupe Church. The offices are now located down the street from the County buildings [north of the plaza] …. Some people have always been upset or angry at the paper but that’s fine. We talk about things that are uncomfortable. If we think something in the government’s not going right, we let people know…. Having local ownership is important because you know the history of a community, you know where the bodies are buried, and you know when something’s about to blow up. You can investigate it, and maybe keep it from blowing up…. It’s the community [that is important], saving democracy and saving the way the town feels, saving the honesty of the government. Absolutely!



José Antonio [Laureano de Zubiría], Bishop of Durango 

Priests of New Mexico

November 13, 1850

[This item is being posted a few days after January 17, the birthday of Padre Antonio José Martínez of Taos born in 1793. Bishop Zubiría had been a seminary professor of Padre Martínez in Durango where he studied.]



Rev. Juan Romero


  The historical interest and value of this Pastoral Letter lies in the window it offers into the time and space between the civil and ecclesiastical transfer of jurisdiction between the Republic of Mexico and the United States leading up to and for a few years after the US-Mexican War. Only a dozen years after the Republic of Mexico had become independent from “La Madre España”, Bishop Zubiría in 1833 made his first pastoral visit to New Mexico and Colorado, the northern extremity of his immense diocese of Durango. On this occasion, Bishop Zubiría—a former professor of seminarian Antonio José Martínez of Taos–gave Padre Martínez permission to begin a pre-seminary at his home for the formation of young men interested in becoming priests in New Mexico. They had to travel over a thousand miles to the south to continue their theological studies in Durango. 

  The U.S.-Mexican War from 1846 to 1848 marked a most “transcendent epoch” in American civil society, opined historian Benjamin Read in his Illustrated History of New Mexico published in 1912 at the time the territory was becoming a state of the Union. This liminal stage was reflected in the history of the Church which witnessed one of American history’s greatest transitions of episcopal jurisdiction, together with its concomitant drama and confusions.

  The large diocese of Durango in the Republic of Mexico was under the jurisdiction of Bishop José Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante from 1831 until his death in 1863. His diocese came to be cut almost in half on July 19, 1850. Pope Pius IX held the scalpel of ecclesiastical surgery, but the operation had begun four years prior with the march toward fulfillment of Manifest Destiny expressed in the U.S.- Mexican War. Stephen Watts Kearny led the Army of the West from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Santa Fe in mid-August 1846. The US-Mexican War ended a year and a half later with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in early February 1848. Through spoils of war, the United States came to occupy and then own a large swath of territories north of Mexico that greatly diminished the size of the Bishop’s Mexican Diocese. These lands—not all part of his Diocese–included Texas, New Mexico, California, Utah, Arizona, and slivers of Wyoming and Oklahoma. 

  Civil institutions rather quickly adjusted to the new political reality, but Catholic ecclesiastical structures took more time. The American Bishops at their 1850 Council in Baltimore petitioned Pope Pius IX to transfer ecclesiastical jurisdiction from the northern part of the Diocese of Durango to become a new American Diocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico. In response, the Holy Father created the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico—a missionary stage of transition in the process of becoming a diocese in its own right. The new Vicariate Apostolic of (Santa Fe in) New Mexico was to be technically attached to the Archdiocese of St. Louis Missouri, font of the Santa Fe Trail ending in Taos. Father Jean Baptist Lamy, a French missionary serving in Ohio, was chosen to lead the fledgling local church. On November 24, 1850, Bishop Martin Spaulding of Louisville, Kentucky consecrated Lamy as bishop.

  A month before that consecration, in September 1850, Bishop Zubiria began his third and final pastoral visit of almost three months to the northern extremity of his extremely far-flung diocese of Durango that extended to Colorado. Upon returning to his base in Durango in the Mexican Republic, the Bishop wrote his Pastoral Letter to his northern clergy in New Mexico. The Letter was dated November 13, 1850—twelve days before Father Lamy was consecrated a bishop.  Bishop Zubiria was to formally remain as the prelate-in-charge of his whole Diocese of Durango for less than another two weeks—indeed a liminal time– until Jean Baptiste Lamy was ordained Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico. 

 Almost nine months later but not yet after his face-to-face visit with Bishop Zubiría, Bishop Lamy arrived at his new post in July 1851. However, there still had not been enough time for an appropriate gestation of the new reality. When Bishop Lamy arrived at Santa Fe to begin his new ministry, Juan Felipe Ortiz of Santa Fe–the Episcopal Vicar for Bishop Zubiria, explained that the clergy of New Mexico could not yet accept him as their ordinary—the term for bishop-in-charge–since they had not yet received official notification from Bishop Zubíra about any change in episcopal leadership. 

  Bishop Lamy immediately arranged to make a pilgrimage of over 2,000 miles–over to Durango and back to Santa Fe– for a visit with Bishop Zubiría in order to proffer his Roman credentials as the proper Bishop of New Mexico. In November 1851, a year after his episcopal consecration and after much confusion and several clarifications, Bishop Lamy returned to Santa Fe to finally and fully take charge of his Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico. By 1853, the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico had become a Diocese in its own right, and in 1875 it was elevated to the status of an Archdiocese. Archbishop Lamy died in 1888.


  Bishop Zubiria had been aware of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that ended the U.S.-Mexican War ceding half of the territory of his Diocese to the United States. He also must have been aware of the 1850 Council of Baltimore promoting the transfer of ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the great swath of territory north from Mexico to episcopal jurisdiction in the United States. However, the date for the transfer of jurisdiction was not clear to Bishop Zubiria because of a bureaucratic mistake made by the Vatican. By oversight, the notification of transfer of jurisdiction was sent to the Bishop of Sonora, Mexico whose diocese was adjacent to Arizona but still part of the Mexican Republic. Bishop Zubiria “did not get the memo” of the transfer of jurisdiction, but the Bishop of Sonora did. The latter must have thought it was a pro-forma notification, a copy meant only for his information. 

  Part of the lack of good communication between Rome and Durango, moreover, was nomenclature–the protracted and unwieldy name of Durango’s Bishop, José Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante, quite confusing to Vatican bureaucrats. The Vatican clerical staff sometimes did not recognize the name or signature of the Durango Bishop who, in correspondence with the Vatican, often signed his name simply as “Laureano”, the surname of his father. Mexican usage highlights a mother’s maiden name (de Zubiría) that, to a non-Mexican, might seem to appear as a paternal surname. In 19th-century Mexican usage, a mother’s maiden name was customarily appended to one’s paternal surname. The somewhat cynical thinking behind that usage is the fact that one can be sure of one’s mother, but not necessarily always of one’s father. Escalante was the name of Bishop Zubiria’s maternal grandmother. All of this was quite confusing to bureaucrats at the Vatican. Bishop Zubiria, i.e. José Laureano, after not having been advised about the transfer of the northern portion of his Diocese, sent a doleful letter of complaint to the Holy Father: “I have always been a loyal son to Your Holiness, yet I was not notified.…” [Paraphrase of a Letter from Bishop Zubiria to Pope Pius IX which, during a sabbatical in the Jubilee Year 2000, I read at the Secret Archives Secunda Secundae of the Vatican Secretariate of State.] 


  Bishop José Lauraeano de Zubiría y Escalante, convinced that the territory of New Mexico was still under his jurisdiction, made his third and final visit there in the fall of 1850. Upon returning home to Durango by mid-November, he wrote his Circular Letter to the Clergy of New Mexico on November 13, 1850. Its focus was to ratify disciplinary actions he wished to implement after his visit. No doubt he was also interested in “cleaning house” before a new administration came into town. His Pastoral Letter was an invitation to Catholics living in concubinage to get their marriages blessed, i.e., con-validated in the Church.

Bishop Zubiría, properly fulfilling his ministry of protecting the faithful from clerics without jurisdiction, decreed that Catholics in that situation need to get their marriages blessed soon and without charge. His Letter was also a call to those who had been invalidly married by a priest without jurisdiction to have their unions canonically con-validated. The letter denounced by name a couple of priests who without proper episcopal jurisdiction were invalidly presiding at so-called con-validations of marriages. Bishop Zubiría correctly stressed that to be validly married, a Catholic couple needed to express their free consent before two witnesses and a priest who had faculties (license from the proper bishop) to minister in his diocese. Bishop Zubiría, in this Pastoral Letter, called out by name two wandering clerics (clerici vagi), Padres Cárdenas and Valencia, who were invalidly presiding at marriages since they did not have faculties from him. They traveled around Rio Abajo (Socorro, Belen, Tomé, y La Isleta) pretending to preside at marriages without having proper delegation (jurisdiction/faculties/license). In the eyes of the Church, such marriages were considered invalid, and such couples who had their unions “blessed” by either of these clerics needed to have their unions properly witnessed by priests with proper jurisdiction and with two witnesses according to prescriptions of the 16th century Council of Trent. 

  Bishop Zubiría decreed invalid marriages needed to be con-validated soon and without charge. Couples failing to do so would be deprived of Holy Communion. In addition, they also could serve as godparents or sponsors for baptism, confirmation, or marriage until their marriage was blessed in church. After con-validation of the marriage, they could once again be restored to the status of good standing within the Church.

  Bishop Zubiria sent the letter to the young Padre José Miguel Gallegos from Abiquiú, the talented pastor of the prestigious parish of San Felipe Parish in Albuquerque. Bishop then charged the priest with the task of making copies of the Pastoral Letter and distributing them to the clergy of New Mexico. However, the Bishop did not clearly realize that his Diocese of Durango was on the brink of immanent momentous change. The priest from Abiquiú had a promising ecclesiastical career. However, because of the vagaries of time and chance, the promise of that career was not to be fulfilled. 

  An English translation of the Letter from Bishop Zubiria follows:


Translated by Rev. Thomas Steele, S.J., Vicente Martínez, Elena Nápoles-Goldfeder, and 

Rev. Juan Romero

(Revised – December 2022)

November 13, 1850

To the priests, gentlemen, addressed in this decree: grace and health in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  Since coming to this Territory, I have made repeated announcements from its pulpits to the faithful regarding the weddings officiated by the woeful priests, Fray Benigno Cárdenas and Don Nicolás Valencia. My much-beloved sons and brothers, all of you know, as well as I, of their disobedience against their Bishop. With great sadness of my spirit, it caused their suspension on February 25, 1848, and that has been made public in the parish of Belén.

  My Vicar General gently invited those involved in invalid marriages performed by those two priests [Cárdenas and Valencia] to have them con-validated before their own [parish] priests in good standing. Furthermore, these priests should do so free of charge, taking into account the spiritual good of souls. Although many have come forward to have their invalid marriages blessed by the church, there is, nevertheless, no lack of others who persist in their irregular marriages. 

  After three months of waiting and at the time of my leaving the Territory, they still do not pay attention to the pastoral voice of their seventh Diocesan Prelate, but dismiss and disdain that voice, [I declare that] those couples who persevere united in the abyss of such deceitful ties are truly nothing more than–to put it more clearly—in public cohabitation. It is even more criminal when they attempt to cover themselves over with the respectable name of the holy sacrament of matrimony by pretending to appear pure. Because what they call “matrimony” is totally otherwise; they commit an outrageous sacrilege. There cannot be any kind of excuse for this after what they have heard but have not wanted to believe. With impertinence, they are disobeying the voice of their shepherd-bishop. May God clarify this for them, for their guidance and direction in spiritual matters.

  Since this is a very grave evil and one of the most pernicious scandals to souls, may it be held in little regard for its notorious mocking of our sacred Catholic religion that we profess because we are blessed [in our faith]. For these powerful reasons, the blessing of our religion should not be, nor can it be, something pretended. Those who try to pass themselves off as good Catholics cannot be hidden without (medicinal) punishment occasioned by their contumacious behavior. Such punishment is meted out for the purpose of their correction and amendment and for the purpose of reducing disorders as well as for healing the fallout of scandal and evils that such inconsiderate and ungrateful children are causing.

  I commend to you, priests of Socorro, Belén, Tomé, La Isleta and Alburquerque [sic], that upon receipt of this decree, you pass it on to the hands of everyone so that each might investigate the marriages officiated by Fathers Valencia and Cárdenas that may have taken place in your parishes. May you find out which couples are living together without proper con-validation of their impure relationships, and which [of those] couples may be interested in regularizing their marriage. Advise them of the necessity of having their marriages blessed before you, or before the priests to whom you will give delegation. Place clearly before them the importance of [either] having their marriages blessed in the church within a time frame that should not exceed eight to ten days, or of necessarily separating forever. That is sufficient opportunity for those couples living separately to prepare their consciences, cleansing them from impurity, to make a good confession to validate their marriages in a Christian manner.

  I hereby impose on contumacious persons a major penalty of being barred from receiving Holy Communion. This applies to those involved in marriages that have already been identified as invalid. The couple has been notified and openly called upon for the validation of their marriages, but– by disgrace –allow time to pass. Should they dare to continue in their matrimonial situations without having their marriages blessed, that punishment shall last while they persist in their obstinacies. 

  All of you [clergy] shall make this penalty effective by explicitly naming those persons as disbarred from Communion by writing their names on a paper and posting it on the doors of the church. It shall be written in the following manner: NN. was married to N. in an invalid ceremony officiated by Father N. This censure is being imposed because, after being notified of the invalidity of their bond, they have persistently refused to make the decision to marry properly. Having been openly called to con-validate their marriage, they shall be excommunicated by sentence of the Bishop until such time that they shall subject themselves to due obedience. In such a case, they shall be absolved, and the faithful shall be notified of their dutiful consent. The respective priest shall then immediately set a date for the con-validation of the marriage and fix his signature to it.

  So that the validations can be facilitated for the good of souls, I promise that it should be done free of charge, as has been done up until now. The marriage will be regularized without any more expense on the part of the interested parties other than the dowry, and that should be taken care of by the best man and maid of honor. So that they can proceed with their con-validation, I will supply the usual stipend for the Mass. 

  You shall prepare a brief report, even if it is verbal, for the purpose of certifying that there was no diriment impediment whatsoever. Moreover, to whoever suspects that such an impediment may exist, I now declare by this present decree that I have dispensed it —so long as licit pairing does not exceed the second degree of consanguinity or affinity–or even if there be an illicit paring, but that it does not reach the first degree of consanguinity or affinity.

  Finally, so that this decree shall have its necessary execution, I command that a copy of this order be circulated in a flyer, and that another copy be made for the record book [parish marriage register]. Each of the dowries should be used to make another copy of this decree in pamphlet form, and then, with the priest’s signature, hung on the church door. 

  Together with receipt and execution of copies [of this Pastoral Letter] aforementioned, I remit these pages to the pastor of Albuquerque in deference to his position. With his endorsement, and bringing an end to this matter, I now send it to the Vicar to be placed in the archives of Santa Fe.

  Given at the Plaza of San Antonio, with the awareness of the parish of San Miguel del Socorro, November 13, 1850. 

José Antonio [Laureano de Zubiría], Bishop of Durango

By order of Don Luis Rubio, Secretary of Visit,

[Reviewed and endorsed by] 

José Manuel Gallegos, [Pastor of San Felipe in Albuquerque]



Canonized May 15, 2022


Fr. Juan Romero, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

  Charles de Foucauld, an ascetic monk known as a Little Brother of Jesus, is an unlikely patron saint for diocesan priests.  He inspired the International Fraternity of Jesus Caritas thus becoming one of the few patron saints for diocesan priests.  At the beginning of December 1916 and at the relatively young age of 58, Charles Eugene de Foucauld was killed in Tamanrasset, Algeria. His feast day is celebrated on December 1, near the anniversary of his death. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him as a martyr for the faith on November 13, 2005, and Pope Francis canonized him on May15, 2022. Although the only group he ever directly founded was a lay fraternity of the Little Brothers of Jesus, Blessed Charles has inspired a multitude of other groups and is counted as the co-founder of the Little Sisters of Jesus. His life and legacy were an inspiration for Jesus Caritas fraternities of diocesan priests throughout the world. Here are some highlights of his life and ministry based on a talk recorded on YouTube, sponsored by the McGrath Institute given in 2018 by Professor Gabriel Reynolds of the University of Notre Dame.

  Charles was born into wealth in 1858 at Strasbourg along the borderland between France and Germany. He was, like St. Augustine of Hippo, a cradle Catholic, but not enthusiastic about nor faithful to the practice of his religion until he had a conversion experience in later life. De Foucald was intellectually gifted and had a good education, but his grades were poor until he encountered something that truly interested him. Geography and the desert peoples of northern Africa intrigued him, but his attraction to “wine women and song” as well as Cuban cigars trumped academic interests of this young military officer in the French cavalry. In a change of assignment, he paid the passage to send ahead his mistress Mimi, a Parisian actress, posing as his spouse to be with him at an assignment in southern Algeria where he bravely served in combat.

  A restless man, he left military life and moved to Morocco where—although there were few Christians in the area– the influence of a French priest helped stabilize his life. The area was ruled by a Muslim Emirate, and a strong Jewish colony had been present there since the middle-ages. Charles was intrigued by his surroundings, and an Irish librarian encouraged him to pose as a rabbi to gain easy entry to the people and territory. This allowed him to literally take measurement of the land, and Charles won a gold medal from the Sorbonne University for his geographical study.

  Deeply impressed by and strongly attracted to the simplicity, dogma, and morality of the Jews and Muslims of Morocco, Charles admired their fidelity to faith and its expressions in prayer and fasting. Through the prayerful intercession of his cousin Marie–and after a grace-filled

encounter in the sacrament of Penance at the Paris church of St. Augustine—Charles in 1886 returned to returned to France and to his Catholic faith. He decided to live for God alone and joined a Trappist Monastery for a cloistered life. In 1890, he moved to another more severe and remote Trappist monastery in Syria. Five years later, during the time of the Armenian Genocide, de Foucald the military man resurfaced to organize a successful defense of the monastery against marauders. While in Syria, he wrote a Rule for the Little Brothers of Jesus, but the order was never truly organized during his lifetime.

 His Trappist brothers recognized the leadership qualities and spiritual capabilities of Brother Charles. He was seen as “exceptional, stubborn, humble”, and they sent him to study in Rome towards a possible future leadership role in the monastic order. However, he chose instead to move to Nazareth where he lived for a few years in a hut provided by Poor Clare Sisters. Brother Charles worked as their gardener and subsisted on a diet of bread and water. When the Poor Clare Sisters gave him dates, figs and almonds to augment his diet, he would—unbeknown to them—give away the food to people in the village. In Nazareth, he grew in appreciation of the Hidden Life of Jesus and was given mystical experiences: “a union that had no earthly name”. Brother Charles de Foucald received greater clarity and transparency of the person Jesus Caritas and began to focus on his true vocation.

  The Sisters suggested he go to Jerusalem to meet with their Mother Superior who urged him to be ordained a priest. “You have to be a priest to begin a religious order,” Mother Superior counseled. The Patriarch of Jerusalem demurred ordaining him since he had no real roots there, so he went to Viviers, France where he was ordained in 1901.  Father Charles then left for Western Algeria where he committed himself to be a “brother” with and for the POOR. He planned to establish a community of Little Brothers but was unsuccessful.

  By 1904, as a French patriot residing in the French colony of southern Algeria, Brother Charles without followers was a “community” of one. He attempted to redeem slaves and felt called to proclaim the Gospel to Berbers. At the same time, he recognized the spiritual needs of the soldiers in the French garrison. The tension was resolved when his vocation finally focused through his call to live in solitary isolation, contemplation, and service to the poor–a ministry of hospitable presence to Muslims and dedication to work in the Algerian Sahara. He lived among the Tuareg people, translated the Gospel into their language and produced a Tuareg-French dictionary. He made no conversions and baptized only two persons: a Black African slave whom he had raised and an old lady. Otherwise, he thought of himself as merely a “useless servant” (Lk. 17:7-10).

  Nevertheless, he built a small hermitage in southern Algeria where he dedicated himself to an ascetic “ministry of presence”. By 1908, his health was declining, but he lived for another eight years. He was eventually killed before the Great War between Germany and France, its initial antagonists. Militarized Muslim Turks and Black Africans were aligned with Germany. At the end of 1916, there was a plan to kidnap but not kill Brother Charles suspected of being a French agent and captured him. Little Brother Charles in a kneeling posture, hands and feet bound

behind his back when Algerians arrived to rescue him. However, a teenage militant panicked and shot Charles through the head.

  His cousin Maria for years had prayed for his conversion. Among his last writings, he counseled her, “Never be afraid of danger…God will not forget.” Pope Francis at the beginning of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (All are Brothers) echoes the message of his chosen namesake St. Francis of Assisi that the heart of the Christian message is “a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate, and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives”.

  This holy man of God has influenced the lives of many throughout the world and continues to do so. Although he did not begin Jesus Caritas fraternities for diocesan priests, he nevertheless inspired them with his love of the Eucharist as sacrifice and sacrament and by his commitment to live Gospel simplicity, by his devotion to the Hidden Life of Jesus of Nazareth and by his attraction to “the Desert”. For over half a century, I belonged to a Jesus Caritas Fraternity that faithfully met monthly. The brotherhood profoundly influenced my own life as a diocesan priest, and I am forever grateful to the brothers of my fraternity and to St. Charles de Foucald.



  At a national retreat for members of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of priests held at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California in July 2010, Father Jerry Devore of Bridgeport, Connecticut asked me in the name of the National Council to write an early history of Jesus Caritas in the United States.  About fifty priests from all over the country gathered for a week while a smaller number of priests were already there participating for the full Month of Nazareth. This chronicle is based on conversations with and testimonies of some of those present.

  As a young priest studying at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. during the mid-sixties, Father Thomas McCormick, a former National Responsible of the Fraternities, encountered the Little Sisters of Jesus.  He noticed that one of their menial jobs was to clean toilets at the University.  Father Tom was curious about this humble self-effacing group that was so faithful to their spirituality inspired by Brother Charles de Foucauld.  These Little Sisters of Jesus lived his simple spirituality and radiated it as they were becoming fully catholic in their vision and mission.  They dedicated themselves totally to humbly living the Gospel as practiced by Charles de Foucauld, the French hermit of North Africa.  From very early on, the Little Sisters of Jesus served as a powerful underground promoting the spirit of Brother Charles in a very simple, yet immeasurable manner.

  Father Tom McCormick in 1974 succeeded Father Dan Danielson as the National Responsible for Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. Originally of the Midwest and later of Denver, Tom McCormick served in that position until 1979.  Father Danielson was the first National Responsible, and until recently Father Joseph Greeley of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles served as the Responsible of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. Father John Jacquel of Erie PA, as of 2022, is the new National Responsible.

  The Fraternities were established for diocesan priests since religious order priests supposedly already had “fraternity” built within their structures.  Nevertheless, several religious order priests over the years have joined Jesus Caritas fraternities in partnership with their diocesan brothers. The sense of priestly fraternity grew during the decade of the ‘70s as Jesus Caritas Fraternities spread on both coasts as well as throughout the United States. 

  This brief history is intended to complement two seminal Jesus Caritas works for the USA: A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Msgr. Bryan Karvelis (RIP) of Brooklyn, New York and the booklet American Experience of Jesus Caritas Fraternities by Father Dan Danielson of Oakland, California.  This essay proposes to record the beginnings of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the USA over its first decade of existence from 1963 to 1973.  It purports to be an “Acts of the Apostles” of some of the prophets and apostles of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity in the USA, a collective living memory of this little-known dynamic dimension of the Church in the United States.  It is not an evaluation of the Fraternity, much less a road map for its future growth and development.  Its immediate purpose is to be a simple report of some of the main facets of the early history of Jesus Caritas in the USA, an “Observe,” if you will, of our beginnings and common roots in this country.  Any consequent “Judge” or “Act” is outside the purview of this paper but may be used as an organizing tool for potential growth of the Fraternity.

  The influence of Brother Charles of Jesus was first felt during the late Nineteenth Century in Africa where he labored as a quasi-hermit, and then in the early Twentieth Century at his homeland, France.  In the early 1960’s, Peter Heinermann brought the story of Brother Charles and the Jesus Caritas Fraternities to places outside of Europe.  Canadian priest Jacques Le Clerc was the coordinator of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in Canada as well as their national “responsible.”  He brought the fraternities of Brother Charles to the American continent by way of Montreal.  With its strong French connection, Montreal was fertile soil for the development of Jesus Caritas Fraternities. Other fraternities were already established in many places throughout the world.  However, they had not yet come into the United States.  By 1963, the beginnings of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States coincided with the opening of the Second Vatican Council.


  Branches of Jesus Caritas Fraternities began to bud in New York and California, and various other places throughout the United States.  Msgr. Bryan Karvelis of the Brooklyn Diocese in New York and Father Dan Danielson of the Oakland Diocese in California were pioneer founders—the Peter and Paul–of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. 

Msgr. Bryan Karvelis 

  Ordained in the late 1950s, Msgr. Bryan Karvelis died in October 2005, after half a century of priestly ministry and just a couple of months before the beatification of Brother Charles of Jesus.  Bryan had grown up in St. Boniface Parish in Brooklyn, and he served for almost fifty years as pastor of Transfiguration Parish in the same city.  Former New York socialite Dorothy Day, turned apostle-to-the-poor, greatly influenced Msgr. Karavelis.  He housed homeless people – mostly immigrants from Latin America – in the rectory, the basement of the convent, and in a shelter across the street from the church.  He helped them find more permanent housing, and he turned the former convent into a refuge for AIDS patients.

  In addition to Dorothy Day, Charles de Foucauld also powerfully influenced the life Msgr. Karvelis remembered as an “urban contemplative.”  (National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2000) In 1966, Msgr. Karvelis began “mini churches” at Transfiguration Parish in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as a way for parishioners to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus and his message.  “Each ‘fraternity’ consisted of fifteen to twenty members who meet in the church basement for study prayer and reflection,” wrote the National Catholic Reporter in the early spring of Jubilee Year 2000.  Within his parish, he organized Jesus Caritas-type fraternities akin to the Comunidades de Base of Latin America.  They became the organizational basis for the whole parish – a community of small communities; his parish council functioned practically as a Jesus Caritas Fraternity.  Karvelis lit a holy fire in Brooklyn that inspired a new zeal a group of highly enthusiastic social-action-type priests.  The priests of his parish and others of surrounding parishes came to recognize that they needed more prayerful reflection to balance their priestly lives.  They were going about doing good, and—like Mary, Martha’s sister—they were busy about many things, but perhaps not giving sufficient attention to the “one thing necessary”. (Lk 10:38-42)

  Msgr. Karvelis was convinced that the way for priests to hold on to priesthood was to cling to Jesus Christ Himself in the manner exemplified by Charles de Foucauld.  Karvelis emphasized the central importance of love for Jesus and fidelity to the Gospel mandate of serving the poor.  This was the great example Jesus gave to diocesan priests and to all, and it was well exemplified by Brother Charles.

  The basics of Jesus Caritas fraternities were catching on throughout the country. Priestly fraternities were on their own meeting monthly in commitment to a daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, meditation on the scriptures with a predilection for the Gospels, simplicity of life, living in solidarity with the impoverished, and a monthly (or at least occasional) individual and prayerful “Day in the Desert” in preparation for one’s Review of Life to be shared within the monthly small-group meeting of a particular Fraternity. 

  The recommended (metaphorical) “Day” is to afford sustained quiet prayer time alone and away from one’s usual workspace. It may be at a mountain location, beach or anywhere, but without any props or distractions—even spiritual reading. The monthly meeting of the fraternity attempts to incorporate all of these elements: Gospel (or other scripture) reflection (not to be a time for homily prep), a meal together, Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and the Review of Life — the heart of the monthly meeting. An annual overnight at a retreat house is highly recommended for spiritually deepening the fraternity.

Prudence and the Review of Life

  Father Tony Leuer (RIP), a founding member of a Fraternity in Los Angeles, contributed an insight into the Review-of-Life process. Through his high school participation in the Young Christian Students (YCS), one of the “Specialized Movements” of Catholic Action that blossomed for about forty years from the ‘30s through the ‘70s, he had long been familiar with its Observe-Judge-Act technique. With its emphasis on concrete facts from members’ lives, the method is somewhat akin to the method used in Liberation Theology and in broad-based Community Organizing. Some Jesus Caritas priests such as Father Dan Finn of Boston have successfully used this methodology as a pastoral tool. 

  This approach to life is firmly based on the Virtue of Prudence as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas in Quaestio 42 of his Summa Theologica.  The virtue is directed toward action based on prior reflection.  The virtue is not so much a habit to offer a warning of possible dangers in doing something, nor an exhortation to stop from doing something. On the contrary, rightly understood, prudence is the virtue (good habit of acting) ordinated to ACTION.

  This virtue echoes the well-known formula OBSERVE-JUDGE-ACT developed in the early 20th century by Father Joseph Cardijn of Belgium. In 1912, he began to use this method of discernment-action with young women working in factories. He taught them to evaluate their “action” since that evaluation provides the deepest learning in life. The young men and women this technique developed into the Jenuesse Ouvriere Chrétienne (JOC = YCW, i.e., Young Christian Workers) that eventually spread throughout Europe, Latin America, and the whole world.

  Pope Pius XII in 1965 named Joseph Cardijn a Cardinal who became a consultant at the Second Vatican Council. His process of prudence-in-action is the theological basis for the Review of Life that is at the heart of one’s sharing at a fraternity’s monthly meeting. The elements are as follows: 1) Observe concrete facts of a situation in life, 2) Judge (discern) them in the light of Christian principles, especially as reflected in the Gospel, 3) and then decide to Act concretely. Such action–on one’s own behalf or in concert with others for change—has as its purpose to move an unwholesome reality to conform more closely to values of Jesus Christ as espoused in the Gospels. This leads toward living a more human/Christian ideal in one’s own life and ultimately in society, thus preparing for the full coming of the Lord’s Kingdom.

  In his article A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn— a homage to the 1951 Broadway Musical of that title (Novel 1943, Movie 1945, and Movie adapted for TV 1974) — Msgr. Bryan Karvelis wrote about the Eastern USA experiences of Fraternity. His option to serve the poor eventually cost him dearly in later years when he suffered from hostile non-Catholic elements that literally beat him various times.  He also suffered from a kidney transplant but nevertheless continued to be enthusiastic about the development of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.

  Only a few years after his ordination toward the end of the sixties, Father Howard Calkins of New York experienced the turmoil of the times through very unpleasant changes in assignment. That unhappy experience – it turns out was a “happy fault” – provided the catalyst for beginning a new fraternity.  By 1970, Father Calkins, together with three or four others, made an “engagement” (pronounced the French way)—a commitment to live the charism of Brother Charles through a Jesus Caritas Fraternity.  He followed this up in 1971 with a “consecration” at Tabor, New York.  This commitment/engagement was somewhat analogous to a religious profession, but such a public affirmation is no longer customary in today’s Jesus Caritas fraternities.


  The first years of growth for the Fraternities in the United States took place at a tumultuous time.  The spirit of the sixties— good and bad dimensions– affected all of society including the Church. The spirit of hope marking the beginning of the decade moved toward dissent in the middle of the decade, and then to conflict and turmoil towards its end.  The March on Washington in August 1963 ushered in a hope in the possibility that we as a country indeed might be able to overcome the divisions of race.  Furthermore, the October opening of the Second Vatican Council gave rise to a great hope that God’s Spirit would breathe new life into the Catholic Church as well as in other institutions throughout the world.  Many of those hopes were quashed by the decade’s stormy end: the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968, the convention of the Democratic Party in Chicago that summer, the drug-infested gathering of the nation’s youth at Woodstock, and widespread urban civil unrest. Discord within the Church followed the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the regulation of births.

  At the same time, the Church was becoming more socially conscious. Many Catholic clergy, women religious and lay people were following the non-violent leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King.  Cesar Chavez–the unapologetically Catholic charismatic leader and founder of the United Farm Workers Union– challenged Catholic priests and bishops to support La Causa with more than words. He pleaded churchmen boldly assert the right of farm workers to organize their own union.  In the spring of 1969, Mexican American clergy, led by Chicano priests in Texas, organized themselves into a national organization of PADRES, an acronym that translates into Priests Associated for Religious, Educational and Social Rights.  The PADRES were claiming that the Church as an institution in this country was not adequately responding to pastoral needs of its Spanish speaking.  A significant “sign of the times” was that over 25% of Catholics in the U.S. were in this demographic.  Church leadership at the time was slow to believe the percentage claimed, but the immanent explosion of the Latino population within the country eventually validated the claim in spades.

  Turmoil and conflict within the United States and throughout the world certainly had its impact upon Catholic clergy.  Their worlds had been rocked.  As a result, many were deciding to leave active ministry, and some married.  Father Dan Danielson was concerned about the growing fallout among American clergy. He was convinced that Jesus Caritas Fraternities could help the priests hold on to their priesthood through emotional and psychological support of one another within the fraternities.  He thought that elements of “sensitivity sessions”, popularized on the West Coast by American Psychologist Carl Rogers, might be a tool that could be adapted to the fraternities while at the same time holding as sacred the general structure and emphasis of Jesus Caritas small gatherings.

Father Dan Danielson

  Father Dan Danielson spread the word of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities along the West coast and in other parts of the country.  He had been ordained from St. Patrick’s seminary for the Diocese of Oakland in 1963.  In 2005, on the feast of the Assumption, a few months before the beatification of Blessed Charles, Danielson wrote about his own association with the Fraternities and shared his reflections on the history of Jesus Caritas in the USA.

  Sometime around 1962, while studying theology at St. Patrick’s seminary in Menlo Park, a suburb of San Francisco, seminarian Danielson came upon a publication called Apostolic Perspectives, a small magazine published on the Ave Maria Press by Holy Cross Father Louis J. Putz. An article about a movement among diocesan clergy for fraternity and spiritual growth intrigued Danielson but it did not mention either Charles de Foucauld or Jesus Caritas Fraternities. This movement was on its way toward becoming a Secular Institute, a canonical status recognized by the Church only since 1947. Danielson requested further information from a given address in Brooklyn. In due time, he received from a certain Father Bryan Karvelis a copy of the article A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Surprisingly no bill was enclosed!  Danielson sent away for more copies of the article on Jesus Caritas Fraternities to distribute among fellow seminarians.  However, the rector reprimanded him for distributing material not previously approved by him and instructed him to cease proselytizing.  After that, Dan Danielson distributed copies sporadically, but only upon the explicit request of a fellow seminarian.

  Sulpician priest Father Frank Norris, a seminary professor with a viewpoint different from that of the rector, attended a meeting in Montreal, and brought back some information on Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  After Father Dan Danielson’s ordination in 1963, he began a Jesus Caritas Fraternity within his Diocese of Oakland.  Members of his group soon attempted to start other groups, but quickly realized that was a mistake.  They returned to their original group that became Dan’s core priest-support group, and it remained so for the next forty-plus years.

  A custom of post-Christmas Retreats for fraternities of northern California began in 1964, and the same kind of retreats soon spread from the Bay Area to southern California where new Jesus Caritas groups were springing up. The gatherings powerfully nourished the groups spiritually.

  Within a relatively short time, branches of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities spread through the eastern corridor of the country, then to the Midwest and into the south.  Msgr. Bryan Karvalis passed the baton, i.e., a sprig of the new Jesus Caritas tree, to Father Fred Voorhees of the Diocese of Buffalo.  Father Fred transplanted the twig onto the good ground of New York and then Detroit where it bore savory fruit for the East Coast and Midwest.  The powerful charism of Blessed Charles of Jesus independently touched Father Winus Roeten of New Orleans who planted a seed of Jesus Caritas in his diocese.  Father Roeten, in turn, influenced Father Doug Brougher, also of New Orleans, and they facilitated the development of other Fraternities throughout Louisiana.

  Father Jacques LeClerc was the national “Responsible,” i.e., coordinator, of the Jesus Caritas fraternities in Canada.  In the mid ‘60s, he introduced the Month of Nazareth to the United States at Holy Cross Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.  Among the attendees at that first Month of Nazareth in the United States were Fathers Dan Danielson of Oakland and Father Bryan Karvelis of Brooklyn. This was the first time the two pioneer co-founders of the U.S. Fraternities met face-to-face.

  This Month of Nazareth served as an encounter among several future evangelists, apostles, and prophets of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  Present at this Connecticut encounter were Fathers Ed Farrell of Detroit–author of books on priestly spirituality– Winus Roeten of New Orleans, and Fred Voorhees of the Diocese of Buffalo.  Each was also a pioneer in the spread of the Fraternities within their respective areas throughout the country.  These “four evangelists” saw the need for some structure within the U.S, independent of Canada, and they selected Dan Danielson as the first National Responsible for the still-fledgling Jesus Caritas national priests’ association in the United States.  The Fraternities grew in the U.S., but in a quintessentially American style.

International Connection

  Father Danielson during the 1970s had two bully pulpits for the propagation of Jesus Caritas Fraternities: he was an officer in the National Federation of Priests Councils and was a popular retreat master for priests throughout the country. After the Month of Nazareth at Connecticut in 1970, Father Danielson attended a Jesus Caritas International Assembly in Valmont, France—near Lourdes.  He went with one question in mind: Were we in the U.S. “schismatics” among the Jesus Caritas Fraternities of the world?  He asked himself the question because most priests in many of the Jesus Caritas groups with which he was familiar were negligent about paying dues. Furthermore, they seemed to lack explicit long-term commitment (“covenant”) to the ideals of the international fraternity.  He discovered to his happy surprise that the representatives of the international Jesus Caritas not only welcomed their brother priests of the United States as members, but they also gave them “the right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9) and fully embraced them as fellow diocesan priests serious about living the Gospel.  The international gathering of brothers saw their American counterparts committed to spiritual growth, especially in their love for Jesus, regular prayer, and devotion to the Blessed Eucharist.  At that meeting in France, Peter Hienermann was elected as the International Responsible. A “responsible” is the convoker or coordinator of a particular J.C. group who has the task of scheduling a place to meet and reminding the brothers of their next meeting.  In addition, leaders of fraternities from every corner of the nation meet a least annually for better communication and coordination within the country, and this also happens on the international level.

  During the ‘70s, Father Danielson promoted two Months of Nazareth at the Franciscan Seminary in Santa Barbara. He soon realized that he needed to develop a presentation about the Jesus-Caritas Fraternities for the priests of the United States.  He determined that it had to be “realistic, and true to the experience of the existing groups in the United States.”  About twenty priests helped him produced a twenty-paged mimeograph publication called The Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests: The American Experience.  Eventually, it was printed in booklet form, extensively revised twice, and continues as the main booklet used to communicate the Fraternity to priests in the United States. Father Danielson gives own witness:

There is no question in my mind that the Jesus-Caritas Fraternity has been the single most important structural part of my priesthood in terms of what it means to be a priest. Most of the critical decisions in my priestly ministry of forty-two years, would not have been well made without the support and discernment provided by my Fraternity.  I find myself continually challenged by the life and charism of Brother Charles, a challenge that is filled with encouragement most of the time, with only occasional feelings of “I’ll never get it.”



  San Francisco was an important focal point for the propagation of Jesus Caritas in the West Coast and in the entire nation.  The seminary at Menlo Park was a true “seminary” for seedlings of new fraternities.  Father Jim Flynn of the San Francisco Archdiocese tended the garden of new vines thus influencing Bay area priests to become members of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  They included Fathers Harmon Skilin, John Armisted of Stockton, and Tony McGuire of San Francisco.  Father Flynn strongly influenced and sent many young priests, such as Jack McCarthy, for higher studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. These men, in turn, became multipliers of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.

  Father Dan Danielson was the original inspiration to Father Larry Clark of St. Cecilia’s parish in Los Angeles, and Father Clark became one of the earliest members of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity in Southern California.  In the years 1968-69, he hosted various groups of priests, but lessened his connection with Danielson.  Tony Leuer and Peter Beaman picked up the Danielson connection, and then spread it to others by promoting other Fraternities within the Archdiocese. 

  During the mid-sixties in Southern California, through the inspiration of Msgr. John Coffield, Father Frank Colborn began a support group he tentatively called “Young Christian Priests” based on the Jocist Movement. This group quickly morphed into a Jesus Caritas Fraternity, one of the earliest and longest lasting in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Among other early pioneers of Jesus Caritas in Southern California were Msgr. Willam Barry, Father Peter Nugent and future Bishop Joseph Sartoris.  Jesus Caritas member Msgr. Wilbur Davis, originally from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles but now of the Diocese of Orange, is credited with building a House of Prayer for Priests in the Diocese of Orange. It became a favorite meeting place for J.C. Fraternities.


  In 1972, Father Juan Romero began a Jesus Caritas group in San Antonio. Having been in a Los Angeles Fraternity for about six years, he was released from the Archdiocese to work out of San Antonio, Texas for a few years with the PADRES national organization of priests involved in Hispanic ministry. Father David Garcia, a former national board member of Jesus Caritas, credits Romero with being “the godfather” of Jesus Caritas fraternities in the San Antonio Archdiocese.  From there, fraternities spread to other parts of Texas.


Colorado and Beyond

 In the Jubilee Year 2000, almost forty years after the beginnings of JC Fraternities in the USA, the “Rocky Mountain Roundup” held near Denver, Colorado inaugurated the Third Christian Millennium for the Jesus Caritas priest fraternities in the country.  At the International Assembly held in Cairo in 2001, Father Greg gave a report on the state of the Jesus Caritas Priest Fraternities in the United Sates.  He reported that the American character of individualism tends to be eclectic, and it resists what some priests may perceive as an imposition of outside rules.  “Some fraternities are vibrant, some just social, and some suffer from rigor mortis,” he candidly observed.  The Review of Life is “a central practice in the life of the fraternity… a means of accountability…a kind of litmus test for living the fraternity and priesthood in our lives,” he continued.  Hospitality, love of Scripture, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, simplicity of life and a love for the poor are some of the charisms that marked the life of Brother Charles, and that are attractive to many American diocesan priests.  However, other practices that Charles inspired or advocated, such as a monthly Day in the Desert and giving an account of the use of one’s economic resources (a form of evangelical poverty) are observed “with more difficulty” or in the breech. 

  He reported that there were about four hundred Fraternities in the United States, totaling over fourteen hundred members.  The structure consisted of a National Responsible that is considered “Regional” within the organization of the International Jesus Caritas.  The Responsible has six district Council Members to be “co-responsibles” with him, each representing various regions of the expansive country.  Father Greg further reported that some bishops encouraged their priests to join Jesus Caritas Fraternities, and that Fraternities were being introduced into seminaries. Although there was constant growth of Jesus Caritas priest Fraternities during the nineties, their number did not double in that decade prior to the closing of the millennium.

  The life and death of Charles de Foucauld has had great impact throughout the world during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  His impact upon clergy throughout the world has been immense, and his influence has reached the lay faithful as well.  The International Assembly of the Secular Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld met at Araruama, Bazil in 2000. Representatives from twenty-four countries came together and took as their theme “To Live Nazareth.”  Participants were called to live simply and encouraged to counter all the negative effects of globalization: “pursue solidarity with all those excluded, individually and collectively”.  Speakers encouraged listeners to adopt definite positions on issues to join with those groups—such as Amnesty International and other Justice and Peace networks–that advocate for human dignity. 

  At a time that many Westerners see every Arab as a militant Islamic fundamentalist, the life of Brother Charles of Jesus is a counter-cultural witness to a secular society polarized by multicultural and inter-religious conflicts.  His words—echoing Jesus—exhort us to. “Be patient…loving as God…[to] reject harshness, condescension, the militant spirit that sees those who differ as enemies… [and to] see in every human being a beloved brother/sister, friend.” That’s quite a different attitude in our time, but one that is the attitude of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Little Brother, Blessed Charles of Jesus, pray for us!

Lay Fraternities Worldwide

  The charism of Blessed Charles de Foucauld has deeply touched many lay people throughout the word, and the disciples of Brother Charles of Jesus have an impact outside of the household of our Catholic faith.  A Methodist Pastor in 1979 spoke of his great admiration for Little Sister Francesca who worked as a model of discipleship and love in Roxbury, one of the poorest sections of Boston. The charism of Little Brother of Jesus Charles de Foucauld has touched secular institutes as well as lay fraternities.  Lennie Tigh of Boston is in contact with about 200 persons associated with lay fraternities of Jesus Caritas in Transfiguration, NY.  Yvonne Keith is also a promoter of lay fraternities among women in Colorado and beyond. 

  In Cleveland during the mid 1970s, Joe Conrad and others formed Lay Groups, six to eight to a group.  Three “concentric” groups, with as many as forty members each, quickly developed.  However, the number settled down to sixteen committed members comprising two Review-of-Life groups that live in a Core Community house whose focal point is Eucharist.  Their Thursday evening Mass is open to other people, and over a period of decades, this has led to the formation of other Jesus Caritas communities bonded by monthly adoration and Review of Life, as well as by an Annual Retreat together.

  Lay persons attracted to the way of life of Brother Charles de Foucauld were simply invited to gatherings for three consecutive months.  They were expected to participate in the Gospel Sharing and Review of Life, and eventually invited to make a commitment.  Within a year and a half to two years, they were furthermore invited to formally commit to the group for a year.  The commitment is to live a simple life of prayer in the spirit of Brother Charles. The “Act of Commitment,” analogous to a public vow before God and the community, is renewed annually for ten years, and then for life.

  Some years ago, the Cleveland Fraternities held a “Community Day” to examine their history and make an intention to deepen connection with Brother Charles. Organizers of the Day made available books and writings about Brother Charles that have inspired many to live more closely in accord to his example.  Among these are materials by Father Voillaume and Little Sister Magdeline.

International Lay Groups

  In 1991, the original Jesus Caritas Fraternity split into two groups.  One became a secular institute recognized by Rome.  The larger group took the name of Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld and drew up statues to be recognized as an Association of the Faithful.  Rome granted this recognition on December 1, 1998, the seventy-second anniversary of Brother Charles’ death.  In mid-August of the new millennium, laywomen of Jesus Caritas Groups held their own International General Assembly at Essen, Germany.  Thirty-three of them represented twenty-one countries.  For the first time, three members of Groups from Rwanda represented their forty-one members.  Main themes discussed were 1) Identity as single laywomen following the spirit of Charles de Foucauld, 2) Co-responsibility and 3) Celibacy.

  They took care of business in six main language groups connected to an International Team that has a non-hierarchical structure.  The leadership consists of a General Responsible (Italian), a Deputy (another Italian), Secretary (German), and Treasurer (French). Completing the leadership team is a Representative and Deputy Representative for Latin America, and a Representative from Africa.  The plan for Assembly 2004 was to choose a representative from Africa as Responsible for the continent.  Each member of a Fraternity is connected to a base community whose members pledge to live important values and practices: unity within the Fraternity and beyond it, listening and mutual respect; daily Eucharist and Morning Prayer.

  Besides his macro impact upon the world, Charles de Foucauld continues to have micro impact on the very local level in the many places where there is located a Fraternity inspired by him.  French speaking African priests from Cameroon belong to a Fraternity.  In Umtata, South Africa, a pair of Jesus Caritas sisters live together as “sisters” neither by blood nor by religious vocation, but by common commitment. Both work in ministry for two years in the States, and then return to South Africa to help without salary in clinics and hospital. They are of European origin and belong to a Group (not called a fraternity nor a sorority) that numbers seven members.  Each has taken a vow of celibacy and they “accompany African peoples in their struggles and hopes.”  One observes, “There are no miracles in Umtata…We simply walked with the people…accompanying in their struggles and dreams.” (Sounds very Focauldian!)

  Prior Marc of the Little Brothers of Jesus, in preparation for their Chapter in 2002, noted, “brother and fraternity…define our mission, the task that we have received from the Lord….” The message became inclusive by adding, “Jesus was son of man and of his mother, the Virgin, Mary of Nazareth.”  Jesus was not only the son of Mary, but also the son of the women and men that He met who do the will of the Father.  “Here are my mother and my brothers; whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven is my brother, my sister, my mother.”  (Mt 28: 8-ff)

Conclusion and Testimony

  The fact that Charles de Foucald– soldier of fortune turned ascetic monk–became a Catholic saint proves that he was much more than a “useless servant”. In God’s way that became his own way, St. Charles served the Church and the world and powerfully influenced many lives including my own.

  For half a century I was closely associated with my Jesus Caritas fraternity of diocesan priests. Deaths and distance have ended it. Our support group numbered six or seven at a time during its existence and usually included members of Irish, Latino, and Asian heritages. Within the fraternity, there were triads, various groups of three. Three belonged to the fraternity for fifty years while others came and went. The fraternity included three classmates, and three—with some overlap– were or had been professors at our seminary. Three were extremely bright, but I was not in that trio.

  We came to profoundly know each other as much as one could. During the Review of Life, each of us would try to share one significant “fact” or event of the past month that we observed in our own lives, and for which we were seeking clarity to make a change that would make our lives more pleasing to the Lord. We tried to avoid complaining. However, in younger years we sometimes talked about our pastors. In later years, we talked about our associates. The purpose of the sharing was not to provide or encourage a complaint session, but to collectively discern, i.e., judge the Will of God manifested through the brothers’ comments on each other’s sharing. In the process of Review of life, we gained insight to decide what action the Lord was asking of us to put into effect action(s) for an improved reality in our lives. Support, challenge, insight, accountability (to give an account), and love: these were watchwords of the mutual sharing in the Review of Life.

  The life of Charles de Foucald was a wonderful inspiration to each of us and a great influence on the church and the world. He is a serious spiritual guide for anyone who wishes to closely follow the path of Jesus. St. Charles, pray for us!

          Saint Charles de Foucald (1858 – 1916) 

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                         PRAYER OF ABANDONMENT

Father, I abandon myself into your hands.  Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you.  I am ready for all; I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.  Into your hands, I commend my soul.

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, 

for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, 

and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.



Juan Romero

As a young priest, Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos, objected to the system of tithing that he perceived to be a severe burden on the poor. He formally voiced his opposition since 1829, only three years after he arrived back in Taos as the priest in charge of his boyhood church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, an extension of the parish church of San Geronimo headquartered at the Taos Pueblo since about 1620.  As a civil legislator for the Departamento de Nuevo Mexico in the still new Republic of Mexico, independent from Spain since 1821, Padre Martínez advocated abolishing tithing.  In a union of church and state, the government was in charge of collecting tithes as income to pay expenses of government including military salaries as well as church expenses including the salary of clergy. Padre Martinez served various times as one of the legislators representing New Mexico within the Assembly of the Republic of Mexico, and also later as a Representative for the USA Territory of New Mexico. As a member of the Asamblea del Departamento de Nuevo Mexico, Padre Martínez campaigned to change the law so that tithing would no longer be mandatory. Without objection from the Bishop of the Diocese of Durango to which Taos and all of New Mexico and beyond then belonged—the northern frontier of the Kingdom of Spain—Padre Martínez successfully advocated for a change in the policy.  Tithes were abolished by the mid 1830s.

With its occupation by Colonel Steven Watts Kearney in August 1846, New Mexico became a part of the United States, but remained for a few years under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durango, Mexico. However in July 1851, Jean Baptiste Lamy arrived at Santa Fe as the new Vicar Apostolic. He came from Ohio where he had served as a missionary from France. Padre Martínez joined other native New Mexican priests, as well as the Spanish Franciscan clergy and laypeople, in welcoming the new prelate who became the first bishop of New Mexico. The Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico shifted from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durango, Mexico to the Bishop of St. Louis, Missouri until Santa Fe became a diocese in its own right in 1853. It became an Archdiocese in 1875. Padre Martinez made overtures to ingratiate himself with Bishop Lamy.  For his part, Lamy initially sought advice from the Padre known for expertise in canon law, and even borrowed money from him who came from a relatively wealthy family.

However, the relationship began to sour and more so with the 1854 promulgation of a Pastoral Letter of the Bishop that reinstituted the policy of tithing.  In his attempt to finance the operation of the new diocese, Bishop Lamy imposed the penalty of denying Christian burial to those who did not contribute to the church their tithe, one tenth of family income. Meanwhile, the public controversy over tithes and the Pastoral Letter of 1854 was heating up.  Bishop Lamy re-introduced tithing to meet new expenses, but also concomitantly imposed a harsh sanction of excluding from the rites of Christian burial those families that did not comply.  Through his writings in the secular newspaper La Gaceta of Santa Fe, Padre Martínez strenuously and publicly objected to this change in policy regarding tithes, and  denounced Bishop Lamy for “huckerism and simony”.

After serving in his beloved Taos for three decades as a busy parish priest, educator, printer, publisher and politician, Padre Martinez was tired and feeling sickly.  He thought it might be a time for a change in his own life, maybe even retirement. He shared his musings with Bishop Lamy who by then had been in charge of the church in New Mexico for five years.  In a letter dated January 28, 1856, Padre Martinez advised Bishop Lamy of his ill health: bladder infection and severe rheumatism that made walking difficult.  He requested help, preferably a native New Mexican priest as an assistant. Martínez specifically asked for Don Ramón Medina whom he had trained in preparatory seminary, and suggested that Padre Medina succeed him. However, Bishop Lamy chose to interpret the letter as a formal “resignation” and countered with the appointment of another priest he put in charge of the Taos parish, effective within three months, by May 1856: Don Dámaso Taladrid. 

Bishop Lamy had met the Basque priest during one of his trips to Rome, recruited him and appointed him to Taos. Father Taladrid had little regard for the ill health of Padre Martínez or for his many years of service at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and its environs.  Within a short time, friction developed between the two priests. Taladrid made it difficult for Martínez to celebrate Mass in the church, so Martínez began to build a private oratory with its walled cemetery on his own property and at his own expense. Soon, in June, Taladrid reported to Bishop Lamy that Martínez was building the chapel. [AASF Reel 30, pages 529-530] Private chapels of devotion were common among some people of New Mexico, and the custom–less prevalently–continues to this day.

The visions/goals of parish ministry and distinct personalities of Padre Martínez and Father Taladrid clashed. In a letter of October 1, 1856 Padre Martínez advised Bishop Lamy that he was building a chapel next to his home since Father Taladrid did not allow him to use the parish church for weddings and funerals of family members and close friends. The Bishop learned that the wedding of the Padre’s favorite niece (Refugio Martínez to one of his former students Pedro Sanchez) would take place at the Padre’s chapel.

The Bishop’s response to Martínez’ letter was not a letter in kind, but rather a harsh action quickly meted out within a few weeks: suspension. Suspensio a divinis is the ecclesiastical censure by which a cleric, for a breach of discipline or for moral cause, is prohibited from exercising “the divine things” of priestly ministry.  By means of “suspension”, the bishop deprives the suspended priest from his faculties (license) to celebrate Mass, preach, or hear Confessions as well as to give Absolution except in danger of death.  In such a case, through the mercy of God, “ecclesia supplet”, i.e., the church supplies faculties and jurisdiction for a suspended or excommunicated priest to administer last rites of penance-absolution and Last Anointing with the Holy Oils, and to give Holy Communion (Viaticum) to a person in danger of death (in periculo mortis) or in the very process of dying (in articulo mortis).

For Padre Martínez, the much more severe ecclesiastical censure of excommunication was still a couple of years away—April 1858. Bishop Lamy in 1860 came to administer the sacrament of Confirmation at the Taos parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  While signing the Books of Parish Records (Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals) as customary upon coming for an official visit, he noted the excommunication of Padre Martinez in the respective sacramental registries of Confirmations and Funerals. The Bishop noted that the excommunication was because of the priest’s “scandalous writings”, not for any alleged immorality or concubinage.

Msgr. Jerome Martínez, Canon Lawyer and former rector of the St. Francis Cathedral-Basilica of Santa Fe, affirms that the excommunication was invalid in the first instance for lack of the canonically required three previous warnings. If that be so, then no formal process for “lifting an excommunication” would be required as may have been necessary for some excommunicated historical figures such as Galileo who was “strongly suspected” of heresy in 1633 or Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431 . Joan’s conviction was overturned a quarter of a century after she was condemned, and was ultimately canonized in 1920.

No such happy outcome awaits Padre Martínez. Nevertheless upon his death in 1867, his fellow legislators in the Territorial Assembly of New Mexico, inscribed upon his tombstone as part of an epitaph: “La Honra de Su País”. Shortly before Town of Taos on July 16, 2006 installed the more than life-sized bronze memorial of the Padre within the plaza grounds, the State Legislature of New Mexico unanimously ratified and made present that same encomium, “THE HONOR OF HIS HOMELAND”.

FRANCISCO XAVIER ROMERO – A “Hitherto Unknown Santero” of the 17th Century



A “Hitherto Unknown Santero” of the 17th Century

In Memory of my Uncle Tom, my Father José Tobias, and

Fr. Tom Steele, S.J.


Rev. Juan Romero

(Witten January 2008, Revised December 2018)

  While we were enjoying a delightful and fraternal dinner at a restaurant near his Immaculate Conception residence in Albuquerque, Fr. Tom Steele, S.J., eminent scholar of all things New Mexican, made a surprising announcement to me in mid-January 2008. We were at the time collaborating on primary source materials relating to Padre Martinez of Taos, but the announcement had nothing to do with the famed Cura de Taos. With a twinkle in his eye and nascent smile, Fr. Tom said, “I have discovered a hitherto unknown santero”. Father Steele (RIP) is a recognized authority on the history of NM and in its various expressions of culture including santos and santeros who fashion them. I was, of course, curious about who this new santero might be. In New Mexican parlance, santos refer to saints’ images carved in wood (bulto) or painted on a wooden slab (santo) or on another medium perhaps such as ox hide.

I was greatly surprised and intrigued when Father Steele revealed that this new santero was Francisco Xavier Romero whose name I recognized as a distant ancestor! Father Steele discovered him in 1993 while studying paintings made from rock minerals and vegetable dyes on ox hides. In the Jubilee Year 2000, Father Steele–author of several books–wrote an essay on Francisco Xavier with the view of future publication. He gave it to Mr. Tom Chavez, an expert on such paintings and former employee of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. He is also an historian as well as nephew of Fray Angelico Chavez, the famed New Mexico historian, poet, and prolific author.

In his essay, Father Steele made the case that Romero is to be identified with “Franciscan B” as listed in some New Mexican art catalogues. Among a collection of these painted ox hides housed at the New Mexico History Museum within the Place of the Governors. <>. The Segesser Hides are the most famous works within the collection made up of two categories: Segesser I depicts skirmishes between rival Pueblo Indians and Apache Plains Indians between 1693 and 1719. Segesser II depicts a rout of Spanish soldiers and allies in 1720 in the area of present-day Nebraska.

There is a Jesuit connection to this collection that may have triggered the special attention Fr. Steele S.J. paid to the ox-hyde paintings. Fellow Jesuit priest Philip von Segesser von Brunegg of Switzerland obtained painted ox hides in 1732 from the prominent Anza family of Sonora. One of their illustrious members, Juan Bautista De Anza, in 1774 set out to search for an overland route from Tubac, Sonora to Monterrey, the capital of Alta California. His an expedition included 20 soldiers, 11 servants and 3 padres that returned from their successful expedition in 1777. As a reward,  the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain appointed de Anza as the Governor of La (Custodia de) Nuevo Mexico which at the time also included the present-day states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and parts of Wyoming. <> One of De Anza’s signature exploits as Governor of La Nuevo Mexico was his 1779 defense of Taos in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Together with Utes and Apache Indians as allies, Govenor De Anza defeated marauding Comanches under the leadership of Cuerno Verde. He remained as Governor of New Mexico for eight more years, and then returned to his home-base of Sonora. He was put in charge of the Presidio of Tucson in 1788, but died within the year before taking up the new office.

The family name of Padre Felipe von Segesser, S.J. exudes wealth and class now poured out in service to vocation and mission. Padre Felipe followed in the footsteps of fellow Jesuit missionary Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, the great pioneer-evangelizer (as well as geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer) who served in Sonora and Arizona for 24 years until his death in 1711. Both priests were from wealthy families of the old Hapsburg region of Trent in the liminal territories of northern Italy, southeast of Switzerland and southwest of Austria. In 1758, Padre Felipe serving in Sonora sent the paintings to his family in Switzerland. The Palace of the Governors in New Mexico borrowed the hides for an exhibition in the mid 20th Century, and purchased them in 1988.

Francisco Xavier Romero, the “hitherto unknown santero”, is presumed to have been one of those who painted on these hides in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was one of the founders of the village of Santa Cruz that Spanish settlers established north of Santa Fe in 1693, after returning from their thirteen-year exile following the major 1680 uprising of Pueblo Tribes. Santa Cruz is near the junction of two rivers Chama and Rio Grande. The Okay Oingue Pueblo had been located there since the fourteenth century. When Spanish colonizers arrived in 1598, they called the pueblo San Juan Caballero. Adjacent but across the Rio Grande to the east, they established their own colony and named it in honor of San Gabriel.

Francisco Xavier Romero had collected vellum documents and kept his own manuscripts written on sheep skin and handed down to heirs through the eldest son of succeeding generations. From his own father Miguel Romero, my grandfather and namesake Juan B. Romero (Grandpa Jon as we called him) came into possession of the manuscripts, a family heirloom, sewn together in a book. In turn, Grandpa Jon handed them down to my father, José Tobias Romero, the eldest of his siblings.

However, my Uncle Tom, my father’s younger brother by seven years, having earned a Master’s Degree in Spanish literature, had a greater interest in them. Without objection, Uncle Tom took possession of the vellum tome, researched its contents well, and eventually translated the Francisco Xavier Romero documents. The fruit of Uncle Tom’s scholarly labor can be found at the State Archives of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Father Tom Steele, S.J. quotes from Uncle Tom’s work on Francisco Xavier Romero.

Uncle Tom, together with his brother–my father–had been a boyhood sheepherder. After a stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps when he was a young man, Uncle Tom joined the Army Air Corps–predecessor to the U.S. Air Force–and became a turret-ball gunner. He flew twenty-five successful Missions from England over Germany and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. On the G.I. Bill, Uncle Tom earned a Master’s degree in Spanish at NM State University in Las Cruces. With his family, he later moved to California where he taught Spanish on every level until his retirement. His grown children challenged him to finally translate that water-stained sheaf of vellum documents of Francisco Xavier Romero.

At their urgings, Uncle Tom, after his retirement as a professor of Spanish, finally completed the difficult task of translating the FXR documents, a series of letters testifying to his surgical skills and good reputation. However, he was even more strongly motivated for the task by a prior negative injunction by dean of New Mexico historians Fray Angelico Chavez while a guest speaker at the University where Uncle Tom was earning his degree. Tom asked Fray Angelico about Francisco Xavier Romero, and the priest –to hear Uncle Tom tell it– curtly replied, “You best forget about him!”  The response upset and angered Uncle Tom who was aware of the vellum parchments as documents precious to family lore.

Upon seriously studying the documents, Uncle Tom became aware that allegations cast a shadow over the reputation of our ancestor: one of theft of an ox and another of molestation of a young man.  Subsequent trials and exonerations, however, concluded that, in the first case, the animal was said to be “dead and wolf-eaten.” Nevertheless, the ox hides certainly came in handy to the santero who either painted on them or fashioned them into moccasins.  In the second case of alleged molestation, a judge found FXR–in the words of Fr. Steele’s abbreviated version of the events–“Innocent, but don’t do it again.”

Francisco Xavier was quite expert in the use of a SCALPEL, a skill that “cut across” or perhaps through his many endeavors, talents and occupations. That he may have been a scoundrel and perhaps a sinner is more than suggested in the correspondence that nevertheless attests to a good reputation. Francisco Xavier was foremost a surgeon and barber who knew blood-letting/phlebotomy, a therapy used at the time. FXR was also a shoemaker–cutting hides for teguas, i.e., moccasins. He was a sacristan at San Felipe Church, formerly known as San Francisco Xavier Church, at the corner of Romero and Church Streets in Old Town Albuquerque. Finally, FXR was a santero–cutting hides by the vara (about 3” less than a yard) upon which holy pictures or other images might be painted.

Francisco Xavier Romero was certainly well-regarded by the parishioners of San Felipe de Neri church when it was still known as San Xavier Church. He had served as sacristan and as the parishioners’ surgeon and shoemaker. When the governor was about to sentence him for his alleged indiscretions, the people of the parish prevailed upon the governor to pardon the sentence so that FXR could continue to serve there.  Francisco Xavier donated many religious artifacts both to the church of San Felipe and to the church of Santa Cruz de La Cañada located between modern-day Española and the santuario of Cimayó.

Thank heaven Uncle Tom disregarded Fray Angelico’s exhortation to “Best forget about him”. Or perhaps better still, thank God that the exhortation to forget instead provoked the reaction to REMEMBER the ancestor, and vow to attempt his rehabilitation for family honor. God alone is judge as to what extent Francisco Xavier was a scoundrel-sinner or pious man, even an un-canonized saints in heaven.  I’m confident that FXR, the “hitherto unknown santero” had within him–as do we all– some of each of those categories. May the merciful Lord grant us all pardon and peace!



BENJAMIN M. READ (Proto-Chicano Historian) & LARKIN GREGORY Read

Santiago Valdez was the principal author of the Biography of Padre Martinez of Taos, originally written in Spanish in 1877, ten years after the death of the Padre. The Read brothers—Benjamin Maurice and Larkin Gregory—collaborated with Valdez in writing the biography. Younger brother Larkin Gregory copied the manuscript in calligraphy while Benjamin Maurice Read made his contribution by annotating and amplifying it, as well as by furnishing an English translation by 1881.  The original manuscript is part of the William G. Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and until now has never been published.
Benjamin Maurice Read is the second of three sons born to Benjamin Franklin Read and Ignacia Cano. Benjamin Franklin Read—father of Benjamin M. Read–came to New Mexico with the Army of American occupation in 1846. Three years later, this soldier married Doña Ignacia Cano of Spain, daughter of Don Ignacio Cano Ignacio, first discoverer and one of the grantees of the Ortiz Grant in southern Santa Fe County.  Doña Maria Quiros was mother of the
three Read boys—-Alejandro, Benjamin M., and Larkin G. They all went to St. Michael College in Santa Fe, and all became well known as politicians, teachers, or historians.  Benjamin F. Read Sr. died before 1857, and then Doña Ignacia married Mateo Ortiz, a lawyer. From her second marriage with Sr. Ortiz, another three sons and one daughter were born. Doña María deserves credit for the education of all the children because of her great sacrifices, but Archbishop Juan Bautista Lamy of Santa Fe also deserves credit for extending generous help for the education of the children.
Young Benjamin Maurice entered public life as a schoolteacher at the Christian Brothers Santa Fe College in 1876, the Centennial Year of the nation and just before Santiago Valdez was finishing the biography of the Padre. Benjamin M. became an Attorney at Law as well as a politician, then was selected Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Mexico.  Within eight years, in 1884, Benjamin M. Read–together with his brother Larkin Gregory and their mutual friend and colleague Santiago Valdez—compiled and translated into English The Laws of New Mexico.  This may be seen as one of the fruits of the Law School Padre Martinez founded at his Taos home in the fall of 1846 after the occupation of New Mexico by the United States. “The one who will ride the burro from now  on will no longer be the clergyman, but the attorney,” Padre Martínez said as he informed his seminary students that he was changing the seminary into a law school. Just a couple of years previously, Governor Armijo had officially certified Padre Martínez as a civil lawyer. For many years previously, he had–among peers–  already been recognized as a competent canon (church) lawyer.
Benjamin M. Read was also a competent lawyer and good politician, but his true passion seems to have been recording the history of New Mexico from the perspective of a bicultural native. With a plethora of documents available to him through his brother Larkin’s marriage into the Padre Martinez family, Benjamin in 1910 authored An Historico-Synoptical Sketch of the Mexico-American War published in Spanish as Guerra Mexico-Americana.  His major work was the Illustrated History of New Mexico, a work of 812 pages published in 1912 when NM officially became a state of the Union.  Both of these works were originally made available in limited editions: first Spanish and then English.
Through his bilingual-bicultural upbringing, Benjamin M. Read was prepared for a life of scholarship involving both English and Spanish.  The contradictions in translations of Spanish documents into English bothered him sufficiently enough to impel him to do something about it.  In the Preface to his Illustrated History, Benjamin M. Read speaks in the third person about his frustrations in this regard:

Thus it was that he came through personal observation, and after many and very careful examinations of the several writings on history to notice that remarkable differences and striking contradictions exist among some of the English speaking authors, in their respective narratives of historical events….The author of this work attributes the discrepancies and contradictions of the authors mentioned rather to the fact that they had, perforce, to depend absolutely on the translations which are supposed to have been made from the original works and original documents by translators who, by reason of their never having seen the said originals and also because of their not being Spanish scholars, have not, in almost every instance, rendered into correct English the spirit of the original texts, changing quite often, the substance of the language of the first authors; whence the result has been that no two works of the same history, translated from the Spanish into English, by different translators can be found to agree with one another and much less with the original works.
–Illustrated History, Preface, p. 5.

Benjamin M. Read had a definite perspective on the philosophy of history that was born of frustration at the cultural insensitivity of mainline historians in his day and the past. This impelled him to become a first-rate pioneer, native New Mexican historian who deserves to be much better known! He may certainly be aptly considered a mentor for today’s Chicano/Latino historians of North America.
Although a competent lawyer and good politician,Benjamin M. Read’s  true passion seems to have been recording the history of New Mexico from the perspective of a bicultural native. He deserves to be much better known as a first rate New Mexican historian.


SANTIAGO VALDEZ – Author of 1877 Biography of Padre Martínez

Santiago Valdez, Benjamin M. Read, and his brother Larkin Gregory Read were business partners, friends and colleagues. They were also linked by marriage. Larkin was married to Teodora Martinez, the daughter of Santiago Valdez. If we are to believe that Santiago Valdez was indeed a son of Padre Martinez, as family oral history strongly asserts, then Larkin’s wife Teodora would have been the Padre’s granddaughter.  The brothers Read and Santiago Valdez much later became a team of translators for the Laws of New Mexico: Compiled in 1884.

Santiago Valdez, putative son of Padre Antonio José Martinez of Taos, was the main author of the Padre’s 1877 biography, Biografía del Presbítero Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos, complied a decade after the death of the priest. The original Spanish manuscript–literally hand-written and partially translated into English–is included in the Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library in Sierra Made adjacent to Los Angeles. In 1993, I did a contemporary English version of the work available from the NM State Archives and UNM library. Mr. Peter Blodgett, Huntington Library manuscript curator at the time, encouraged me to have my version published. In the hopes of having a scholarly edition published, I lent my copy of the manuscript to Fr. Thomas Steele, S.J. accomplished author regarding people and things  New Mexican. Together with Vicente Martínez of Taos—a close relative of Valdez– and Mr. Robert Torrez—former NM State Historian and protégé of Fr. Steele—we hoped to publish a scholarly annotated  edition of the biography, perhaps bilingual, together with two other key documents relating to cunabula of the Priest of Taos: his 1840 Autobiography written in Durango, and his 1867 Last Will and Testament.
In his Last Will and Testament, Padre Martínez named Santiago Valdez as executor and heir of his books and papers. In December of 1868, a year and a half after the Padre’s death, Valdez first began writing in Spanish the biography of the Padre.
Benjamin Maurice Read, friend and business partner of Santiago Valdez, did a preliminary translation of the manuscript after Samuel Elliot—related to the earliest efforts of the NM Historical Society—began translating the first twelve pages of the manuscript. On a separate page attached to the Spanish-English manuscript, Larkin Gregory Read– younger brother of Benjamin M. Read noted in his own hand that he had “faithfully copied” the original (Spanish) manuscript in good handwriting, and that his elder brother Benjamin Maurice Read was to further “annotate and amplify” it.  Larkin, having married into the Martínez clan through the Padre’s granddaughter, was a good resource for the work of his brother. Valdez completed the work in mid January1877 near the Padre’s birthday, the tenth anniversary of the Padre’s death, and a year after the nation’s first Centennial,.

[For further information on Santiago Valdez, author of the 1877 Biography of Padre Antonio José Martinez, see the lineage and other documentation of (Last Will and Testament of Padre Martinez) researched and compiled by Vicente M. Martinez at .]


ON PADRE MARTINEZ OF TAOS – Posted 2008, and again 2016

[The summary of the life of Padre Antonio José Martínez of Taos by William Wroth, author of The Talpa Chapel and Images of Penance, was posted on the website of the NM Legislature I have taken the liberty of making a few edits and corrections, e.g. that Padre Martínez was “a Franciscan priest”. He was actually a “secular” or diocesan priest ordained in February 1822 at Durango, Mexico a year after its independence from Spain.

In February 2008, I posted the edited article on my blog The Taos Connection. With some pride I can claim that the Wroth article is based on information from my monograph (First Edition – 1976; Second Edition – 2006) Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos – Based on 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez. I re-post this précis on Padre Martínez on the first full day of summer 2016, and dedicate it to deceased collaborators Rev. Tom Steele, S.J. and Vicente M. Martínez.]

New Mexico was part of Spain’s Nuevo Mundo for two-and-a-quarter centuries (1598-1821), and remained the northern frontier of the Republica de México for another quarter century until the American occupation in 1846. After the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, New Mexico became a territory of the United States, and the Pontifical Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith Apostolic in 1851 established the Vicariate of Santa Fe, dependent on the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A few years later, Santa Fe became a diocese in its own right with Bishop Lamy as its appointed leader.

Father Antonio José Martínez (1793-1867) was one of the most important New Mexicans of the nineteenth century, playing a leading role in both religious and political affairs in the Mexican and Territorial periods.

Antonio José Martínez was born the eldest son on January 17, 1793 [the feast of desert father San Antonio Abad] in the Plaza of Santa Rosa, about two miles west of today’s Abiquiú.  At the “public school” connected to the parish church [of Santo Tomás], he learned to read and write at a very young age.  When he was 11, in 1804, the family moved to Taos where he worked on the family ranch and helped to take care of his younger brothers and sisters.

At the age of 19, he married María de la Luz Martín of Abiquiú, [Wroth parenthetically asserts they were not related,but they were were cousins a few degrees removed-JR] but tragically she died a year later in childbirth.  The young widower returned to Taos to live with his parents.  Still in his early twenties, he decided to become a priest, and before turning 24 [María de La Luz died when he was 20; after a couple of years of discernment], he went to the seminary in Durango in northern Mexico.  It was the seat of the far-flung diocese that also included what is today called the American Southwest.  At seminary, he excelled in his studies, especially philosophy and canon law, and received a scholarship given in honor of the King of Spain.

Antonio José Martínez was ordained a priest in February 1822 for the Diocese of Durango that included all of New Mexico [that included at the time  a great swath from what are snippets of all the states today surrounding NM].  This prior year Mexican Independence from Spain had taken place, and that struggle for independence strongly influenced Padre Martinez’ political thinking.  He was supposed to stay for another year in Durango to continue theological studies and receive pastoral experience before returning to NM.  However, suffering from an asthmatic condition, he received permission to return to Taos where he lived with his parents while helping out the Franciscan pastor of the church of San Geronimo at the Pueblo.  Its missions included Padre Martinez’ home parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Plaza.  He fully regained his health to fulfill an active ministry fist in Taos for a couple of years and then for a few years  in parishes at Tomé (south of Albuquerque) and Abiquiú (northwest of Santa Fe, and about sixty miles southwest of Taos).

Spanish New Mexico had since the early colonial period been under the religious administration of the Franciscan friars, but after independence, there was a powerful movement to replace these Franciscans with secular priests.

In 1826, Padre Martinez became the priest in charge of the parish in Taos: San Geronimo of the Pueblo, Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Plaza and other surrounding mission churches.  This was also the year of the arrival of a sixteen-year old Christopher (Kit) Carson into Taos that he made his home, and the year of the death of the Padre’s father, Severino Martinez who had been the Sheriff of Taos.

Soon after his appointment as the priest of Taos, Padre Martínez opened a school that was for young girls as well as boys.  It was the first of several schools he established in the Taos area, including a seminary (1835) and a law school (1846).

In 1831, it appears likely that the first of at least three children were born to Father Martínez and a woman who lived next door to him, Teodora Romero [Cf. Research and writings of Vicente Martinez @ <>…Progeny; Postscript; Part III.]

In 1834, Ramón Abréu brought a printing press from Mexico to Santa Fe.  It was the first press to operate in New Mexico, and the next year Father Martínez purchased it, and moved it to Taos.

Martinez used the press to print schoolbooks—spelling, arithmetic, etc.– as well as religious and political tracts.  He established the first newspaper west of the Mississippi, El Crepúsculo de La Libertad, but only six issues were printed.  He published the first book printed in New Mexico—a bilingual ritual (Latin and Spanish) called A Manual for Pastors.

After the Chimayó War of 1837, Padre Martinez wrote and published on his press his own autobiography—a kind of melancholy mid-life memoir cataloguing his accomplishments.  In that violent Rebellion, centered in the town of Chimayó, Martínez was accused of playing an organizing role.  However, the evidence suggests that he was innocent of any involvement and in fact, was in danger at times from the rebels.  Martínez, as a Mexican liberal of the period, was opposed to President Santa Anna and to his appointed New Mexico governor Albino Perez, who was assassinated by the rebels.

With the change in sovereignty from Mexico to the United States in 1846, Father Martínez was accused of being, on the one hand, too tolerant of the incoming American Protestants and, on the other hand, anti-American and even an organizer of the Taos Rebellion of 1847.  [Cf. “Padre Martínez: the First Mexican American” in Seeds of Struggle, Harvest of Faith – 1998, LTD Press]. Both accusations were not only contradictory but also unfair.

He believed in religious freedom and admired that principle in the American constitution.  He maintained good relationships with most of the Anglo [Americans who had settled in Taos.  General Stephen W. Kearny, after occupying Santa Fe in mid-August 1846, had Padre Martinez come from Taos, and invited him to pledge allegiance to the American Flag.  The Padre, together with is brothers, were among the very first New Mexicans to become citizens of the United States.  Padre Martinez lent the General his printing press, and Kearny used it to print his famous code of laws.

During the Taos Rebellion (in January 1847, during which Governor Bent was assassinated), Padre Martinez provided sanctuary for at least one endangered American, and he confronted the mob of rebels…He also cooperated fully with Colonel Sterling Price who made Martinez’s home his headquarters while he and his troops fought and defeated the rebels.

The soldiers of Col. Price fired cannon balls into the venerable Pueblo Church of San Geronimo—over two and a quarter centuries old—killing over 225 people including women and children who were seeking sanctuary.  The Padre gave some of his property for the burial of the fourteen Americanos and sympathizers who died in the 1847 Taos Uprising.  He buried in the parish church graveyard at least eight of those who were hanged for leading the defense of the Mexican nation in its northern outpost, and another four or so in the burial grounds of the Pueblo.

In 1849, Martínez was appointed president of the convention of nineteen delegates assembled to prepare a territorial plan of government.  In 1850, Padre Martinez presided at New Mexico’s first territorial constitutional convention that ratified New Mexico’s becoming a territory of the United States, free from slavery.


The arrival of Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in1850 brought about a long-lsting conflict between the French clergy under Lamy and the New Mexican-born clergy for whom Martinez often served as the spokesman.

In December 1852, Lamy…declared that parishioners who did not tithe  (pay church fees) would be denied the sacraments…Martínez had some twenty years earlier been successful in having involuntary tithing abolished in Taos due to the poverty of the populace.  On behalf of a number of the clergy, Martínez took issue with Lamy’s position, and this issue remained a major thorn of contention between them for the rest of Martinez’s life.

At the same time, Lamy suspended some New Mexico-born clergy from their priestly duties.  Among them, Father José Manuel Gallegos, pastor of the church in Albuquerque and a former seminary student of Father Martínez.  Lamy’s action produced a powerful backlash; not only did Martínez come to Gallegos’s defense, but over 900 citizens signed a petition in support of him.

[The number of signatures collected, including clergy and politicians, was closer to a thousand. Congressman José Miguel Gallegos of New Mexico, from his office in Washington DC, wrote the cover letter and sent it to Pope Pius IX. Gallegos, born in Abiquiú and educated in Taos by Padre Martinez , was ordained at Durango in 1842, two decades after Padre Martínez.]


[[To be coninued.]]

Posted By Blogger to The Taos Connection at 2/07/2008 11:08:00 PM

Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Martínez

At the link below, you are free to download gratis my monograph Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos–based on the 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez and other primary documents:

If you wish an autographed hard copy, please tell me to whom it should be dedicated, and address of where it is to be sent.  A donation of $15 is adequate and gratefully received.  Please contact me at this address:

Rev. Juan Romero • c/o P.O. Box 1947 • Palm Springs, CA 92263