Saturday, May 4, 2013


The initial form of devotion to the Holy Family established by our first priests in New Mexico, USA, was known as The Monthly Home Visit. This consisted of a journeying statue of the Holy Family making the rounds of thirty families each month. It first began among the Indians of San Ildefonso and from there spread throughout the whole area. In time new approaches would develop regarding children and youth ministries and a truly Nazarene family life apostolate.


The whole area known as Santa Cruz de la Cañada had been without a resident priest for some time. Fr. Gené knew of the place, however, because he had previously given various missions there. The Archbishop thought it best that this little group should take charge of this very extensive parish with all its many dependent chapels scattered throughout the northern territory above Santa Fe, including a few among various Indian tribes. Having finalized the necessary transactions and received the pertinent instructions, the first Sons of the Holy Family began the last leg of their journey to Santa Cruz de la Cañada. Their arrival happened on the 24th or 25th of August, 1920.

Fr. Gené informed the Curia General in Barcelona, Spain, of his own first impressions:

“The Archbishop told us that we should take charge of the very extensive parish of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, which is an area already known to me personally because of having given missions there before. Yet I find it somewhat difficult to express my real satisfaction regarding our presence here. It is indeed a very large parish, but I retain excellent hopes of our being able to accomplish much good, not only for our Congregation, but also for the Church, for this Archdiocese, and especially for the people of God throughout the surrounding area.

The first thing we have to do is fix up the house we are to live in: we found it just with its bare walls standing. But with the help of God, everything will turn out all right. As I say, there is a large population and the parish embraces more than 20 other towns and villages, all of which depend on Santa Cruz for religious coverage.

Last, but not least, there is a garden to one side of the house. It appears to be much larger than the one we have at St. Andrew of Palomar. It has been abandoned for some time now, but I am sure it will soon be put back in proper condition.”

At the time that the Sons of the Holy Family priests took over the parish of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, it comprised the following 25 towns and villages. Within Rio Arriba County there were: Santo Niño, Española, Corral de Picosa, Guachupangue, San Pedro, Santa Clara (Indian), and a part of upper Chimayo. Within Santa Fe County there were: Santa Cruz, Nambé Pueblo (Indian), Pojoaque, San Ildefonso (Indian), El Rancho, Polvareda, Cuarteles, La Puebla, Llano, Sombrillo, Pico Chiquito, Jacona, Jaconita, Cuyamungué, Cundiyó, Córdova, Truchas and lower Chimayó.

A couple of these places, like Truchas, Córdova and Cundiyó are in mountainous areas and the few roads that existed at the time were nothing more than gully riverbeds which kept undergoing drastic changes after each torrential rain. The sole means of transportation that our first priests enjoyed were two horse buggies.

The apostolic work carried out by these missionaries Sons of the Holy Family was unpretentious but very dedicated and exemplary. Along with providing the basic and required pastoral care for each of the towns and villages within the boundaries of the extensive parish they also preached as many missions as were requested, not only within their own surrounding territory, but even outside the State of New Mexico. In the words of Fr. Gené:

“We have also accepted and preached as many missions as were requested for various and necessary reasons, but in particular to spread the devotion of the Holy Family. At each place, no matter where, one of the many sermons is to sing the praises of the Family of Nazareth Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to present this divinely constituted Family as the model of all Christian families, and to consecrate all the families of the area to the Holy Family.”

On completing their first year of apostolic work at Santa Cruz, the small community was joined by Fr. Agustín Vilalta and Bro. Andrew Solé who, on 25 August, 1921, had left their own beloved Spain aboard the steamship “Montserrat.” Fr. Gené continues the account:

“Since there was so much territory to cover, we distributed among the four of us the main towns and villages in a way that would allow us to make one or two monthly visits to each of them, according to their need and the importance of the occasion. It goes without saying that there were always services at Santa Cruz and every Sunday and holy day of obligation in the more populated towns of San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Chimayó and Truchas. We tried to visit all the places on fixed days of the week each month by letting the people know in advance.”

During his pastoral visit in 1927, the Archbishop supported the idea of Fr. Gené and the other priests regarding the building of a parochial school in Santa Cruz. At the beginning of 1928, Fr. Gené, as pastor of Santa Cruz, petitioned the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to teach in the parish. Upon their consent, a convent was built next to the church for them to live in.

The Sisters taught first in the public schools until 1948, at which time a parish school of some sort began to function with the full support of the parishioners and the use of different buildings for classrooms, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Fr. Pedro Siguán. In the mid-fifties, however, after Fr. Agustín Cortés had been made pastor, he undertook the construction of a completely new school building because of the deterioration and insufficiency of the existing buildings.

With the passage of time, there was a constant increase in the overall population and new developments were beginning to spring up all around the territory. During the World War II period, there unfolded on the outskirts of the parish the now well-known government project of Los Alamos, which had a definite impact on the life and culture of the whole Española and Santa Fe areas. With the new people and the new jobs came also new challenges and needs. The time had come for larger areas to be broken up into smaller and more manageable ones, and so there began the establishment of many new independent parishes throughout the whole area.

By 1958, the parish of Santa Cruz had been left with the following missions: La Puebla, Cuarteles, El Llano, La Mesilla, San Pedro and Santo Niño. Such is its composition to this day.


The circumstances which brought the Sons of the Holy Family to the Spanish-speaking and Indian missions of New Mexico are providential. Fr. Salvador Gené had been living in the mining town of Durango, Colorado, from 1913 to 1916, working with a group of Theatines out of the Sacred Heart Parish. During this time he had been covering the southeastern missions of Mora, Santa Cruz and Las Vegas: all within the State most recently admitted into the Union, that is, New Mexico (1912).

Our semi-official historian of that period, Fr. Joseph Cubells, who joined that first group of missionaries in 1929, provides us with the following account of how it came to be that we ended up in New Mexico:

“In the town of Lumberton, New Mexico, (about half-way between Chama, New Mexico, and Durango, Colorado), the pastor was a humble and holy Franciscan, Friar Albert Daeger. His sole possession was a beautiful horse, which he nobly rode on his missionary rounds to the many and distant chapels that dotted the territory. Whenever the weather would turn bad and it became impossible to continue on, Friar Albert would drop in on Fr. Gené in the most unexpected manner. More than once, with the harness over his shoulder, he could be heard entering his convent-like dwelling, yelling in a loud voice, ´Fr. Salvador, would you happen to have a place for this ´burro´that has just dropped in?´ The people were very poor and money was scarce: so much so that very often he had to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in make-believe cardboard box ´tabernacles´ in some of his so-called ´chapels´”.

One wintry afternoon, while cleaning the snow from the room of his residence in Peña Blanca, Friar Daeger was handed a confidential letter from the Apostolic Nuncio, naming him Archbishop of Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. It was not long thereafter that the new Archbishop remembered and contacted his good friend Fr. Gené. After several letters had crisscrossed between the new Prelate, the Superior General of our Institute, and Fr. Gené himself, the first missionary group was formed and was soon on his way to the “land of enchantment.”

As a consequence of Fr. Gené´s previous experience, Fr. Louis Tallada selected him to head this first group and appointed him to be the superior, while Father Joseph Ruensa and John Massó acted as his counselors. Brother John Martorell, who also accompanied them, would help out in whatever way was necessary.

We learn about their first reaction to the New World from the lips of Fr. Ruensa:

“On the vigil of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, 14 August, 1920, we were able to make out the coastline of the American homeland and then, as the panorama unfolded before us, we came into full view of the imposing Statue of Liberty, and the entrance of the New York harbor, welcoming the oppressed, the burdened and the heavily laden to a land of new freedom and opportunity.”

Several days later, on 17 August, the little group of missionaries continued on their pilgrim way across this new land. Finally, on the afternoon of 20 August, they arrived in Santa Fe, tired and weary but no less for the wear and tear of their long journey. They were guests of the Franciscans at the Cathedral and there were received by the Archbishop, who explained to them his final plans regarding their continued existence and future apostolic work in the archdiocese.


On July 25, 1920, the first Sons of the Holy Family embarked on their journey to the lands of North America. Here they would now establish themselves and carry out their Nazarene commitment to further the Christian formation and education of children and youth, as well as to renew Christian marriage and family life in the home through devotion to and following of the Holy Family of Nazareth Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Gathered in the School-Novitiate House of St. Andrew of Palomar, Barcelona (Spain), a solemn celebration of the Eucharist took place with Father Salvador Gené, the superior of the new missionary group, acting as the main celebrant and assisted by his two companions, Fathers John Massó and Joseph Ruensa.

Following the Mass, there was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with the customary prayers and then the imposition of the missioner´s cross on each member of the group by the Superior General, Father Luis Tallada. In his brief but inspiring exhortation he reminded each one of the sacred task that was being entrusted to them and of the good that would result to the Congregation and the Church because of the totally wholehearted sacrifice they were again making of their lives to the honor and glory of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He encouraged them to suffer willingly for Christ crucified all privations and hardships associated with a new life in a foreign land and to remain ever loyal and steadfast in their Nazarene dedication to the needed upbuilding of Christian family life in the home, in the school and parish, as well as in society.

Moments before leaving the official residence of the Institute, each member of the group again bade farewell to his fellow religious and lifelong companions within an atmosphere of deep “family” togetherness. They were accompanied to the Barcelonian harbor by the Superior General and a few other religious. Just before boarding the ship “Montevideo,” again they embraced in a warm, final but hope-filled farewell. Soon thereafter the ship weighed anchor and began its ocean voyage that would take them to their new destiny with God´s family in a distant land.

After arriving in New York, they continued on their pilgrim way until coming to the end of their journey: the dry and arid but enchanting lands of New Mexico.


From 1909 to 1916 the Institute of the Sons of the Holy Family had entered into a new era of growth and development. There had been the new foundation in Rome, Italy, the naming of our Cardinal Protector as the President of the Association of the Holy Family, which had been entrusted to us by Leo XIII, the extension of the Feast of the Holy Family to the universal Church, and the successive foundations in both North and South America.