The history taken here is compiled from several resources: “A Brief History of Sacred Heart Parish: 1884 – 1981” by Dacian Batt, OFM; “Gallup Reminiscinces” by Rembert Kowalski, OFM, and the section on the Cathedral written for the Diocesan Golden Jubilee book by Elizabeth Kelley. Photos are from Diocesan archives or other sources referenced at the end of the article.

The Early Years

The history of Sacred Heart Parish starts in 1800 in the Spanish village of Ceboyeta. In 1800 there were 400 ranchers in the area of Ceboyeta and a church was built. The Catholic faith of western New Mexico spread out from there. In 1875, the Rev. Juan B. Brun, came to Ceboyeta in the early spring. Fr. Brun was the only priest from the Rio Puerco to the Grand Canyon. In 1879, Fr. Brun changed his residence to San Rafael. San Rafael was the site of the original Fort Wingate. Many of the people from Ceboyeta had been working in the area of the Fort raising crops to sell to the troops, cutting hay and timber and making adobes for the soldiers. At this time, Fr. Brun was responsible for the faith from the Rio Puerco to midway across Arizona to the west, from Utah to south of Zuni in the south. As a circuit rider, he made the rounds of the various missions: Laguna, Zuni and the different mining and sawmill camps in the area. When the French priest, Fr. Brun, rode from his Parish Center in San Rafael to visit Gallup about 1884, the town had about 12 families and the first mass celebrated in Gallup that same year was offered in the home of Hugh Quinn. The house was located at the present site of the Chief Theater. Fr. Brun would make the trip to Gallup once a month and for at least two years, mass, confessions, baptisms, weddings, everything went on in the Quinn home. The first baptism recorded in Gallup was on June 9, 1884. The Baptismal Registry says, “On 9th day of June in the year 1884, I, Fr. J. B. Brun, Pastor, baptized Frances Cecelia Reitz born on the 28th day of April last. Legitimate daughter of Frank Reitz and of Annie G. Fox.”

In 1889, Fr. Brun set about building a Catholic church for Gallup. An adobe building, it served the growing coal mining towns until 1916. In 1891, Fr. George Julliard was named pastor of the vast parish of this area when it reached out from San Rafael. He was ordered to remove his residence from San Rafael and to move back to the original parish, Ceboyeta. Then, in 1893, he received orders to transfer the parish headquarters to Gallup. Somewhere around the turn of the century, he built a two story frame rectory attached to the church. Fr. Julliard was pastor until 1910.

Late the previous year, the Franciscans of the Province of St. John the Baptist were given charge of the Gallup Parish.

Fr. Julliard said his last mass in Gallup in January 1910 and the Franciscans took over. The first Franciscan pastor was Fr. Florentine Meyers who remained pastor until 1914. The Franciscans had come to Gallup when Fr. Julliard was appointed assistant Director of the Propagation of the Faith in New York. Fr. Julliard asked Fr. Anselm Weber from St. Michaels to have two Franciscans appointed as his successors. The Provincial, Fr. Eugene Butterman, sent Fr. Florentine Meyers who took over as pastor and Fr. Robert Kalt as assistant. That was the beginning of Gallup as a Franciscan Parish. Fr. Anselm worked hard against many obstacles and much opposition to put the Gallup Parish on the map. Although a genial character, a lover of peace, he had the courage to persevere in his fight and was not intimidated by opposition. One time speaking about one of these hard cases, he said, “Flectere si nequeo superos, achanonta movebo,” which translates, “If I cannot move the superiors I’ll move Hades.”

Due to the untiring efforts of Father Anselm, the Franciscans of the Cincinnati Province obtained possession of the missions that had been started in New Mexico by Franciscans before the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock. The parish at that time was comprised of a number of scattered Mexican towns, the Indian villages of Laguna, Acoma and Zuni and also several coal mining camps in the vicinity of Gallup; Gibson, Heaton, Navajo, Gamerco, Mentmore, Allison, etc.

The principal camp was at Gibson where the mine officials had their main offices. At that time, the majority of the miners were Croatians with a sprinkling of Americans, a large number of Italians, some Greeks, and a few Poles. One time Father Butterman was on visitation in Gallup in 1911. It just happened that that day there was a large funeral for a Croatian who had been killed in the mines. About 500 men with their Slavic Society banners flying came marching to Gallup to the Funeral Mass. Fr. Provincial saw them and was told that they were all Catholics. Fr. Eugene was impressed and said, “I am conscience bound to send someone to Gallup to take care of them.” He remembered there was a young cleric about to be ordained who spoke the Slav language. In 1911 in the spring prior to his ordination, Fr. Rembert Kowalski was asked by the Provincial, Fr. Eugene Butterman, “Would you have any objections if you were sent to Gallup?” Fr. Rembert answered, “I have never heard of Gallup, but I would not object to going there,” and so he was sent to Gallup. New Mexico was only a territory. The next year, 1912, it became a state. But even then, Gallup, on the Santa Fe Railroad, although just a frontier town with one main street, was considered the most important freight station between Kansas City and San Francisco.

We get some flavor of early Gallup from an article by Fr. Rembert Kowalski:

About one hundred years ago Gallup was just a geographical expression in that southwestern part of the United states,then known as Indian Territory. A straggling western pioneer town, it was often called “Gallup’s place”, on account of the saloon owned by a certain Mr. Gallup, a frequent rendezvous of cowboys, prospectors and other pioneers.

The parish of Gallup was founded by Rev. G. J. Juillard in 1893, although he had been coming there as early as 1892. When Father Juillard was appointed assistant director of the Propagation of the Faith in New York in 1909, he asked Fr. Anselm Weber O.F.M. to have two Franciscans appointed as his successors. When Fr. Anselm was suggesting the names of the Fathers who were to be sent to Gallup, he remarked that “no newly ordained Priest should be sent to “such a cosmopolitan and disorganized railroad town as Gallup.” Nevertheless the Provincial, Fr. Eugene Butterman, a “tough-minded Prussian drillmaster type of superior”, had his own ideas on the matter. And on January 24, 1910, Fr. Florentin Meyers took over as pastor and Fr. Robert Kalt as assistant.

That was the beginning of the Gallup parish as a Franciscan parish. Fr. Anselm Weber worked hard against many obstacles and much opposition to put the Gallup parish on the map. Although a genial character and a lover of peace, he had the courage to persevere in his fight for the good cause, and was not intimidated by opposition.

One time, speaking to me about one of these hard cases, he said “Flectere si nequeo superos, achanonta movebo”. Which means, “If I cannot move the superiors I’ll move Hades.” Due to the untiring efforts of Fr. Anselm,the Franciscans of the Cincinnati Province finally obtained possession of the Missions that had been started in New Mexico by Franciscans before the Pilgrim fathers landed on Plymouth Rock.

The parish comprised a number of scattered Mexican towns, the Indian villages of Laguna, Acoma and Zuni, and also several coal-mining camps in the vicinity of Gallup. The principal camp was located at Gibson where the mine officials had their main offices. At that time the majority of the miners were Croatians, with a sprinkling of Americans, a large number of Italians, some Greeks, and a few Poles.

When Fr. Eugene Butterman Provincial was on visitation in Gallup in 1911, it just happened that that day there was a large funeral of a Croatian who had been killed in the mines. About 500 men with their Slavic-Society banners came marching to Gallup for the funeral Mass. When Fr. Provincial saw this body of men, and was told that they were all Catholics, he said that he was conscience-bound to send someone to Gallup to take care of them. That year I was a deacon in Oldenburg. The year before a rumor was started among the clerics that I was to be ordained sooner and sent to the Polish parish in Minonk. This was practically decided in the clerics’ bull-sessions.

But evidently Fr. Eugene Butterman knew nothing of this decision, and most probably would not have been influenced by it; he had his own ideas in the matter. In the visitation he asked me: “Would you have any objections if you were sent to Gallup?” I said that I never heard of Gallup, but would not object to going there. And so I was sent to Gallup.

The mission life and mission activity was anything but streamlined in those days. The residence in Gallup, built by Rev. Juillard about 20 years before, had the reputation of being the poorest in the Province. Fr. Florentin tried to make it more adaptable to the Friars’ way of living. Much of the remodeling was done by good Brother Vital and the two assistants. The attic was transformed into several living rooms, and a part of the large parlor was partitioned off for a bedroom for the pastor.

In 1911 New Mexico was admitted into the Union as a new State. Gallup, on the Santa Fe R.R. Line, although just a frontier town with one main street, was considered the most important Freight Station between Kansas City and San Francisco.

The parish of Gallup had no school. Catechism instruction was given on Sundays, with about 20-30 children attending. In 1912 Fr. Florentin begin building the parish grade school. Money was scarce, so he invited his own brother Charles Meyers, just an ordinary carpenter, to come and put up the building. The adobe work was done by local Mexicans assisted by occasional hobos who would stop off at Gallup on their way to California, to pick up a few meals and some extra change. As a consequence of a lack of funds and cheap labor, the roof collapsed even before it was finished. In a few years it leaked so badly that when Fr. Eligius Kunkle took over, one of his first headaches was to put on another roof. Brother Vital did all of the plumbing, electrical work, cement work, and much of the carpenter work. Frs. Robert and Rembert did most of the painting and varnishing.

Because of the mixed congregation – Americans, Mexicans, Germans, Irish, Slavs etc. –  the parish was not an ideal one. Sermons and devotions were conducted in English and Spanish. There were two altar societies, American and Spanish. Some of the Americans insisted on segregation even in church. This “anti-feeling” was also noticeable in the local politics. One time it was remarked that there were three candidates for election, a Mexican, an Italian, and a white man!

In 1911, New Mexico was still “B.C.” – before cars. We were still in the horse and buggy age. Fr. Florentin had bought two Navajo ponies from Mr. Hubbel, and these were our only means of transportation to the various missions. When I arrived, one of the first duties was to learn to sit on a horse. With the wind assistance of Fr. Robert the equestrian art was mastered in a few sittings (on the ground) and after the blisters healed.

The several mining camps could easily be visited on horse-back. The trips to the the farther missions had to be made in the buggy. This required more attention. The knack of  hitching and unhitching; the care of the horse, cleaning and feeding; and even cleaning the stable was one of the ordinary chores. For the more distant missions we had to prepare the Mass-kit, a lunch box and some oats for the horses.

To go to Atarque we had to stop in Zuni or Black Rock. Mostly at Black Rock, because the situation in Zuni was not yet cleared up. However, these mission trips were quite interesting, in spite of the many inconveniences and sometimes rather dangerous mishaps.

The most interesting part of these mission trips, that is post factum, were the several bad wrecks that occurred. One such trip to the Zuni Mts. Red Rock and the lumber camps still stands out quite vividly in memory.

One Friday I prepared to make the missions, first in the Zuni Mts., then over to Atarque and Tinaja. The team was hitched up and Bro. Vital brought it to the front door. The Mass kit and lunch box were carefully placed in the rear under the seat. After I was ready, I came out dressed and with a white duster, the kind that most missioners used during the hot and dusty summer months, and I noticed that the check-rein was not properly fastened on the mare. I reached my arm over her neck to fasten it. The mare looked back, saw a white object moving toward her head, and in a twinkling of an eye, both horses leaped forward and started at full gallop. About 100 feet from there was a telephone post, and they hit that squarely between them. The sudden crash against the post stopped them and gave me a chance to rush forward and grab the lines. Wow! What a mess! The front part of the buggy was damaged and some of the harness torn. I unhitched the horses and led them back to the stable. Then, with Bro. Vital pushing, we pulled the buggy through town to a blacksmith shop for repairs. Whilst that was being done, I patched the broken harness. About five P.M. the buggy was repaired and also the harness and everything made ready again for the trip. The horses were still nervous from the shock, and so was I. But we started out about five thirty and arrived at Balok’s farm in Red Rock about 9 PM.

Old Balok was waiting for me, having been notified that I would be there that day. He immediately took care of the team, and I went to bed. In Red Rock at that time Mass was said in the little red school house, a one-room frame building about one mile from Balok’s. The next morning I hitched up the team and drove to the school house. About eight o’clock the congregation – Slovaks, Polish, Croatian, Spanish, American – began to assemble. Whilst I was hearing confessions, the people remained outside – gossiping – coming in one by one. After the confessions, I opened the Mass kit to prepare for Mass. Lo and behold, the wine-bottle was shattered to pieces and not a drop of wine left. That happened in Gallup the day before in the smash-up, and I did not investigate, taking for granted that all was well. Now, what to be done? Casus perplexux. No other wine around and Gallup 35 miles away. Immediately Leo Schmalz offered to go to Gallup on horse back and get another bottle. So I prayed the Rosary, preached a sermon and took up the collection, and spent the rest of the day with Balok.

About 9:P.M. Schmalz returned with the wine. But the next day Mass was already scheduled for the lumber camp at Sawyer, and after that in Atarque. So the next day, before dawn I continued my trip to Sawyer. The little log chapel wis filled with lumber jacks, mostly Mexicans. Sawyer was a lively little lumber camp, situated in the heart of the Zuni Mt. Forest. Although there was a saw mill and much activity, like all lumber camps it was short-lived. After a few years it was completely abandoned.

That day in leaving the camp I had to cross a railroad track. Not far from the crossing there was an engine. Just as the horses were crossing the track, the engine let off some steam, with a hissing sound. With that my skittish horses leaped forward at a dead gallup. In a matter of seconds, the tongue of the buggy jerked loose, fell to the ground until it hit a rock in the road. The jolt was so great that I was thrown out of the buggy. Except for a few bruises and some torn clothes, I suffered no other harm. The horses raced on for a short distance until they hit a tree, smashed the front of the buggy, and got themselves entangled in the wreckage. Fortunately a cowboy was just coming that way, and caught them before they could get loose. What a mess! Much worse than the one the day before in Gallup. After tying the horses to a tree, I went to the saw-mill and asked the men for the loan of a double-tree. Without hesitation one of the men took one from another buggy and then helped me to adjust it to mine. When that was done it was already dark. Under those adverse circumstances I did not dare to continue the trip; so I returned to Balok’s for the night and the next day to Gallup; wondering all the way what I should say to Fr. Florentin, and what HE would say.

But this was not the last nor the worst wreck. The most complete wreck happened to Fr. Eligius Kunkel. After he had been in Gallup about one year, he decided one Sunday to go the the new lumber camp at McGaffey. Everything went off fine, until he was returning home. As he was leisurely driving through the beautiful pine woods in the Zuni Mts., it seems that the whip caught on a low branch and was jerked out of the buggy. Fr. Eligius stopped the horses in the middle of the road, and walked back about 50 paces to retrieve the whip. In an absent-minded sort of way, as he was coming back to the buggy, he began to strike at the weeds and flowers on the road-side. He too was wearing a white duster. As he neared the buggy, the mare, looking back, saw the white duster and the whip, and both horses dashed off at top speed.

This happened up in the woods at an elevation of about 500 feet above the valley. In a few seconds the horses and buggy were out of sight. Fr. Eligius ran as fast as he could and his heart sank as he thought of all that had happened, and wondered what was left of the whole outfit. He did not have long to wait. As he neared the edge of the woods, where the road began to go down the steep grade, he spied the seat of the buggy lying on the side of the road. A little further down was a buggy wheel; at the next turn of the road, another wheel; then some more pieces at different intervals. And way down in the valley the two horses were peacefully browsing. Thank God, he murmured, at least they are alive! What a wreck!  He took off the duster and slowly approached the horses.They did not run. They still had the harness. All he could do was to get on the back of one and, riding horse-back, lead the other back to Gallup. The next day he sent Mr. Con Gonzalez with his dray-wagon to collect the pieces.

That was the last of our buggy-age. He wrote to Fr. Provincial for permission to get an automobile. In about one month’s time we had a Dodge. That was the old model, with the springs above the axle. This was necessary on account of the bad roads with high centers. The older Friars will remember what the Fords and Dodges were in those days. Talk about head-aches! In the nine years that we had a car in Gallup I think that I spent about as many days under the car as in it. It was not long and the other missions also had cars. The first mission in the south-west to get a car was Pena Blanca; and Fr. Eugene then said that only the missions would have permission to get cars. But in a few years most of the residences had their cars.

When the cars came to the missions of New Mexico, Archbishop Daeger shook his head and lamented. He said that before the cars came, the missioner had to use horses and got to the mission the day before the Mass; had evening devotions, heard confessions, instructed the children and the marriage-couples, and gave the christians a chance to speak to him. But when the cars and the good roads came, the missioner leaves his residence in the morning, gets to the mission, rushes through the services, and immediately after the Mass is off again. And when he gets home, in time for dinner, he boasts that he made the trip in two hours flat. When archbishop Daeger was missionary in Farmington, he generally walked from mission to mission, and remained at each mission several days.

Material progress sometimes is a serious obstacle to spiritual progress. Spiritual writers tell us that speed and spirituality are incompatible.

The old adobe church in Gallup collapsed about two years after Fr. Kunkle became pastor. For some time we had noticed a slight bulge in the wall on the west side. One evening as I was closing the windows on that side my attention was called to a decided crack in the floor next to the wall. I called Fr. Eligius and he too thought that the wall was receding from the floor. The next day he called Mr. Hanske the contractor; and when he saw it, he became quite excited and advised not to use the church for fear that the wall would collapse. Acting on his advice, we transferred all of the church furniture to the basement of the school, which was being used as a kindergarten. Then Hanske put up braces all along that wall on the inside of the church, thinking to save the roof, and then rebuild the wall after it fell.

On the following Saturday night about 11:30 I heard a loud noise, and I guessed what happened. When I got there I saw the whole length of that wall had fallen, and the roof was hanging precariously; most of the braces were broken. So that was the end of the old adobe Church.

Mass and services then continued in the basement of the school. The school enrollment had been increasing from year to year since 1913 so there was question of a new church and more school rooms. That is why it was decided to build the combination church and school.


Old parish school in Gallup.

I arrived in Gallup in 1911 toward the end of August. The following Sunday Fr. Florentin took me there in the buggy, and introduced me to the church in Gibson. That time Mass was said in the public school house. The teachers’ desk served as the altar. That first Sunday there was a double funeral; a Croatian man, who was killed in the mine, and a boy. The little room was packed and about 100 more standing outside. The congregation was mixed, mostly Croatian. These people had no pastor for years; naturally they became careless and not many would come to Mass except there was a funeral or a wedding. So it was imperative that a church should be built.

I began to solicit funds by visiting them in their homes. But that was not practical. So I arranged with the mine officials to go down into the coal mines and get their subscriptions. The officials were very accommodating. The superintendent, Mr. Sumerville, Scoch but not Catholic, took me down into all the mines and in that way I got to see practically all of the men and collected about $600.00. The Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. donated $100.00.

I went to Flagstaff and ordered a carload of lumber which they let me have with a 25% discount. The Santa Fe RR donated the freight and even spotted the car right at the place where the church was to be built. Mr. Hanske put up the building. It was a frame church about 80 by 40. After the church was finished the attendance at Mass improved considerably. The people came from the three camps in Weaver, Navajo and Heaton.

After the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. sold out to the Gallup American, most of the Slavs left and the new Co. brought up a colony of Mexicans from Mexico, mostly from Chihuahua. These were very simple, good people. Some were of the III Order of St. Francis. From then on the sermons were mostly in English and Spanish.

Having been away from USA for 27 years I was quite astonished when I returned to see so much progress in Gallup. I hardly recognized the place. What a change from the geographical expression of 50 years ago! Shades of Rev. G.J. Juillard! He never dreamed that Gallup would one day be an Episcopal See! And today in the place of the little old adobe church, Gallup can boast of a real Cathedral; an excellent High-School, two grade schools and a church on the north side, which had been a dream 30 years ago. Prospere precede!

May the Good Lord shower His Choicest Blessings on Gallup, on the Franciscans and the parishioners.

Fr. Rembert Kowalski

The following friars were in Gallup as can be seen from the baptismal records. The first date is the first time their name appears in the baptismal record.

Dates at the end of the name are approximate dates for their leaving Gallup.

1910 – Fr. Florentine Meyers – 1914 Fr. Robert Kalt – 1919 Fr. Visitor Sommer Bro. Julian Elpers

1911 – Fr. Rembert Kowalski – 1924 Bro. Vital Huelshorst

1912 – Fr. Osmund Braun

1913 – Fr. Fridolin Schuster – 1919-1927

1914 – Fr. Eligius Kunkel

In 1916, the following: Fr. Cuthbert Kalt – 1919 Fr. Fridolin Schuster – 1927 Fr. Robert Kalt Fr. Rembert Kowalski Fr. Eligius Kunkel, who took care of these places: Allison, Manuelito, Guam, Laguna, Cubero, Gallup, Heaton Mine, Red Rock, Thoreau, McGaffey, Gibson, Juan Tafolta, Jones Mine, San Lorenzo, San Rafael, Moquino, Ceboyeta, Lupton, Artarque, Cold Springs, Acoma, San Mateo, San Jose, Sawyer

In the following years, these friars served in Gallup:

1918 – Fr. Celestine Matz Bro. Reinhold Koesters

1919 – Fr. Sixtus Kopp Fr. Aloysius Albrecht Bro. Emil Luebker

1920 – Fr. Callistus Solbach – 1921 Fr. Benedictus Moellers

1921 – Fr. Anthony Kroger – 1924

1922 – Fr. Ludger Oldegeering Fr. George Hoch Fr. Felix Marsinko Fr. Rembert Kowalski

1923 – Fr. Regis Darpel

1924 – Fr. Julian Hertig Fr. Rembert Kowalski

1925 – Fr. Barnabas Meyer Fr. George Hoch Fr. Philip Matuska Bro. Rupert Hueninghake

1926 – Fr. Innocent Mittelstaedt Fr. Gerald Beck Bro. Julian Elpers Bro. Elzear Pail

1927 – Fr. Honorius Lipps Fr. Felician Sandford

1928 – Fr. Camillus Fangman

1929 – Fr. Regis Darpel Fr. Anthony Kroger Fr. Felix Marsinko Bro. Edward Chavez

1931 – Fr. Remy Austing Fr. Ludger Oldegeering Bro. Pancratius Candelaria Bro. John Joseph Schwab

1932 – Fr. Giles Huckenbeck Fr. Anthony Korcek Fr. Anthony Kroger – 1934 Fr. Regis Darpel Bro. Paul Kroger Bro. John Forest Waitkunas

1934 – Fr. Elvan Rhomberg Fr. Theophil Meyer Bro. Liborius Springob

1935 – Bro. Reinhold Koesters Bro. Didacus Meyer

1936 – Fr. Rayner Bartos Fr. Stanislas Tomczak Fr. Camillus Fangman

1940 – Fr. Cyril Hermann Bro. Rupert Hueninghake

1941 – Fr. Keven Coe

1942 – Fr. Anthony Korcek Fr. Alexius Wecker Fr. Gregory Diebold Bro. Arthur Puthoff Bro. Cryril Hammond

1944 – Fr. Edward Fueglein Fr. Jerome Hesse Fr. Kevin Moeddel

1945 – Fr. Theophil Meyer

1947 – Fr. Michael Ziegler

1948 – Fr. Bertus Grassmann Fr. Ralph Zinzer

1949 – Fr. Anthony Kroger Fr. Donnan Herbe

1950 – Fr. John Meister Fr. Chrysostom Partee

1951 – Fr. Leo Metcko Fr. Julian Rousseau Fr. Leo Pfeiffer Bro. Dennis McAvoy

1952 – Fr. Peter Paul James Fr. Finnian Connolly

1953 – Fr. Eligius Fuentes Fr. Conradin Stark

1954 – Fr. Wallace Przybylski Bro. Joseph Bennett

The Beginning of a Diocese

In 1939, an event happened that would greatly influence the future of Sacred Heart Parish. It was announced from Rome on December 16, 1939, that the Town of Gallup would be the See City for a new Diocese.

Sacred Heart Parish was selected for the Bishop’s Church and therefore Sacred Heart Parish would be Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Bishop Espelage in Cincinnati, 1941. (center left)

Bishop Espelage in Cincinnati, 1941. (center left)

The first Bishop of the new Diocese of Gallup was Fr. Bernard Espalage, a Franciscan from the Cincinnati Province. Fr. Bernard was consecrated a Bishop at St. Monica Cathedral in Cincinnati in October of 1940 and came to Gallup soon afterward.

The original church of Sacred Heart in Gallup was this adobe structure built in the latter part of the 19th century. Fr. Julliard built the rectory next to the church. In 1916, a wall of the church collapsed and the church caved in. Gallup as it appeared when Fr. Brun rode his horse into town in 1884.

The second church was dedicated in 1917, replacing the original building. The church was on the upper floor; Sacred Heart High School occupied the ground floor. This church was designated a cathedral in 1939 with the establishment of the new Diocese of Gallup. When Gallup became the See city of the new Diocese in 1939, the little church was remodeled to serve as a cathedral and was used until the present church was dedicated in 1955. The new cathedral, a large, imposing and beautiful building was constructed after many years of delay because of the difficulty of obtaining funds during the war years and also because the original site chosen for the building proved to be unsuitable. Sacred Heart Cathedral was dedicated on June 19, 1955 by James Francis Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles, Archbishop John Francis O’Hara of Philadelphia and Bishop Bernard T. Espelage. Many priests, seminarians, sisters and laypersons attended the joyous occasion when Gallup finally came of age as the seat of a diocese. The structure was designed in Mediterranean-Romanesque style by John Gaw Meem of Santa Fe and features impressive stained glass windows depicting important persons and events in the history of the area. The cathedral dominates the sky line of the city of Gallup and is visible from most parts of town.

Sacred Heart Schools

Early in their years here, the Franciscan Fathers saw the need for a parochial school. Under Fr. Florentine, funds were collected and work was started on a school. It was a three-story building, which everyone predicted would collapse. It was dedicated in 1912 and opened in January of 1913.

Also in that month, four Franciscan sisters from the mother-house in Lafayette, Indiana arrived in Gallup to make up the first faculty of Sacred Heart School. The first enrollment was 83 pupils. The following year, the enrollment had increased to 284. The sisters record that they gave an but that their “greatest success was a large First Communion class.”

The four-year high school was started in 1915 with four pupils. They were: Eva Ellen Sabin, Celia Leyden, Lou Gonzales, and Jessie Mccarroll.

After the church collapsed in 1916, a new building was built with the church on the upper floor and the high school on the lower floor.

A parent-teachers association was organized in 1935 by Father Anthony Korcek. In 1949, this organization changed its name to the Catholic Mothers’ Club.

Originally the elementary and high school were called Sacred Heart Schools. In 1941, since Gallup had been made a diocese, the name was changed to Cathedral Schools.

Enrollment at Cathedral schools in 1953-54 was 890. Seventy pupils was nothing unusual.

A classroom of sixty to carrying this heavy teacher load, the Sisters carried on other mission work after school hours.

From the small beginnings of Fr. Florentine, great things have grown. In September 1955, Cathedral High School started The cost of the high school and gymnasium was $290,000.00. classes in a new building.

In that year, also, the Franciscan Friars from Cincinnati took over the administration of the high school. The following friars served at Cathedral High School:

In June, 1968, the high school grades 9 through 12 closed.

In January of 1961, the elementary school moved into their new building on the same plot of ground as the high school.

In September, 1974, the high school re-opened with 130 pupils. It continued for four years and closed in June of 1978. The seventh and eighth grades continued in the high school building, but also closed in June of 1979.

 In September, 1980, a 7th grade was added in the elementary school building with an 8th grade planned for 1981-82. In 2013 the high school was once again closed. Through the decades since 1913, thousands of parishioners received their education at Sacred Heart – later Cathedral Schools.

Former pupils of Cathedral School who have become Religious:

Sisters of St. Francis Seraph – Colorado Springs

Sister Evodine, O.S.F. Sister Secunda, O.S.F. Sister Ludmilla, O.S.F. Sister Lucina, O.S.F. Sister Richardis, O.S.F. Sister Ursulita, O.S.F. Sister Paulinis, O.S.F. Sister Louisetta, O.S.F. Sister Marilyn, O.S.F. Sister Leonore, O.S.F. Sister Mary Mark, O.S.F. Miss Shirley Salazar — Postulant

Madam of the Sacred Heart – Hollywood, California

Sister Rita

Poor Clares of Roswell, New Mexico

Sister Mary Immaculata Sister of the Blessed Sacrament Sister Maria Goretti

Sisters of St. Francis – Springfield, Ill.

Sister Celestine, O.S.F. Sister Leona, O.S.F.

Franciscan Friars

Fr. Murray Bodo, O.F.M. Bro. Linus Lane, O.F.M.

Dominican Friars

Fr. Blaise Schauer, O.P.

A Cathedral is Built

 A major event in the life of Sacred Heart Parish was the building of the new Cathedral. Bishop Bernard had been saving for years to build a cathedral church. In 1946, the Diocese engaged Santa Fe architect, John Meem, to draw plans. The post World War II years prohibited building at that time, but finally in 1953 the decision to go ahead was made. On July 14, bids were opened and the contract went to the Gallup firm of Brunetta Construction Co. The location was next to the Bishop’s residence (The Cotton Mansion) in the 400 block of West Aztec. Ground was broken on July 20, 1953. But on August 17, all work was halted. Foundation workers had struck water and mud below the surface. The site could not support the weighty structure.

Fr. Pax Schicker negotiated with the Provincial of the Sisters of St. Francis for part of the grounds of St. Mary’s Hospital. The new Cathedral was started again on November 5 at the corner of Woodrow and Green Streets. The Cathedral was completed on March 11, 1955. It was dedicated June 19, 1955. The cost of the Cathedral was $500,000. June 19, 1955 was the completion of a twelve year dream.

Bishop Bernard was feeling the effects of old age and had been suffering from ill health for some time. Accordingly, he resigned and on December 2, 1969, Bishop Jerome J. Hastrich, Auxiliary Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin arrived in Gallup on the train. He would be the second Bishop of Gallup. The next day, December 3, 1969, Bishop Hastrich was installed as the second Bishop of Gallup.

Through the years, Sacred Heart Parish has given birth to many daughter parishes which now have full-time priests to care for the people’s needs.

In 1921, San Fidel was established as a mission center to care for the Catholics east of Gallup. They began to care for Acoma, Laguna, Grants, San Mateo, San Rafael, Seboyeta, San Fidel, St. Francis, Seboyeta, and Ft. Wingate.

In 1923, friars were sent to Zuni. In 1933, a new church was built at Mccartys. In 1942, friars were resident in Grants.

In the city of Gallup, a need was felt for another church and in 1943, St. Francis was established.

The Catholic Indian Center was established in 1947. St. John Vianney was created as a parish to serve the east end of Gallup in February 9, 1973. In the late 70’s, St. Jerome was erected for the south side.

In 1910, Sacred Heart Parish served the needs of the Catholics from Rio Puerco east of Laguna to mid Arizona and South as far as Atarque. Two priests covered this territory. In 1981, there were 28 priests to serve the people’s needs in this same territory.

Fulton Sheen and Mother Teresa Visit

In 1973, Bishop Hastrich extended an invitation to Archbishop Fulton Sheen to come and give a retreat in the Gallup Diocese. In a letter dated October 20, 1973, Bishop Hastrich wrote:

“Dear Archbishop Sheen,

In accord with our previous correspondence, we are planning on your being in Gallup for January 15 and 16, for a short retreat for our priests and religious. According to schedule, you will talk at Gallup Junior High School Auditorium on Tuesday evening, January 15…

…the longer you can be with us the more we will be blessed. All of us are looking forward to your coming to this most ‘mission’ area in the United States.”

The talk referred to in the letter was open to all and presented by Sheen to more than 1500 people. An article from the January 1973 edition of the Voice of the Southwest reported on the event:

Archbishop Sheen Speaks on “Three Loves”

GALLUP – The shape of the human heart in not perfect. A small piece of each heart is missing. It may be to symbolize the part that was torn out of Christ’s heart on the cross. But perhaps God kept a small sample of it in Heaven when  He created us. Therefore, we cannot love with our whole heart since we don’t have a full heart. We will be able to love with our whole heart when we recover the missing piece in eternity.

This was the thought left by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Tuesday night, January 15, when he spoke to over 1500 people in the Gallup Junior High Auditorium.

The title of his talk was “The Three Loves”. The world today, he said, has a false concept of love. No longer do men recognize the true meaning of the Greek term “eros”. Originally it signified the good of friendship and companionship. A second kind of love is expressed by the Greek term “philia”, which signifies brotherly love for all men. Then, there is that type of love as expressed by the word “agape” in the Greek language. It indicates the love of God for man. Man would never have known true sacrificial love if it had not been for Christ.

The lecture given by the Bishop was not his only gift to the Gallup Diocese. He preached a three-day retreat which was attended by about 150 priests, religious and laity. He emphasized the necessity of living the life of Christ. The example and word of Christ are essential to the Christian in order to fulfill the purpose of our existence. Each must suffer with Christ in order to redeem the world with Christ. We must all be victims with Him. With St. Paul we must announce the death of Christ until he comes.

In the late 1980s, Mother Teresa visited Gallup to establish two homes for her Missionaries of Charity – one in Gallup, and one in Chichiltah, NM, south of Gallup. An article printed in the Prescott Courier in June of 1988 carried the story of her visit.

Bishop Hastrich with Mother Teresa.

Bishop Hastrich with Mother Teresa.

Why had she chosen Gallup?

“Because,” she replied, “the people here are so beautiful. And the sisters are very, very happy with them. And I think the people are very happy with the sisters. So if there is happiness, there is joy. And then there is the presence of Jesus…I am ready for the love of Jesus to go anywhere.”

But, asked a Phoenix reporter, did she see a “special need” here?

“There is just as much need here,” said Mother Teresa, “as in New York, as in Washington, as in Calcutta. Different needs; here they may not need what they need in Africa, but everywhere there’s a need, there’s a need for love.”

The End of an Era

The territory of Western New Mexico and Eastern Arizona continued to develop. In the Spring of 1980, after lengthy consultations with all the Bishops and priests of the Province of Santa Fe, it was agreed to petition the Holy See to make Flagstaff a new territory, except for the Navajo reservation, going to the Flagstaff diocese. This would leave Gallup with few large diocesan parishes to train diocesan priests. Accordingly, Bishop Hastrich asked the Franciscans if they would be willing to turn over the ministry of Sacred Heart Cathedral to diocesan priests.

In December of 1980, the Province of St. John the Baptist Franciscans wrote to Bishop Hastrich in reply:

“The Franciscans wish to honor your request since it is in the spirit of service to the Diocese. Saint Francis intended his Friars to be itinerant and move on when the work was accomplished.

“Sacred Heart Parish, Gallup, was ministered to by the Franciscans since the early 1900’s, well before the erection of the Diocese of Gallup, which established Sacred Heart Church as its Cathedral. The Franciscans have been privileged to minister to the Cathedral Parish, but in view of the above developments, withdraw in favor of the Diocesan priests as of July 1, 1981.”

Andrew Fox, O.F.M.

Bishop Hastrich responded:

“I realize the attachment that many Franciscans have to both of these parishes, and I admire your spirit of detachment and sacrifice in turning these over to the Diocese. I am sure the Lord will bless you and open new fields for you as the pioneers, the “Marines” of Christ. What a beautiful vocation it is to follow so closely in the footsteps of the Apostles in founding churches throughout the world. As I read the Acts of the Apostles it sounds really like a history of Franciscans in various parts of the world.”

Since the 1980s, Sacred Heart Cathedral has continued to care for the people of Gallup and remained as the seat of the Bishop for the Diocese of Gallup, most recently for the Most Rev. James S. Wall. No longer does the church merely oversee small mining and logging towns – it now stands at the center of a vast and historical Diocese.

Photo Sources:

Library of Congress
Wikimedia Commons
Legends of America
NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources
The Franciscan Missions of the Southwest