Note: With Ella’s retirement, we now have a job opening for a receptionist position at the Chancery offices in Gallup. If you or someone you know would be interested, fill out this application and email it to [email protected], drop it by our office at 503 W. Highway 66, or call us at 505-863-4406.

For anyone who has ever visited our Diocesan offices, receptionist Ella Roanhorse has become like a longtime family member, having served four Bishops over three decades. Now, as Ella retires, she discusses her family, faith, and how Catholicism has impacted her life.

Voice of the Southwest: What’s one of the best memories you have about working at the Diocese?

Ella: Oh gosh, everything. Just getting more into my faith, you know? The meaning – just understanding more.

VoSW: What are you going to miss most?

Ella: All of you. Everyone here. Everything, you know?

VoSW: How did your faith develop throughout your life? Did you go to Catholic school?

Ella: No, I did my CCD. We lived at Fort Wingate – my parents were working there, at the school. My dad was a teacher there, and he also taught the vocational part – silversmithing. It was great. We went to CCD with the kids from the boarding school.

I wanted to learn how to do jewelry and my dad said “no”. He said “you won’t be able to rely on that. Concentrate on college. School, education.” That was his goal.

VoSW: Were your parents Catholic?

Ella: Oh yes. They became Catholic when they were small, when they went to boarding school.

My dad used to tell us the stories about Dinetah when we were small. He said “that’s our tradition. That’s our belief.” And going back to Dinetah, those stories – how we came through four worlds – it’s just like evolution.

VoSW: How many kids and grandkids do you have?

Ella: 3 grandchildren, 2 living children. I had four. Jerry – he died in a car accident at 21. Michael at 21 from leukemia. He got it when he was ten. There were five [kids with Leukemia] in the area. I don’t know why – we talked about it. Could there be a study done on this? What was it? Was it the water?

VoSW: Did your faith and time here help you get through it?

Ella: It really helped me, just being with family, like co-workers and the priests and the bishops. They were all great with me.

I think if I didn’t have [my Faith] I probably…would’ve just stayed in bed. It was very strong.

VoSW: What are your thoughts, as you retire?

Ella: You know, this has been the greatest place to work. Just working here, after Michael died from his leukemia, I could’ve went back to working for the Navajo tribe or to teaching, making more money. But you know, I liked it here. And I stayed working here.

VoSW: What do you hope for the person who follows you?

Ella: To be able to reach out more openly to the people. I always believe that a good work in harmony is a better atmosphere for everyone.

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