From the Bishop: Let Us Follow in the Footsteps of Southwest Missionaries


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May God’s blessings and His peace be with you as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese of Gallup.

This past Summer I had the opportunity to go to two dioceses to preach the annual Mission Appeal. I visited the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, which contains Queens and Long Island. It was my first time visiting the area, and I found the people to be very welcoming. I am grateful to Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre for his generous invitation. The following week I returned to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Indiana. This was my fourth visit to the parish. Fr. Richard Doerr, a good friend of mine, invites me each year to preach the Mission Appeal to his parish, and I look forward to my time with the generous parishioners of the parish. I am also thankful to Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette for his invitation to visit one of his parishes each year.

A number of our priests and I, at the invitation of generous Bishops, go out to different dioceses each year to celebrate Mass and preach the Mission Appeal. When we do this we have the opportunity to share the rich Catholic history of our beautiful diocese located here in the Southwest. I take personal pride in sharing the over 400-year history of the Catholic Church located in the great states of New Mexico and Arizona. This is not a personal boast, but rather a celebration of the presence of Christ and His Church in the Land of Enchantment and the Copper State. Saint Paul teaches us that “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31). With this in mind, I would like to share with you some of the “boasting” I do when I preach the Mission Appeal.

We know that in 1539, only eight years after the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego, the missionary Friar Marcos de Niza led an explorative mission to Zuni Pueblo. At the heart of his mission was the desire to follow the command of the Lord when he instructed the Apostles to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt 28:19-20). Our Lord’s words are a constant reminder to His that He “desires that all people come to know salvation”. I am ever grateful to those missionaries who have gone before us.

Our diocese is blessed to contain two of the oldest churches in North America, San Esteban del Rey at Acoma and San Jose at Laguna. San Esteban del Rey is located at Sky City and is the oldest church in the diocese, having been built in 1629. San Jose Parish at Laguna is the oldest continuous parish – with Mass celebrated weekly – dating back to 1699. Each September, the parishes celebrate their patronal feasts and thank God for the bounties of the harvest.

In 1936, when our present diocese was still part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Diocese of Tucson, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, then the Secretary of the Vatican State, came to the United States to make a number of pastoral visits. At the request of Saint Katherine Drexel, Cardinal Pacelli came to the Southwest to ascertain whether a new diocese should be established in the area that would primarily serve the needs of the Native American peoples. Three years later, when Cardinal Pacelli was elected the successor of Saint Peter and chose the name Pius XII, he established the Diocese of Gallup. In this Diocese, we are forever grateful to the Venerable Pius XII.

In 1969, the soon to be beatified Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Phoenix, which in turn established the present boundaries of the Diocese of Gallup, which now encompasses over 55,000 square miles in northeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

Blessed Theresa of Calcutta graced the diocese with her presence in 1986 and 1988 and in turn sent her sisters to minister in the Gallup area. We are grateful to the Missionaries of Charity for their continued presence in our diocese, especially as they minister to the poorest of the poor.

When we celebrate an anniversary we are afforded the opportunity to look back over our history. This allows us to reflect upon the great work of the Church, and the many great missionary men and women who have gone before us. We are part of a Church that is missionary by Her very nature, meaning we are sent by Jesus Christ each day to evangelize. We must announce to the world Christ and His victory over sin and death. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI instructed the members of the Church to participate in the New Evangelization, which means we go and announce Jesus Christ “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.”

There is to be no delay in our efforts to evangelize. Pope Francis instructs us that the missionary work of the Church is vital. “The purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk, no need to wait for the consent of all; there is need only of going out and proclaiming.”

As we look back over our rich history, let us be inspired by the good works of the Church, so we might also look forward with great hope. Our hope is always in the One who has the power to save: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Bishop James S. Wall


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