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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Holbrook Community Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Catholic Parish

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

From the late 1800s through early 1900s, Holbrook, Arizona was a simple mission station visited by priests of Flagstaff and Winslow, sometimes only a few times a year.

In 1913 a church was built and Bishop Henry Granjon of the Diocese of Tucson dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1923 the church officially became a parish, and 100 years later, in December of 2023, parishioners joined pastor Fr. Cyprian Okere and Bishop James Wall for the centennial celebration.

Michael Sample, a parishioner and head of the centennial planning committee, has roots in Holbrook that date back to his great-great-grandfather, Juan Padilla, the man who donated the land to build the original church in the early 1900s.

“I grew up going to the church since I was born – baptized there, going to catechism, growing up, confirmation, and getting married in the church and raising my family in the church, so it’s very important to me,” Sample said.

He estimated that nearly 300 people attended the Mass and reception. After Mass, the bishop blessed a new prayer garden on land where the original church once stood, a project that Fr. Okere and his parishioners had been working on for many months.

Originally, they had the idea to install a columbarium – a place for reverent storage of urns holding cremains. But this was later turned down because it would present a significant amount of work for the parish.

“So then [parishioners] came to me and said they wanted to put a water fountain there, and the Stations of the Cross so that people can go there to pray,” recalls Fr. Okere. “I suggested that since we do not have the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it would be very beautiful if we build a grotto there.”

This idea was accepted, and the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego that now sits in the garden is one that was specially built and transported from Mexico.

“We [will] also have memorial bricks in the prayer garden…having the names of both people who have passed and people who are still alive, like former priests here,” said Fr. Cyprian. “I think the name of the bishop is in one of the bricks and my name is in one of the bricks.”

After the blessing of the prayer garden, Mexican dancers and a local Mormon choir performed at the reception.

“I think just the whole event was great. You know, just recognizing what our parish has done over the years and how we were established,” Sample said. “Our attendance at Mass isn’t that great anymore, but we were able to get a lot of the people – especially the older parishioners – to come and help celebrate with us.”


  1. Your newsletter is always a blessing to me. We lived in Lumberton New Mexico when Father Donnan Herbe was the pastor.
    We also had a foster home for Indian children in Gallup NM sponsored by the diocese.
    Thank you for keeping me in touch with the Diocese of Gallup and the missions of the Southwest.
    Sincerely,, Sylvia Norris


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