New Franciscan Archives Opened in New Mexico

Julie Ferraro Franciscan World


The new archives facility, “A Becoming Place.” (Photo courtesy of Julie Ferraro)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While Franciscan friars have been active throughout the Southwest for centuries, the provincial offices of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province have been located in Albuquerque, since 1985, when formed from the St. John the Baptist Province, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The archive of the friars’ rich history — beginning with their arrival at St. Michaels Mission, Ariz., in 1898 — was nonetheless housed in the basement of St. Michaels Friary until the new archive building in Albuquerque could be constructed.

“We are investing in the past for the sake of the future,” explained Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.

The blessing and dedication of this new facility, called “A Becoming Place,” occurred on March 18. The building’s name is based on a quotation from St. Francis of Assisi’s Testament, “Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy names and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up and I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place.”


Guests were invited to sign the Dedicatory Statement as witnesses. The document will be framed and hung in the building. (Photo courtesy of Julie)

The 5,000 square foot archive is connected by a courtyard to a 6,100 square-foot retreat and conference center, featuring six guest bedrooms, a gathering space and kitchenette, and conference hall, where much of the ceremony took place on Friday. Dr. David Hurst Thomas, curator of anthropology from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, offered a reflection, “Sharing Franciscan Treasures.”

Cathy Pierce, OFS, archivist for the Franciscans, noted how many aspects of the construction process would themselves be housed in the archives, from the original blueprints — presented by Joe Gallegos of Huitt-Zollars, architects — to the permits and work orders from Bob Clark of Mick Rich Construction. Dr. Thomas also donated an electronic copy of his reflection to the collection.

Before processing to the archive building, Fr. Dale Jamison, OFM, pastor of St. Mary Mission, Tohatchi, N.M., read the quotation from St. Francis’ Testament in Latin while facing east, followed by Br. José Rodriguez, OFM, turning south to read the quote in Spanish, the language spoken by the first missionary friars in the 17th century. A video recording of Br. Maynard Shurley, OFM, pronounced the words in Navajo to the west, and then Br. Gerald Grantner, OFM, offered them in English.

Michael Harlan, Brian Belanger,

Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, with three HNP friars who were in Albuquerque for a meeting of the board of the American Academy of American Franciscan History: Brian Belanger, Dominic Monti, and Daniel Dwyer. (Photo courtesy of Julie)

At the archives, the assembled friars declared in unison, “We, the friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, dedicate a Becoming Place to the preservation of art and artifacts, records and recordings arising from Franciscan contributions to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Southwest, and to the vision of Franciscan ministry long continuing here.”


Provincial Minister Fr. Jack Clark Robinson blesses palms for the Palm Sunday liturgy. (Photo courtesy of Michael Harlan)

The provincial minister blessed the structures, noting, “Let all who come to this archive for research be intent on truth. Let those who come to this retreat find it a place of rest, refreshment and renewal.”

A highlight of the event was the reading of the Dedicatory Statement by Br. Duane Torisky, OFM, secretary of OLG Province. Printed on a poster-sized parchment, it related how A Becoming Place came into being. Those present for the ceremony were invited to sign the document as witnesses. The parchment will be framed and hang in A Becoming Place.

On Saturday, March 19, an inaugural symposium took place at the conference center, with archivists and researchers from across the United States offering their thoughts on the topic, “Franciscan Archives: Art and Artifacts, Records and Recordings.” This was followed by a Palm Sunday Vigil Mass held in the San Juan Diego Friary Chapel on the grounds, and a festive dinner. Fr. Jack Clark summed up the importance of the celebration: “The study of history is a conversation with those who have gone before us to places we have never been.”

Photos of last weekend’s events can be found on OLG Province’s Facebook page, SW Franciscans.

— Julie Ferraro is director of communications for Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, one of seven OFM provinces in the United States. News about OLG Province can be found on its website.

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