The entrance to Mount Calvary Cemetery. All photos by Fr. Loren Connell, OFM
THREE YEARS AGO, the friars granted me a six-month sabbatical. It included an extended pilgrimage to the burial sites of our deceased brothers in 33 cemeteries in the central and eastern United States. The following year I hoped to participate in the US-6 pilgrimage to New Mexico and Arizona and visit the graves of our deceased confreres there. COVID came along, however, and the Southwest pilgrimage was postponed…twice. This summer that pilgrimage has at long last come to pass, and I am privileged to participate in it.
We pilgrims consist of one man from Mexico learning English and checking out our way of life, three postulants about to enter novitiate, and nine solemnly professed friars from five of the six provinces. Before, during, and after the group pilgrimage I will be making my own private pilgrimage to the graves of more than 130 friars buried in 12 cemeteries and two cathedrals across two states. All of those friars were formed in the Province of St. John the Baptist, and more than half of them died in it before the establishment of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The great majority of those who died after the establishment of the new province had become members of it, although a few remained with the mother province.
I have already learned of some errors in our provincial necrology. Paul Schneider, whose grave I sought in vain three years ago at St. Stephen Cemetery, Hamilton, is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Albuquerque. Mark Schornack is buried in St. Michael Cemetery, St. Michaels, not in Hillcrest Cemetery, Gallup; and Reynaldo Rivera is buried in Rosario Cemetery, Santa Fe, not in the cathedral crypt there. Here are some of my reflections at each of our 14 burial sites in the Southwest.
Late-morning, Monday, July 11, 2022
Mount Calvary Cemetery, Albuquerque, New Mexico
THIS MORNING, Jack Clark Robinson met me at the Best Western Hotel. We drove to the airport to get Kevin Schroeder and then came here to Mount Calvary Cemetery. Our friars came to Albuquerque in the 1950s. For 40 years no friar died here, and little serious thought was given to potential burial needs. Twenty-five years ago, Paul Schneider’s failing health prompted the provincial administration of Our Lady of Guadalupe to begin seriously looking for a friars’ plot. Before they acted on anything, however, Forest McAlister, himself a definitor, died quite unexpectedly, and a carefully planned study gave way to an emergency purchase.
Twenty-six friars are now buried here in two rows two graves deep. Double stones lie flat with the ground. Each friar entered one of the formation programs of St. John the Baptist Province. All but Bill Spirk became members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Forest, Peter Forton, Juan Montoya, and Gerry Steinmatz were contemporaries of mine in initial formation. Paul, along with Timon Cook, was on the faculty at Duns Scotus College when I was a student there. Nils Thompson and Chrys Partee were active with the Secular Franciscan Order when I was national spiritual assistant.
Albuquerque has a different climate, soil, and flora from what I am used to, and I find myself a little unsettled here. Mount Calvary lacks the lushness of Christ Our Redeemer in Pittsburgh, Mount Elliot in Detroit, or Mount Saint Mary in Kansas City. Of the cemeteries that I visited three years ago, it may be closest in feel to Calvary in San Angelo. It is taking me awhile to adjust, and I have a hard time focusing on the brothers buried here. All I can do is thank God for allowing me to be here and, along with them, to follow in the way of Francis.
PART TWO: DAY ONE
Mid-Morning, Thursday, July 14, 2022
Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery, Pena Blanca, New Mexico
TODAY OUR US-6 pilgrimage is taking us to Pena Blanca and Santa Fe. A few trees, powdery soil, scrubby vegetation, and a wide variety of decorations and grave markers characterize Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery. A tall, thin, metal cross stands scarecrow-like behind the graves of eight friars and a few diocesan clergy. Three friars have slanted stones rising upward from the ground (Guadalupe McHale’s has been broken and repaired), three have bronze markers attached to a concrete base, Rupert Hueninghake has an upright stone tablet topped by a cross, and son of the parish Salvador Aragon has a gray granite headstone on top of a grave-size slab of concrete. Of friars buried here, I knew only Herb Effler, who preceded me at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lafayette.
Bishop Peter Bourgade of Tucson welcomed the friars to St. Michaels, Arizona, in 1898. The following year he became Archbishop of Santa Fe and invited the friars to Pena Blanca, our second foundation in the Southwest and our first in New Mexico. The earliest of our friars to die in the Southwest were buried here. Placid Buerger, one of the original three at St. Michaels, had moved to Pena Blanca and in 1906 became the first to die. Before Placid died, Albert Daeger, pastor, had anointed him with the oil of the sick. In 2016, 110 later, Salvador Aragon was the last friar to be buried here. The same Albert Daeger, archbishop, had anointed Salvador with sacred chrism at confirmation. Now we need to move on to Santa Fe and do not have much time here. I can only reflect on 110 years: eight brothers, eight personalities, eight vocations, eight journeys, eight stories. And someday mine.
Noon, Thursday, July 14, 2022
Saint Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe, New Mexico
THE CATHEDRAL Basilica of St. Francis is a busy and bewildering space. Tourists, worshippers, docents, parishioners, staff, volunteers, venders, and even pilgrims circulate throughout the church in continual but patternless motion. We are here trying to comprehend it all and appreciate our Franciscan roots in this Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. Seven deceased archbishops are buried in the crypt beneath the sanctuary. An ornate rug marks the spot on the floor above their graves, and a plaque on a sanctuary step lists their names. Portraits of all 13 archbishops fill an alcove to the side of the sanctuary. Our brother Albert Daeger was the sixth of them and the third to be interred here.
Fifty years earlier, Albert’s grandfather, Anthony, was buried in a now lost grave in Mount Elliott Cemetery, Detroit. Four years ago, it was my privilege to provide a new stone commemorating Anthony and the other two friars buried there. Albert seems to have been a quiet and unassuming friar like his grandfather. All he wanted to be was a missionary among the people of the Southwest. Then this Midwestern friar of German heritage became the first American-born ordinary in a 65-year-old see with a largely French clergy. Needing the support of his brothers if he was to fulfill his new responsibilities, Albert brought the friars here to staff the cathedral for the next eighty years. I leave with a new appreciation for a man who up until now had been little more than a cipher in my awareness of our provincial history.
PART TWO: DAY TWO
Early Morning, Saturday, July 16, 2022
Saint Michael Cemetery, St. Michaels, Arizona
IT IS A BEAUTIFUL, crisp summer morning here at St. Michael Cemetery. The cemetery is near the crest of a hill, about a 20-minute walk from the friary. A chain link fence marks its boundaries. Inside the fence a stone border marks the section where our earliest friars are buried. An eight- to ten- foot wooden cross stands slightly askew in the back. The first four markers are fairly large upright red sandstone slabs gentling tapering to a tip. The fifth is similar in size and shape but white, perhaps limestone. With two exceptions, all the rest are smaller upright slanted red granite stones. Rembert Kowalski’s, with the dates of his ordination as priest and his “consecration” (sic) as Bishop of Wuhan/Wuchang, is wider than the others, and Bart Wolf’s is of gray granite. John Middlestadt’s stone has no title, Clem Wottle’s has Friar, Rembert’s has Most Rev, and the rest have either Bro or Rev. Plastic flowers adorn each grave. A few other graves are near the front of the cemetery.
Bart was a contemporary of mine, coming to the friars a year after me. With huge hands and bigger scissors, Rembert ritually tonsured me in the spring of 1967. I did not know any of the other friars buried here. Looking over this place and allowing myself to take it all in, I find it to be awesome. Its isolation on a windswept hill reminds me of the cemetery at Wounded Knee. The moment calls for silence—of the mind as well as of the voice. I stand in reverence.
PART THREE: DAY ONE
Mid-Morning, Monday, July 18, 2022
St. Joseph Churchyard, Laguna, New Mexico
IT IS A PRIVILEGE to be buried in a pueblo churchyard. Here at Laguna there are only five graves: those of two servicemen who died in World War II, and those of three well-loved friars who served the Laguna people. Agnellus Lammert has a white upright stone which has been cracked and repaired. It is standing behind a concrete slab on which it might have first been placed. John Uhl, the first member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province to die, and Kenneth Robertson each have a gray granite upright stone anchored to a concrete base. An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is carved on both their stones, and on both is inscribed “our beloved priest.” Ken has a wooden cross with his name and dates behind his stone. All three graves are enclosed by individual borders of small stones.
These brothers were loved. I am reminded of the expressions of affection shown to me when I left St. Leonard and St. Aloysius. To be loved despite one’s insufficiencies is an experience both humbling and life-giving. Lord, I am not worthy.
Late Morning, Monday, July 18, 2022
Grants Memorial Park, Grants, New Mexico
THIS PART OF TOWN exudes a heavy World War II theme. The cemetery is on Roosevelt Avenue. Nearby streets are named MacArthur, Nimitz, and Truman. Is Memorial Park a tribute to WWII service men and women? The cemetery appears to be well cared for. The friars’ graves are several rows to the left after I enter the gate. The first two markers are bronze plaques anchored flat to a concrete base; the third, a couple graves away, is flat gray granite. All three contain dates of religious profession as well as birth and death dates; those of the two priests contain the dates of ordination. “Theo Phil” Meyer’s name is misspelled, and Art Puthoff’s stone is sinking beneath the grass. Of the friars buried here, I had met only Art, who struck me as something of a loveable curmudgeon. He referred to a former provincial of his mother province as “Meat Head.” I wonder what he would say of the provincial who is allowing his stone to disappear. Brothers, may the angels lead you into paradise.
Early Afternoon, Monday, July 18, 2022
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gallup, New Mexico
THIS AFTERNOON I stopped at the parish office as the secretary/receptionist had directed me two weeks ago, and the building manager has taken me to the cathedral crypt. Here I find three alcoves, three spaces, three graves, three dead bishops. Our brother Bernard Espelage, the first bishop of the diocese, is buried in the middle alcove. A life-sized painted pieta sits above an altar opposite his grave. Bernard seems to have been a talented and capable man who spent most of his priestly life in the Southwest as pastor, chancellor, and bishop. In his 70’s, he participated in the Second Vatican Council. Did he find the changes unleashed there a bit challenging in his final years as ordinary? Enter into your master’s joy, good and faithful servant.
Afternoon, Monday, July 18, 2022
Hillcrest Cemetery, Gallup, New Mexico
HILLCREST Cemetery is not far from the cathedral. Two painted two-dimensional angels, which I find more cartoonish than attractive, top a metal entrance gate, one on either side. The cemetery sits on the side, not the crest, of a hill. With little vegetation to anchor it in place, soil erodes down the hill, threatening to cover the graves below. Concrete retaining walls from one- to four- feet high offer some protection to various sections and plots. A gray stone shaft stands to one side of the friars’ original plot; a bent metal rod protruding from top suggests a missing cross or other ornament. The names Sister Friedberta and Sister Arnolda are engraved on the side of the shaft facing an adjoining Franciscan sisters’ plot, more than likely the community from Lafayette (later Mishawaka), Indiana. Rev Father Theodore Stephan and Ven Brother Emil Luebker, names of the first two friars buried here, are engraved on the opposite side. On the base of the shaft is engraved Franciscan Fathers (sic).
Our friars are buried in three separate sections at Hillcrest: 14 in the first, four in the second, and one in a unique third. All 14 stones in the original section contain birth and death dates, along with the title Father/Brother. The first 11, including Theodore’s and Emil’s, are unadorned with a slight upward tilt; the last three have an engraved border and lie flat with ground. My classmate Sean Leahy’s stone is nearly buried in silt. Arnold Holtmann’s inexplicably says Arnold Heinzmann, who was buried five years after him in St. Mary Cemetery, Metamora. At the time of his death, Arnold Holtmann was the oldest friar in the province; Arnold Heinzmann was 50 years younger. Why the confusion? Was the guardian drunk, overworked, or what? And why wasn’t the error ever corrected?
The first three graves in the second section are marked by bronze plaques anchored in concrete, lying flat with ground. Former Provincial Minister Meldon Hickey’s is larger than the other two and notes his service as provincial minister. The fourth friar, Terrance Rhodes, has an upright limestone tablet almost abutting the back retaining wall. Connall Lynch, a faithful chaplain to the Knights of Columbus, is buried apart from the other friars in a broad walkway leading to a Knights of Columbus structure. These 19 men are all my brothers, whatever names may be engraved on their markers, and I am blessed to be here.
PART THREE: DAY TWO
Early Morning, Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Greenlawn Cemetery, Farmington, New Mexico
HILLCREST might not have been on a crest, but no one can deny that Greenlawn is green! Grass and trees abound, and sprinklers are watering the cemetery from front to back and side to side. I am reminded of St. Boniface Cemetery in Lafayette, and in this part of the country I wonder how ecologically responsible such water usage is. Our friars are buried in lots 63 and 64, block 5, on the south side of the cemetery. I see no sectional makers, but I do see several workers taking care of the grounds. I approach one of them, who finds a cemetery map and leads me to our brothers’ graves. Celsus Koenig died in 1934; and Celestine Matz, two years later in 1936. Their simple slanted, upright, red granite stones read Rev (name), OFM, with their birth and death years. What do I know about these brothers? More than likely they gave their ordinary lives in flawed but dedicated service to God’s people. May I respond to grace as they did.
Late Morning, Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Cementerio Catolico, Los Ojos, New Mexico
A STOP AT San Jose Church, directions from a parishioner, a failed attempt to find St. Joseph Cemetery, further directions from a postal worker, another attempt to find the cemetery, a family graveyard, Cementerio Catolico—the parish cemetery! I am here. That much was easy. Now where is Cuthbert Kalt?
I knew ahead of time that few if any records survived from 100 years ago, but I was unprepared for what I’m experiencing here. The cemetery is a broad expanse of dry dusty soil, heavily dotted with scrubby vegetation and prickly pear cactus and severely undermined by the tunnels of ground squirrels. Many graves have fallen into disrepair. Stone, metal, and wooden markers rise above or have fallen beneath the flora. Some plots, individual or family, are marked off by wooden or metal fencing in various stages of upkeep.
After half an hour of fruitless searching for our brother’s grave, I notice some other people visiting here. They seem to know their way around, and I ask if they know where a former pastor was buried 100 years ago. They don’t, but one of them helps me look. After another 10 or 15 minutes, I thank her for her kindness and suggest that she go on. I take a prickly pear thorn out of my shoe and spend a little more time searching for Cuthbert’s apparently lost grave. Wherever it is, it is not the tidy patch of green surrounding a trim white stone that I remember from his brother Hubert’s grave at St. Joseph Cemetery in Peoria! I commend our brother and all the others buried here to God; give thanks for the kindness of the parishioner, postal worker, and visitor who tried to help, and move on.
Early Afternoon, Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Cuba Catholic Cemetery, Cuba, New Mexico
OUR NECROLOGY says that William Marschke is buried in Immaculate Conception Churchyard. There is no yard. A much newer church than William would have known is surrounded by a meeting hall on one side, a parish office on the other, and an asphalt parking lot in front of the whole complex. The receptionist assures me that no friar is buried anywhere on the property. She directs me to the cemetery, where I will be on my own, since the records here are no better than those at Los Ojos.
The cemetery is quite similar to the one at Los Ojos, but with a little more greenery and larger shrubs. I check out a few areas where I think a friar might have been buried 100 years ago, but see no sign of our brother’s grave. I drive along a few cemetery lanes, such as they are, noting several Lucero and Montoya stones, reminders that our brothers Bob and Juan’s families have been in New Mexico for generations. I have been here about half an hour and discover that I am gaining a little more appreciation for a cemetery and culture in which individual families seem to be responsible for the upkeep of their loved ones’ graves. Some are well tended; some are nearly lost. In the end, what difference does it make? William, with all the others buried here, known and unknown, may you rest in peace.
PART THREE: DAY THREE
Mid-Morning, Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Rosario Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
ROSARIO Cemetery is orderly and well maintained. Numerous trees dot the landscape. Some of the burial sections are gravel; some are grass. An impressive southwestern style chapel stands near the center. The original friars’ plot is gravel. With the exception of Thomas Jones, whom I already knew about, and Michael Dunphy, whom I know nothing about, everyone buried here belonged to St. John the Baptist Province. A small concrete statue of St, Francis stands in one corner. The first five graves are marked by fairly large stones flat with the ground. They look as though they may originally have stood upright. The names are in English; but the friars’ ages in years and their dates of profession, ordination if relevant, and death are in Latin. The next 12 graves are marked by bronze plaques—in English—with Fr/Bro (name), OFM, and dates of birth, death, profession, and ordination when relevant. I knew none of these brothers.
Fourteen more friars are buried two graves deep in a grassy section beside the chapel across the lane. Religious sisters. Christian Brothers, and archdiocesan clergy are buried behind them. All of the friars except Mike Baca were members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. An unknown Bro James Terrence Egan (no initials) shares burial space with Ralph Zinser. All the graves are marked by bronze plaques in the same style as those on the other side of the lane. Crispin Butz, the last friar to be buried here, has room for anyone else who wants to share a burial space!
In life Crispin was a gracious host. Thirty-some years ago, I spent a night at the cathedral friary here in Santa Fe, and I have pleasant memories of Crispin and his hospitality. Twenty years earlier, I was a student at Duns Scotus College; Peter Ricke was instructor and music director there. Those memories are more troubled than pleasant. Duns Scotus was not immune to the cultural unrest of the 1960s, and the liturgy battles of the time pitted students with little appreciation for the principles of music against a director who wanted us to learn the tradition. \ I trust that I am wiser now. Pete, to paraphrase the words of your beautiful Transitus, may the Glorious Trinity bid you—and all the other friars buried here—welcome.
Afternoon, Wednesday, July 20, 2022
South Park Cemetery, Roswell, New Mexico
SOUTH PARK Cemetery is large and flat. A long tree-lined lane leads past fallow fields, available for future burials, to the current graves. Orderly and green, the expansive burial space reminds me of yesterday’s visit to Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington. When 41-year-old Victor Brewer died in 1908, South Park became the second cemetery in the Southwest where we began burying our deceased brothers. From right to left, 11 more friars were interred after him. The first three stones are fairly small upright gray tablets surmounted by a cross; the rest are either similar gray or white tablets or gray granite blocks. The earliest ones carry the titles Fr(ater) or P(ater). To the right of the friars are several rows of religious sisters.
Rev Burcard Fisher and F(athe)r Martin Wolf are buried in another section of the cemetery, with gray granite blocks marking their graves. Someone has decorated their plot with colorful plastic whirligigs: one to the left of Marty’s stone, one to the right of Burcard’s, and a double one between the two. I knew none of the friars buried here in South Park, but I understand that Marty was known for his laugh. St. Francis gave praise to God through playful Brother Fire. With Brother Wind playing lightly through whirligigs fondly implanted in Mother Earth, I smile and give thanks for the lives of 14 friars called to be troubadours of joy.
PART THREE: DAY FOUR
Noon, Thursday, July 21, 2022
Lawn Haven Cemetery, Clovis, New Mexico
WHERE ARE LOTS 101 and 102 in the Christus section of Lawn Haven Cemetery? Near the inner circle, I am told. The friars must have purchased two burial sites, but I don’t see Boniface Sack’s grave marker anywhere. Is it near the outer circle? I don’t see it there either. I try calling the off-site office but get no answer. I see activity around a shed to the east of the cemetery, but isn’t that on another property? I approach two men there and ask if they are cemetery workers. They are. I ask about Christus 101 and 102, and I am directed to the area just outside the inner circle of cremains. Once again I search for Boniface’s grave but do not find it.
Lawn in this cemetery’s name is a bit of a euphemism. The terrain is flat with mixed patches of grass and bare soil. Critters and erosion have made much of it uneven. The grave markers are mostly granite, bronze, or red tile. All are flat with the ground. Many have vases of plastic flowers. What happened to Boniface’s grave? Did he originally have a marker? I can’t imagine that he didn’t. Over a span of 40 years did it sink below the level of the ground and become overgrown with grass? “I am the resurrection and the life.” I leave in peace, commending our brother to God and asking a blessing on myself.
THIS PILGRIMAGE BEGAN with a quick visit to Mount Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque and ended with a disappointing visit to Lawn Haven Cemetery in Clovis. Along the way, experienced a tiny piece of the rich geography and heritage of this part of the country. Two other brothers accompanied me on Part One. Twelve joined me for Part Two. I journeyed along Part Three by myself. Each part was a grace. I set out to visit the graves of 138 friars. Three seem to have been lost in time, and one was even misidentified! Berard Heile and Hilaire Valiquette used their linguistic skills to serve the Navaho and Pueblo people. Anselm Weber, a champion of social justice, used his lobbying skills to defend the rights of Native Americans. Bart Wolf used his woodworking skills to create functional pieces of beauty. Such is my inheritance. In the mystery of providence I am part of something bigger than myself, as was each of those 138 brothers who preceded me.
Men with names such as Rommelfanger and Nordmeyer, Troester and Hukenbeck, Kroger and Bruening, Schrader and Hierzegger, along with an occasional O’Leary or Finnegan, set out from our country’s heartland to live among the peoples of the Southwest. In time they were joined by men with names such as Candalaria and Fuentes, Gonzales and Mazon; and the Province of St. John the Baptist gave birth to the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That province in turn, true to the legacy of its mother province, ventured forth into new realms in the late 20th and early 21st century.
Now friars from both provinces, along with our brothers from the Provinces of the Assumption, Holy Name, Sacred Heart, and St. Barbara, each with its own rich legacy, are giving birth to a new Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As our new novices mine the treasures of our collective pasts, they also open us to God’s future. May all of us be not merely reconfigured in our canonical affiliation but truly revitalized in the spirit of those friars minor who went before us.