Making a Difference

St. Anthony's Catholic Church

For more than 170 years, St. Anthony's Catholic Church served the close-knit community of Questa, N.M. Then, in October 2008, the water-damaged west wall tumbled to the ground. Church officials proposed demolition, but parishioners, village leaders, and residents weren't ready to give up on the landmark. They embarked on a contentious three-year effort to save the 1836 adobe sanctuary. Persuading the parish priest and the Santa Fe Archdiocese to protect and preserve the structure proved no easy task. At one meeting, the archbishop compared the church to a beloved grandfather: "When he dies, you bury him and you move on." That's when Bobby Ortega (second from right), a lifelong member of St. Anthony's and president of the board of San Antonio del Rio Colorado Historic Preservation, said, "Your Excellency, our analogy is that Grandpa isn't dead … we're trying to save him." Concerned citizens raised $25,000 for an engineering study, secured an endorsement from New Mexico's governor, and persuaded village officials to pass an ordinance designating St. Anthony's a protected historic site. In April, church officials granted the community six years to complete a restoration. If they fail to meet that deadline, the building will revert to the archdiocese. Residents are already focused on raising more than $1 million. Questa Mayor Esther Garcia (in red) says, "It's something our ancestors left to us, and I think they left it with the understanding that we as a generation would do a lot to keep it the way it is." 

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