Published in the Gallup Independent, Gallup, N.M., Sept. 17, 2016
Facility will be donated to Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
GALLUP – In further fallout from the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case, diocesan officials announced this week they have sold the diocese’s chancery building in Gallup.
“There are several reasons for this move, all of them positive,” Bishop James S. Wall stated in a letter to local Catholics released Wednesday. “The first reason is that the sale of the current chancery offices will allow us to make a substantial contribution to our Chapter 11 payment plan, which was set in place to ensure that survivors of abuse receive just compensation.”
The chancery building, located at 711 S. Puerco Drive, has long been a religious landmark in Gallup’s downtown residential neighborhood. It was previously used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before being sold to the Gallup Diocese.
According to the bishop, the chancery was purchased earlier this month by Dr. and Mrs. Raymond Ponce, of California, who “will be gifting” the property to Mother Magda Garcia and her Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph “as a permanent place to live and work.” The sisters have long operated a ministry in Gallup’s north side neighborhood, near East Wilson Avenue and Black Diamond Canyon Drive. Suzanne Hammons, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said the chancery building’s appraised value was $475,000, which “is around what it sold for” to Ponce.
The diocese will move its chancery offices to the second floor of the Catholic Indian Center, located at 503 W. Historic Highway 66. That move is expected to be completed by the end of October, the bishop said. Two diocesan nonprofit organizations, Catholic Charities of Gallup and the Catholic Peoples Foundation, will continue to use their current office space in the Catholic Indian Center.
Parking is limited in the center’s parking lot and along Historic Highway 66. Neither the bishop’s letter nor a follow-up response by Hammons addressed the move’s impact on the parking issue.
North side presence
In a telephone interview Friday, Garcia said she did not know when the sisters in her religious order would be moving into the chancery property. Garcia said she was not involved in the meetings between Ponce and diocesan officials.
Garcia said she met Ponce more than 50 years ago in California, and she cited his ongoing kindness in supporting her ministry.
Garcia was asked if she will miss having a presence on the north side.
“Of course,” she said. “I never wanted to move.”
Garcia explained, however, that she and her sisters had no choice but to move because of the poor condition of their current location. Garcia said December will mark the 40th anniversary of her sisters’ ministry on the north side of Gallup.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph are known for their outreach to the local Spanish-speaking community, their service to St. Francis Parish and elementary school, their assistance to immigrants, and the operation of Casa Reina, a chapel of perpetual adoration.
Garcia said the sisters will move Casa Reina to the new south side location. They will also continue their ministry to immigrant families in Gallup.
“I’ll keep doing that as long as I live,” she said.
Garcia said she did not know what would eventually be done with the north side property because it belongs to the Diocese of Gallup. She also said she wasn’t sure what would be done with a house on Green Street, located across the street from Sacred Heart Cathedral, which Ponce purchased for her sisters several years ago.
In January 2015, the Diocese of Gallup requested permission of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to get an appraisal of the chancery property, along with a request to appraise the Sacred Heart Retreat Center, Sacred Heart School (formerly Gallup Catholic School), and disputed property at St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School in Thoreau.
According to court documents, the diocese obtained a loan for approximately $2.3 million from the Catholic Order of Foresters, which was secured by the retreat center and school property. St. Bonaventure contributed $550,000 to the diocese’s plan of reorganization to settle its property ownership dispute with the diocese.
The sale of the chancery completes the diocese’s efforts to raise funds from this set of appraised property.
Hammons was asked if the diocese or Ponce would be doing renovations to the aging chancery before Garcia’s religious order moved into the building.
“While we’ve been here we’ve done some work on things like the air conditioning and heating, so those things plus others, like windows, are in operational order,” Hammons stated in an email. “I believe Dr. Ponce plans to do some work on the roof, and other basic remodeling to turn it from a building with offices into one more suited to a convent.”