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April 17, 2024

St. Anthony Indian Mission

Party Planning has never been a strong point for me but St. Anthony Indian Mission is 100 years old and we simply had to celebrate. We held bake sales and bingo’s to offset the cost of hosting a grand celebration. Our students were outstanding in their fund raising efforts by selling raffle tickets. I doubt anyone on the pueblo got past our students without buying a ticket.

By the time the day arrived, I was a nervous wreck overseeing everything at one time in the three locations for the event. Staff rose to the occasion wonderfully. People arrived in the church to find a 75 inch television in front of the altar which caused quite a stir.

The celebration began with the bishop, clergy and servers processing into the gym where a group of our students welcomed them with Zuni cultural dancing. This was televised to the church and the cafeteria. From the gym, dancers led the bishop into the church. (Meanwhile the television screen miraculously disappeared from the altar.) There was a short pause outside the church as one of the lead dancers, proudly and quickly changed from Zuni traditional attire to that of an altar server.

The students dressed in Zuni tradition read the lessons and intercessions beautifully. (A newspaper reporter focused on the intercessions expressing the co-incidence of Zuni and Catholic prayers and values). The school choir occupied the front seats in church, with the regular choir in the loft all of whom provided uplifting modern music, with a symbolic “Angus Dei” as a nod to ancient tradition. In an inspiring homily, the bishop spoke about the Eucharist presence of Christ being within the community since 17th century (the first Zuni mission) and the blessings that this brings to all.

At the end of Mass, the dancers led the bishop out of the church and celebrated with more traditional dancing. We have a group of Filipinos living in the town and they too entertained us with magnificent displays of dancing, the highlight of which was a dance in celebration of Santa Nino. This was especially appropriate since Santa Nino is long revered in Zuni.

We adjourned to the cafeteria for lunch where our centenary committee served approximately 350 delicious and plentiful meals to all present. During the meal, music and dancing continued to entertain our visitors. Our bishop drew the raffle. Prizes of cash, loads of wood and gravel as well as jewelry were awarded to lucky winners, (all donated). I was especially delighted when the star prize of a unique cross pendant, made in the tradition of the pueblos, was won by an 8th grader from the school.

A special guest was Fr Dale Jamison ofm who was able to be present to the delight of our parishioners. Fr Dale was pastor in Zuni for thirteen years and continues to serve the Navajo people in our diocese. I hope that I paid due honor to the Franciscan Friars and Sisters in my short address to the congregation.

The centenary celebrated the past and its achievements remembered. However, history is about people. St. Anthony’s greatest pride lies in the lives of so many former students, who have left us to build their lives, contribute to benefit of family, their people, and become outstanding citizens. The tradition continues.

Fr Pat