The Archdiocese of Santa Fe recently increased its clergy numbers with four new members, and one of them is Questa resident Father Christopher Martinez. Some Questa residents said that Christopher Martinez is the only local resident ordained a Catholic priest in the last 40 years.
When Martinez graduated from Questa High School, he hadn't decided to become a priest.
"Between the ages of nine to 12, I was an altar boy for three years. At the time, I thought about the priesthood. I had great respect for priests, but I was concerned about a vocation because I believed that the priests must be very holy," said Martinez. "Being a priest was still in the back of my mind, and people from Questa told me I should do it. I prayed on it and then attended a retreat for vocations in Santa Fe. At age 28, I decided to apply to the seminary. At age 31, I was on my way to prepare for the priesthood."
Prior to seminary attendance, Father Christopher Martinez attended the University of New Mexico-Taos for two years. He worked at Texas Red's Restaurant in Red River for several years.
The newly ordained priest credits the people of Questa and his family for their support: parents David and Liz Martinez and siblings Nicholas Martinez and Jacqueline Martinez.
Once Martinez applied to attend the seminary, Archbishop Michael Sheehan approved his application on behalf of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. His assignment sent new seminarian Martinez to Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut for three years. His course of study included a year of philosophy and two years of theology. The final two years of study occurred at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon.
Seminarians receive experience in the form of on-the-job training at various parishes for the diocese or archdiocese for which they are studying. In Father Martinez's case, he prepared for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, so this phase of his training occurred in the parishes of this area. The pattern of parish work occurs during summer breaks from schooling.
Father Martinez served in four distinctive places. His first parish included St. Jude's in Albuquerque. Next, St. Anne's parish in Santa Fe benefited from seminarian Martinez's work. The third summer, the priest attended Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas to study Spanish. The final assignment occurred in Peña Blanca during his time as a deacon.
Father Martinez was ordained at the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe Saturday (May 26). He celebrated his first Mass at the restored St. Anthony's Church in Questa the following day. Community members raised the money and furnished the labor for the restoration. The newly ordained priest plans to celebrate another Mass at St. Anne's in Santa Fe, (June 10).
The three other priests ordained for the archdiocese were Jason Pettigew of Clovis; Tai Pham, who is formerly of Vietnam but has resided in Albuquerque since age 12; and John Kinani of Kenya.
On June 4, Martinez celebrated Mass at St. Anthony's parish in Questa for participants in the annual Pilgrimage for Vocations. "I find the Pilgrimage very important. It calls attention to vocations to the priesthood. Without priests, we wouldn't have the sacraments or someone to proclaim the Gospel. We must pray for priests and someday, men will answer the call," Martinez said. "There's much hope in the Church. People prayed for me, and I wouldn't be a priest without their prayers. Someday we won't have to 'borrow' or 'import' priests because we'll have our own residents to answer God's call. We do appreciate those priests who have helped with our parishes during the priest shortage, though. The pilgrimage represents the sacrifices of the people. They walk in the heat and dust for 100 miles."
He views this year's ordination class, four new priests, as the fruits of the pilgrimage.
When asked about his future plans, Father Martinez stated," I'll leave the direction in God's hands." Martinez's most immediate plans include his assignment as assistant pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Clovis. He reports June 15 and will serve under the direction of the Rev. Eli Valdez.
On a personal level, the new priest enjoys the sports of basketball and baseball as a spectator and an active participant. As a student at Questa High School, Martinez played baseball.
The lives of the saints form the basis of the priest's chosen reading material. He's not a television buff, but he likes reruns of "The Rifleman" and those programs that teach a good moral lesson.
Like most good New Mexicans, Father Martinez claims chile as the basis for his favorite food. According to Martinez, his mother makes the best green chile, including stew, and red pork chile, sometimes in enchiladas. And even though he doesn't own a Chevy truck, the priest admires its hauling ability.
The new priest's future includes a life full of work and activity. He looks forward to new challenges as part of his vocation. "I couldn't do this by myself," Martinez said. "My prayers for a vocation were answered, and the encouragement from my family, the people of Questa and others is overwhelming. I'm proud and thankful to be ordained a priest."