Our Lady Selects Site
Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to tradition, selected the spot where the settlement was made. According to legend, Spaniards were traveling over this territory in the San Luis Valley when one of the mules in the pack-train balked. Persuasion, threats, beatings, all were of no avail in making the mule proceed. A small statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was found in the mule’s pack. The Spaniards, men of faith, decided that the Blessed Virgin must want a church built in her honor, and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When the vow to build a church on this exact spot was made, the mule, apparently satisfied, balked no more, and went jogging along with the rest of the mule train. True to their word, the Spaniards returned and brought along several others. An adobe church was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. For more than a hundred years God has been worshiped and Our Lady revered in this frontier church of the West.
Guadalupe Cradles Church
The history of the Catholic Church in Colorado had its beginning in what is now the little town of Guadalupe. There the small seed of the Gospel was first planted to spread to the rest of Colorado and become a wondrous tree. The commandment that Jesus gave His Apostles and their successors to “Go and teach all nations” was heard and obeyed by the heroic clergy, diocesan and religious, who, under the wise leadership of such pioneers and missionary bishops as John B. Lamy of Santa Fe, NM and Joseph P. Machebeuf of Denver, CO worked on that portion of the vineyard of the Lord taking care of souls entrusted to them in the San Luis Valley amid hardships, privations, and sacrifices. Here in this part of the Southwest close to the line of New Mexico, almost 100 years ago a group of valiant Catholics followed the footsteps of Coronado and Escalante. They came on horseback, in covered wagons, in mule trains, and on foot. Under the leadership of José María Jaquez, they came to find a place to live and to worship God peacefully.The pioneers of what is now Conejos County in the San Luis Valley were devout Catholics. The history of the first church of the town and the people who lived, settled, and grew in the protective shadow of the Church.
Ash Wednesday, 1926, was a day of trial and sorrow for the priests and members of the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A fire believed to be caused by an electric short circuit destroyed the church and convent. Only the shattered walls and towers remained. Very few possessions were saved from the fire, but among them, however, were the record books of the parish. After much discussion as to where the most suitable location for the new church would be, whether it would be rebuilt in Antonito or in Conejos, the wishes of the long-time residents of the parish prevailed. For sentimental reasons they wanted the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to be rebuilt on the same spot where their grandfathers had built the old church in Conejos. Much of the credit or responsibility for this choice belongs to Bishop Tihen and Father John Bonet, C.R., pastor of the parish of Conejos at that time. In September of 1926 the church was rebuilt, and there remained only the adobe towers of the old church as a remembrance. The new church was dedicated with the impressive ceremonies that the Catholic Church provides for such solemn occasions. Bishop Tihen dedicated the church to the honor and glory of God and celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass. All the priests from the San Luis Valley and from other parishes of Colorado were present. The old altar of St. Joseph’s Church in Capulin was used in the church of Conejos until April 1934, when it was replaced by one of Roman style constructed by Benjamin Chavez. This beautiful altar and retable are in use today. Read more on the recent fire at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Conejos.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish