Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Father Miguel Baca

Father Miguel Baca


Honored June, 1994







Father Miguel Baca

"Santa Fe is part of my essence," Father Miguel Baca liked to say. And he was part of the essence of Santa Fe. When, after ordination in Indiana, he returned home to celebrate Mass for the first time at San MiguelÑthe oldest church in Santa FeÑFray Angelico Chavez, the revered historian, was present to point out that in five hundred years of Spanish American Catholicism, Father Miguel was the first native-born Santa Fean to become a priest.

To be a priest means leaving home. Father Miguel left many times, and returned many times, always making his mark. He grew up in the heart of Santa Fe. His father was born where the Plaza restaurant now stands. Father Miguel, born 1927, was raised on Delgado Street. He belonged to the St. Francis Cathedral parish. "Santa Fe was a closely-knit, family-type community where everybody knew everybody," he remembered. Going to church on Sunday was "part of existence, part of life."

His birth name was Arsenio. "I didn't like it," he recalled. "Now I think it's a lovely name. When I entered into religious life I took the name Miguel "Michael" because Saint Michael is a hero of mine.

Father Miguel went from grade school right to a seminary preparatory school in Cincinnati, Ohio. "I knew what I wanted from the very beginning. Since I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a Franciscan priest."

Five years after he was ordained he was assigned to a mission band, priests designated to go out and preach the gospel. "That's what I've been doing ever since," he told us, "travelling and preaching...almost a circuit rider he had a lot of experiences in Latin America, all over the U.S."

Pain accompanied his life. A car accident in the 1960s left him paralyzed. He fought persistently to regain the use of his legs. Within two years he was able to walk again, but the pain remained. "Pain has been a constant in my life," he said, looking back, "a good educator. I believe pain is worth something, if only to make you more sympathetic with people in pain. Pain is a very common thing in our existence."