Lecture looks at garments of faith, founding of ‘modern’ Socorro

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The wardrobe for the old San Lorenzo statue in the Polvadera church, which has been amassed for over a century, will be discussed and displayed in an upcoming program sponsored by San Miguel Mission.

Rosalind Zengerle/For El Defensor Chieftain: Deacon Nick Keller is shown with an ancient statue of San Lorenzo, which has been revered for over a century at the church in Polvadera. The statue is clothed with one of the many garments that worshipers have made in response to favors requested or granted. Shoes and miniature glasses have also been frequent gifts.

Generations of believers have been making pilgrimages to this small church in tribute to El Santo. With the birth of a new child, the return of a loved one from war or in supplication for strength and blessings during hardship or illness, the faithful have looked to San Lorenzo in thanksgiving. Their gratitude has been made manifest through these garments and other tokens of love left at the church. During Holy Week, the San Lorenzo church is a popular destination of many who walk from miles around.

Nadine Ulibarri-Keller, a mayordomo at the Polvadera church who has lived in the village since childhood, will share stories and her experiences in caring for this much loved statue and its accumulated wardrobe.

San Lorenzo is believed to have been born in Spain, at Osca, a town in Aragon near the foot of the Pyrenees. He was one of seven deacons of the church of ancient Rome serving under Sixtus II. He became a martyr in AD 258 during the persecution of Valerian where he was condemned to a slow, cruel death tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little. His feast day is celebrated Aug. 10.

A presentation by Robert J.C. Baca, President of the New Mexico Genealogical Society and a native son of Socorro will follow Ulibarri-Keller’s. Baca has been researching Socorro genealogy and history over many years. Although Socorro has a rich history that goes back to the Piro Indian inhabitants of this area and to the Spanish beginning with the 1598 settlers led by Juan de Oñate, modern day Socorro began in 1815 when 70 families from Belen and other areas of New Mexico re-established the community. With a rediscovered 1818 list of 66 Socorro residents who contributed to a military campaign and other research, Baca re-imagines the Socorro of two centuries ago when Spanish pioneers began their lives anew in this little community.

San Lorenzo was first mentioned in church records in 1835. A license was granted by the bishop of Durango, Mexico ,for a chapel at Polvadera Aug. 2, 1847. The land on which this chapel was built was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Luciano Luna. The church bell, which is housed in its own structure left of the main entrance, is said to be the original bell of the San Acacio Church.

If you go …

What: Lecture: Garments of Faith & Founding of “Modern” Socorro

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9

Where: San Lorenzo Mission, Polvadera (Exit 156 I-25, right to state Road 408, first left to Frontage Road, north to Polvadera)

How Much: $20/person. Tickets available at San Miguel Church office or gift shop.

For more information call 575-835-2891.