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Rev Robert Fortune Sanchez

Rev Robert Fortune Sanchez

Death 20 Jan 2012 (aged 77)
Burial Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA
Memorial ID 83825863 · View Source
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Former Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Santa Fe, Monsignor Robert Fortune Sanchez, the nation's First Hispanic Archbishop, was born on March 20, 1934, to Julius C. and Priscilla Fortune Sanchez, and grew up in Socorro, New Mexico, where he attended Mount Carmel Catholic School and Socorro High School. For a short period of time he also attended St. Mary's Boys Catholic High School in Phoenix, Arizona.

Entering at a young age the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Santa Fe, where he attended and graduated from St. Michael's College, later known as College of Santa Fe, he pursued his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy, where he earned degrees in Philosophy and Theology. At the end of his studies he was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Martin J. O'Connor on December 20, 1959.

Upon his return to New Mexico he was assigned to reside and assist at Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Albuquerque while at the same time holding many positions at St. Pius X High School. These included teacher, assistant principal and counselor. He earned his teaching certificate from the University of New Mexico in 1964. He later attended Catholic University in Washington, DC., for Canon Law Studies.

In 1965, he was appointed as the Archdiocesan Director of Extension Lay Volunteers and in 1968, was a representative to the New Mexico Council of Churches' Institutional Ministry and Pastoral Care Program. Also in 1968, he was appointed Pastor of San Felipe de Neri Parish in Albuquerque. During this time he served on the Archdiocesan Personnel Board, as President of the Priest Senate, as Region X Representative to the National Federation of Priest Councils, and briefly as the Vicar General of the Archdiocese.

Pope Paul VI appointed Sanchez as the Tenth Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Santa Fe at the early age of 40, receiving his Episcopal Consecration on July 25, 1974, with over 14,000 people attending the event, making it the highest attended Episcopal Consecration in history to that point in time. The Ceremony was officiated by Archbishop Jean Jadot, then Apostolic Delegate to the United States. Sanchez was the first Hispanic Bishop in the United States and the first native priest to be appointed as a Bishop in the Southwestern United States. He was at the time, the country's youngest Archbishop with some 275,000 Roman Catholics under his care. Archbishop Sanchez's programs implementing Hispanic Ministry, cultural preservation and the preservation of historic churches continue to be models for the Country.

Locally, Archbishop Sanchez increased outreach to the many and varied cultural communities in New Mexico. He was the first Archbishop to offer an apology to the local Native American peoples as well as to establish an Office for Native American Ministry. He ordained now deceased Bishop Donald Pelotte for the Diocese of Gallup, who was the first Native American Bishop in the United States.

Archbishop Sanchez established the first Archdiocesan Youth Conference, the first Native American Liturgy at the Cathedral, the first Ecumenical Commission of the Archdiocese, and the Commission for the Preservation of Historic New Mexico Churches. After putting together the first Archdiocesan wide Pastoral Plan - the first west of the Mississippi River - he established the resources and offices needed at the Archdiocesan level to serve the needs of the parishes and the pastoral needs of the people of the Archdiocese. He also wrote the most comprehensive Pastoral Letter on HIV/Aids at that time.

He erected several new Parishes: San Isidro y San Jose in Santa Fe; St. Jude Thaddeus in Albuquerque; Our Lady of La Vang in Albuquerque; Risen Savior Catholic Community in Albuquerque; Santuario de San Martin de Porres in Albuquerque; John XXII Catholic Community in Albuquerque; St. Joseph on the Rio Grande in Albuquerque and Santa Maria de La Paz in Santa Fe.

Together with the other Bishops of the State, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces and Bishop Pelotte of Gallup, they established the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. Nationally, Archbishop Sanchez served on several boards and committees which included the Pontifical College Josephinum, the Pontifical North American College, the Mexican American Cultural Center, the Bishops' Committee for Hispanic Affairs, where he was instrumental in writing the United Stated Catholic Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Hispanics in the United States; the Bishops' Commission on Family Life representing the Bishops of the United States at the Synod on the Mission of the Family at the Vatican in 1980. He was also appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Vatican's Commission on Immigration Affairs.

As a result of the sexual abuse scandals, and allegations made against his own personal conduct which were brought to the forefront, he resigned as Archbishop on April 6, 1993. Many would claim that he was not as proactive as he could have been in the disciplining and expulsion of priests who were alleged of sexual misconduct. As he became ill with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, Archbishop Sanchez retired to the Casa San Juan Diego, a retirement home for Franciscan Priests in Albuquerque's East Valley. Due to his condition, he was later transferred to a nursing home for Alzheimer's patients. He died in Albuquerque of complications from Alzheimer's disease on Friday, January 20, 2012, shortly after 12 noon, aged 77.

Public Visitation and Vigil Service were celebrated at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 131 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe, as was Mass of Christian Burial on Thursday, January 26, at 10.00 am., followed by private internment.

  • Created by: Eman Bonnici
  • Added: 22 Jan 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 83825863
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  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Robert Fortune Sanchez (20 Mar 1934–20 Jan 2012), Find A Grave Memorial no. 83825863, citing Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA ; Maintained by Eman Bonnici (contributor 46572312) .