Rising from the Ashes

Brick by Brick - Small NM Town Rebuilds Its Church - One of the Oldest in the Nation

QUESTA, N.M., Aug. 11, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Eight years ago, while the small village of Questa, NM (just north of Taos) slept, the town's church collapsed, due to old age and years of neglect. The sound of the San Antonio del Rio Colorado's demise reverberated throughout the village. The majestic towers were broken into bits, as were the hearts of the villagers.

Churches in New Mexico are the heart and soul of a community. So when the archdiocese recommended the church be torn down, the community decided to take matters into their own hands – literally.

The villagers had virtually no funding. But what they had instead was their willingness to work hard and centuries of traditional building techniques that were passed on from their ancestors. They committed to rebuild the church themselves within six years – so the archdiocese acquiesced.

With 100 percent volunteer labor and private donations, the village members, families and friends, set out to rebuild the church – brick by brick, committed to rebuilding and restoring the history of the village.

"This project is even more special because we rebuilt this church the same way it was originally built—as a group of faithful community members working together and making decisions together to have a beautiful place to worship," said Malaquias Rael, former Mayor of Questa and Spokesperson for the restoration committee.

As if that wasn't enough, in the midst of rebuilding the church, the Village faced a severe economic blow, when their nearly 100-year-old molybdenum mine—the major employer for most of the locals—closed in 2014.

Even in the face of disaster and economic turmoil, the Village stood together, fueled by their faith, and proved their persistence on the project at hand. Resulting from these efforts, the church is restored, modernized and safer than ever before, and those in Questa see this rebuilding of the church as a revitalization of their community and a rebirth of potential for visitors. August 14, 2016 – one year ahead of schedule – the project is complete, and the church will be rededicated back to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

"The restoration of the church has by far been the most positive thing that has happened in Questa in a long time," said Robert Ortega, President of the San Antonio del Rio Colorado Historical Preservation Group. "This is something that the whole community can cheer about and couldn't have been accomplished without the help of all the volunteers who made it all possible. The restored church is the heart of our community and the legacy of our ancestors."

A project of this scope required intense dedication with volunteer crews meeting Monday through Thursday for half workdays and each Saturday for a full workday—with the total reaching over 40,000 hours of volunteer labor, according to Project Manager Mark Sideris. Of the nature of the volunteers, Sideris added "Questa has proven to have more spirit and more faith than a community ten times its size, and together we have preserved both the traditional appearance and the legacy of the church."

Crews worked tirelessly, using any available resources to remove and rebuild the east and west adobe walls and strengthen the structure, all while keeping true to the church's legacy and restoring vital historical pieces like the traditional choir loft and cathedral windows. Bringing the volunteer efforts full circle, local artists have contributed their talents to provide the church with stained glass windows, intricate hand-carved doors and more.

"This has been a genuine, heartfelt effort by all in the community," said Former Questa Mayor, Esther Garcia. "We have seen faith displayed, and together, we have breathed new life into this incredible piece of history."

"Standing together to preserve our historic church, Questa has shown its resilience and tenacity," added Mayor Mark Gallegos. "This project has brought our community together, and I'm proud of the work and volunteerism that has been exhibited here."

The celebration of rededication will take place at noon at the San Antonio Church, located at 10 Church Plaza. Following the celebration, the names and hours worked of each volunteer, as well as the rosaries of the prayer team who met daily during construction, will be placed into a time capsule to be opened on the 100th anniversary of the church's rededication.

Photos accompanying this release are available at:



Photo Credit - Carrie Leven Rebuilt Choir Loft - Photo Credit Carrie Leven

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