Fr. Casimiro Roca, SF, the father of Chimayo
Having entered the seminary of San Andres at age eleven, Fr. Casimiro Roca celebrated sixty years as a priest on August 15, 2003. An avid and staunch suporter of his principles, Fr. Casimiro Roca has accomplished much in his lifetime.
Born in Mura, Spain, on July 24,1918, he was only eighteen years old when he participated in Spain’s Civil War in 1936. Later he served in a military hospital caring for the wounded.
Picking up from where the Civil War interrupted his studies in 1936, he continued at El Santuario Della Madonna del Carmen at Chieti, Italy. It was there he took his vows on August 15,1943, celebrating his first Mass on September 5, and remaining in Italy until 1945. After this he became a teacher to seminarians in Spain, returning to Rome in 1949, then again to Spain in 1950.
At age 33, Fr. Roca came to America, and was assigned to parishes in California, Colorado and finally to Santa Cruz, New Mexico.
In 1955, Archibishop Byrne assigned him the task of beginning a new parish in Chimayo. The only standing church building there was the Santuario de Chimayo with its surrounding "capillitas" (small village chapels).
With deep faith and the help of his new parishioners, Fr. Roca built a church in Truchas, Holy Rosary, then a parish hall in Chimayo which doubled as a church until a beautiful new church, Holy Family, was completed in 1967.
In 1968, Fr. Roca celebrated his silver anniversary as a priest in Spain. Thereafter he was assigned to Greely, Colorado, before returning to Chimayo in 1977.
He spent three years in Albuquerque’s St. Therese before returning to Chimayo again in 1984, where he has remained. He recently wrote his memoirs, and is now retired although he still serves the people of Chimayo and the pilgrims and tourists at El Santuario.
"The Little Priest", as he is affectionately called by many, has accomplished big things and has the spiritual welfare of the people of this Northern New Mexico village engraved in his heart.