“Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy names and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up and I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place.” -St. Francis of Assisi, Testament
On the evening of Saturday, March 19, 2016, Monica Orozco (Director of the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library) and I were treated to hearing these words of St. Francis spoken in four different languages from the north, south, east, and west corners of the conference space at “. . . A Becoming Place,” the brand new Provincial Archive and Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Four friars of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Province stood around those gathered at the dedication of the new archive and recited in Latin, Spanish, Navajo, and English the verse that inspired the name of the new center.
When we arrived on Friday, Monica and I were able to tour around the new archive with Provincial Archivist Cathy Pierce, OFS; Minister Provincial Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM; and members of the Board of the Academy of American Franciscan History. With state of the art compact shelving, a colorful reading room, and framed photographs that pay tribute to past archivists of the Guadalupe Province, the new archive is a beautiful home for the treasures in their collection.
The Inaugural Symposium began Friday night with David Hurst Thomas, PhD, Curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, who gave a talk on his work on Franciscan Missions sites of the Southeast and Southwest and the connection with the Franciscan Order in the United States. Archaeology, he posited, provides researchers with another type of “archive.” Saturday’s symposium featured a variety of presentations from archivists and scholars. Monica and I each presented talks on the collections housed within the Provincial Archive of the Province of Saint Barbara and the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library. During the course of the day there was time for reflection, questions, and responses that gave the Symposium a comfortable, relaxed, yet scholarly feel. We were able to chat about issues such as the nature of working with artifacts related to native peoples and the difficulties in digitization. It was encouraging for me to hear stories from friars and lay staff about the ways they solved problems or collaborated together in their work.
After an energetic Palm Sunday celebration of the Eucharist and a feast with everyone in attendance, the weekend came to a close. The hospitality of the friars, festive dedication ceremony, and the new Provincial Archive have left Monica and me dreaming of taking a trip back to Albuquerque in the near future.
(Editor’s Note: Rachel Hatcher has served as Assistant Provincial Archivist for the Province of Saint Barbara since May 2014)