Tijeras community protests priest who 'has divided community' | KOB 4

Tijeras community protests priest who 'has divided community'

Joy Wang
April 21, 2018 03:46 PM

TIJERAS, N.M. – Church and religion usually have a way of uniting people, but on Sunday morning it led to a divided community in the East Mountains.


The sight probably wasn't what you expect to see if you are heading to Sunday mass; 30 people lined the road leading up to the church with a strong message for the man leading the service inside.

"He has divided the community," protester Teresa Arementa said.

Arementa has lived in Tijeras for decades, but she said over the last 15 years Father Mark Granito has made significant changes, like canceling the Fiesta.

"It's tradition. It's part of our culture, it's part of my kid's culture, my husband's. They deserve it," Arementa said. "They're trying to rewrite history, and it's not right."

Granito wouldn't comment on the protest, instead telling KOB reporters they weren't allowed to be on parish property or interview protesters.

"I believe it's his job to bring everybody together, to join us all and be a true leader," Leroy Gonzales said. "That has not happened."

Other allegations against Granito include political discussions in church.

"The preaching of his political preference on the matter doesn't represent the true tenants of the Catholic Church," Gonzales said.

Arementa said when the priest told her husband he needed to pray for what he did in Vietnam, she had had her last day in the church.

Still, they say they hope to enter its doors again, with a different person leading the parish.

"We have a petition of over 100 signatures," Gonzales said. "We also have numerous letters that have been turned to us of incidents from past and current parishioners."

And they're now reaching out to the archdiocese to take action.

"He's taken away our feast day, he's taken away our masses in all the missions, he's taken away our Spanish mass here at Holy Child and our Spanish music," Arementa said.

A parishioner at the church reached out to the KOB after this report aired and provided the following letter:

"On Sunday, April 15th, a small group of parishioners holding picket signs outside a church, demanding the removal of its priest, got the attention of the ABQ Journal / Associated Press, as well as that of local TV station KOB, which broadcast a video report of the event.  Our local community’s MountainView Telegraph newspaper also weighed in with their version of the protest, as well as the protestors’ motives.  The issue presented so far is one-sided and I want to weigh in with a different perspective.

I am a member of the parish in question, Holy Child Catholic Church in Tijeras, NM, which includes the nearby mission churches of Chilili, Escobosa, San Antonito, San Antonio and Carnuel. 

All of these churches in Holy Child Parish are served by a single, hard-working, and, to most of us parishioners, beloved priest, the Rev. Mark Granito.  In addition to celebrating an evening Vigil Mass on Saturday, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe policy limits our priest to serving no more than three Masses on Sunday: two at the main church, Holy Child, in Tijeras, and an 8:00am Mass alternating between the two largest mission churches in Escobosa and Chilili, the latter of which features a wonderful Spanish-language choir.

Fr. Granito also celebrates a daily Mass on Monday through Thursday in Tijeras, and on Friday evenings, celebrates Mass to the other mission churches in Carnuel, San Antonio and San Antonito once a month.

All of these Masses are conducted in English, because Fr. Granito is not fluent in Spanish and nearly all of the parishioners, even most of the Hispanic ones, speak English.  He did not “end Spanish Mass” because there never was an official “Spanish Mass” at Holy Child church when he was assigned here in 2004.

A number of years ago, Fr. Tom Steele, a Jesuit priest from another parish who was fluent in Spanish, would travel to the East Mountains to help our pastors and, as a courtesy, would conduct a Spanish-language Mass at some of the mission churches.  Those Masses ended when Fr. Steele died, not because Fr. Granito did away with them.

As to the protesters’ claim that Fr. Granito “halted Spanish music in the church”, that, too, is false - all of the Sunday Masses in Holy Child Parish include Spanish hymns and prayers.  The exception is that every other week, our 12:00 Mass features traditional Latin and English music brought by our Catholic school’s choir director.   Our Spanish music has not been halted, decreased, or in any way tampered with by Fr. Granito who gives artistic latitude to our Hispanic choir director.   Indeed, we have more Spanish music today than we did under his predecessors.

As to the “grievance” set forth in your article, that Fr. Granito allegedly “told a Vietnam veteran that he needed to pray for his actions during the war” - well, Fr. Granito tells us all that we need to pray, without exception.  The Sacraments of the Catholic faith and the Ten Commandments are adhered to by our priest and he does not serve Catholic “lite” to cafeteria Catholics seeking banal spiritual comfort food.  For practicing Catholics, forgiveness of sin comes with a dose of reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance.

Fr. Granito rightly teaches the basic tenants of our Catholic faith, without exception, and that includes advocacy for the unborn.  In a state notorious for being the late-term abortion capital for the nation, that invariably puts him at odds with the pro-choice crowd, be they “Catholic” or otherwise. Preaching for the rights of the unborn from the pulpit no doubt will be construed as being political in the current toxic climate in which our nation is immersed.  I have never heard him discuss politics or make any statement, pro or con, regarding a particular politician during Mass.  Indeed, he is one of the least political people I know.

As for Holy Child parish church fiestas, which the protestors falsely claim have been cancelled,  between May 4th and September 29th, there will be eight fiestas taking place at the parish’s mission churches up and down NM Rt. 14.  These fiestas are spiritually focused and Fr. Granito will be there to celebrate Mass at each one and thereby help keep the festivities anchored in their Catholic faith and their purpose for being celebrated.  Downplaying or ignoring the spiritual aspect of fiestas and focusing on eating, dancing and drinking alcoholic beverages does not win favorable ratings with the Archdiocese.

Yes, there are personal issues of a divisive nature being fomented by a few at Holy Child parish, but the majority of parishioners are focused on our Catholic faith and are thankful for the spiritual leadership and guidance Fr. Granito provides to us on a daily basis."



Joy Wang

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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