Hachita’s Saint Catherine of Sienna — honoring a mother

St. Catherine of Sienna church in Hachita. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks.
St. Catherine of Sienna church in Hachita.

A schoolhouse built in Hatchita, New Mexico, with WPA (Works Progress Administration) funds in the 1930s was overlooked in the Treasures of New Mexico Trails by Kathryn A. Flynn, a book on New Deal Art and Architecture. No doubt the reason is that it had been renovated and made into a church, obscuring the fact that it had been a school many years ago.

My husband and I were driving NM Highway 9 from El Paso to Rodeo early in March. When we came to Hachita, 45 miles west of Columbus, Hal, who is an incorrigible "wonder where that road goes," drove through the small village. In so doing, we discovered a most unique church, Saint Catherine of Sienna. It was locked, so we drove on and stopped at The Egg Nest for lunch. When we talked to the proprietor we asked about the church. He said, "If you want to see it, I have the key," then pointed out the copy of its history. Totally intrigued now, we borrowed the key and drove the few blocks back to the church.

Its history is a testament to one man’s promise to his mother on her death bed that he would build a church dedicated to her memory and her Saint, Catherine of Sienna. The history does not indicate whether or not he purchased the building and land, although that is the assumption since he was a successful business man. He considered the church to be his most important achievement.

Daniel Suozzi spent many years renovating the building with the help of many Hachita residents. He made many journeys to Buffalo, New York, his home town, in search of treasures for his church. Older churches and cathedrals were being demolished there, so he was always able to add many items to his collection.

He built a forty-five foot bell tower, then installed two 800 pound solid bronze bells that were cast in 1902. The beautiful stations of the cross were crafted in Germany in 1830, are made of hand cast plaster and hand painted, each weighing about 150 pounds. Wrought iron lamps hang from the ceiling, and the confessional and altars are of beautiful quality.

Bishop Ramirez dedicated the church in December 1982, and its first mass was celebrated.

After the first mass, a gathering was held at Mr. Suozzi’s ranch. There is no resident priest now, but community gatherings are held at the church periodically.

Daniel Suozzi will be well-remembered as a man who honored his church, his mother, and the community that adopted him. Saint Catherine of Sienna Church is a fulfillment of his promise.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks