Culture Series: Pioneer Priest of Southern New Mexico
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
This month's Culture Series, presented by local historian and author Dawn Santiago, is titled "The Voice in the Wilderness: The Life and Career of Father Pierre Lassaigne, Pioneer Priest of Southern New Mexico."
This free presentation will examine the life and career of pioneer Catholic priest Father Pierre Lassaigne. Born in France, Lassaigne was recruited by Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in 1864 to come to New Mexico Territory. For the next 45 years Padre Pedro, as he became known, faithfully tended to the spiritual needs of the territory’s Catholics, mostly in southern New Mexico.
Over the decades, he also witnessed or became embroiled in some of the seminal events of the frontier’s history. He bravely traveled on horseback, carriage, and train to tend to his far-flung flock, facing such dangers as Apache attacks. As he visited these broadly scattered settlements he said Mass and conducted marriages, baptisms, and funerals. He also endeavored to protect his Hispanic parishioners, and consequently, played a role in such events as the Tularosa Ditch War and the feud between the Horrell Brothers and Hispanic settlers in Lincoln County.
After serving as the pastor at Tularosa and Ysleta, Texas, Lassaigne in 1881 was assigned to St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Las Cruces. There, he remained for twenty-eight years, overseeing a growing and changing population. He worked to improve the church in all aspects, including overseeing the building of a new building that ultimately towered above the town, becoming the iconic landmark of Las Cruces. He also became intimately involved with community affairs, and upon his death in 1909, many attended the funeral of Padre Pedro who had so faithfully served those of southern New Mexico.