Longtime leader of Pueblo Diocese laid to rest
BY ANTHONY A. MESTAS |
The Most Rev. David L. Ricken still can see the late Arthur N. Tafoya pointing his "crooked" right index finger at him when the former bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo was about to offer some advice.The Most Rev. David L. Ricken still can see the late Arthur N. Tafoya pointing his "crooked" right index finger at him when the former bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo was about to offer some advice.
"He was often very affirming with those he shared his life in ministry. But as a shepherd, he certainly was not above the moment of opportune paternal correction when he deemed it necessary," Ricken said during Tafoya's funeral Mass on Tuesday at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
"Some of you might remember that crooked right index finger on the right hand and the intense look through the top of the rim of his glasses that let you know that you were about to get an insightful correction that you knew was true but you didn't want to hear at the time," he added, drawing laughs from the faithful gathered in the church.
Ricken, who was ordained a priest by Tafoya in 1980 at a small church in La Junta, was homilist at the funeral Mass.
Tafoya, the servant shepherd of the sprawling Diocese of Pueblo for 29 years, died March 24 in his hometown of Santa Fe, N.M. He was 85.
Current Pueblo Bishop Stephen Berg presided over the Mass that included eight other bishops, 51 priests, 20 brothers and nuns and 22 deacons. Among the bishops was Berg's predecessor, Bishop Fernando Isern.
The Cathedral was packed with Tafoya's family and designated guests. There were 400 people in attendance. The public was able to watch the hour-and-a-half-long funeral Mass live-streamed on screens at nearby Memorial Hall.
"It was about two years ago that Bishop Arthur asked me to preach this homily at his funeral. Well, I didn't even want to think about it," Ricken said.
Ricken, bishop in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., said that Tafoya wanted him to stay close to the text of the Scriptures and not to talk too much about him.
"I said, 'OK, Bishop, I'll do my very best.' My second thought was, 'Good luck with that,' " he said with a laugh from the audience.
The readings were from the Book of Wisdom.
Ricken said the quality of the life Tafoya led and the generosity in which he shared his life with so many is something for which to be very grateful.
"In the last months of his emeritus years, his years of retirement, he suffered greatly and was definitely tried by his suffering," Ricken said.
Ricken said Tafoya told him during telephone calls that he was carrying the cross of Jesus.
>Ricken said Tafoya told him during telephone calls that he was carrying the cross of Jesus.
"When I visited him last year, I could easily see him generously carrying and bearing the suffering of the Lord," Ricken said.
Ricken said Tafoya was called to be a priest at a very young age and that as a boy, had already developed a life of prayer. His mother taught him the faith.
"He lived his ministry listening to people's needs. Listening to their hearts and considered it a joy to journey with people in their lives," Ricken said.
Tafoya was ordained into the priesthood on May 12, 1962, and was ordained bishop on Sept. 10, 1980.
"I had the privilege of being ordained by him very shortly after the transition from beloved Bishop (Charles) Buswell to Bishop Tafoya," Ricken said.
He joked that Tafoya once asked him if he'd want to go on to doctoral studies.
"I said to him, 'Bishop, I just want to get ordained a priest,' " Ricken said, followed by laughs.
Ricken said Tafoya often told him that the people would teach him more theology than all of his years studying in the seminary.
"Listen to the people. Love the people. Lead and serve the people. I found his words to be very, very true and tried to live by them."
He said Tafoya constantly was reaching out to the faith community across Southern Colorado and began a diocesan process called "Our Journey Together."
"As I look back, I see that he was way ahead of his times. Now Pope Francis is talking about encountering and accompaniment and calling the entire Church to be missionary, a community of missionaries," Ricken said.
"He personally never yielded on his passion to move the Gospel forward and to assist the Church here even in and through very difficult times of suffering and struggle."
Ricken said Tafoya's finest hour was when he brought the community together in forgiveness when two beloved priests in Pueblo were murdered in cold blood.
"I saw him weep tears of agony and rise from that very pain to lead this community through the paths of forgiveness to mercy and healing. I am in awe of that."
He said Tafoya loved to celebrate the Mass and engage the assembly in stories, which always endeared the people to him while opening up the heart to hear the message of the Gospel.
"Arthur Nicholas Tafoya, well done, good and faithful servant."
Berg said the Mass was a beautiful tribute to a very fine man.
"It's just something that you can't summarize a life that has been this full. A life that was this humble and quiet with all the accomplishments that he made over 29 years," Berg said.
"He touched so many people in all of the valleys. The poor people. He touched the people over the Western Slope, Hispanics. He brought many missionary priests in from Nigeria. It was all represented here today."
The video below is courtesy of The Pueblo Chieftain