February 26, 2020
San Mateo Church
Saturday before Mass
San Mateo Church Located in San Mateo, New Mexico
Soon after the end of the Civil War, settlers began moving into the area which was to become San Mateo. Large ranches were established and Catholic landowners felt the need for a chapel in the area in which the visiting priests from Cebolleta (Seboyeta) could say Mass. The first was built by the Chavez family. This small building of adobe with a dirt floor was used until a larger chapel was built by the Baca family in the late 1800’s.
Throughout the years the small population was served by the Franciscan Priests from many areas. After Cebolleta, priests came to Mass from San Rafael, Gallup, San Fidel and Grants. When Milan became a parish in 1969, San Mateo became a mission of that Parish.
Some of the priests during the mission years considered building a new church, but they had to abandon this idea, at least for the time being, because not enough funds were available. So they settled with just enlarging the original church and later for scarcity. The flat roof was changed to a gabled roof and a bell tower was added to the front end of the existing building. In 1960 priests received permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament at the church and Mass was said there once weekly on a weekday. The Mass schedule gradually increased, and on October 15, 1981, San Mateo became a parish. Father Adalberto de Gante was assigned as the first pastor to the San Mateo parish. In 1982, a structure was obtained for a rectory. Later a small parish hall was built behind the church.
The closing of the uranium mines was devastating to the local economy and soon the community was drastically reduced in size as many people moved away to where there were jobs available. The rectory was sold and the parish was reverted to the status of being a mission of St. Vivian’s in Milan, whose priests would say Mass at San Mateo once a week.
In 2004, a faulty heater caused a disastrous fire that severely damaged the walls and roof of the church. Although the local community is much reduced from its size during the boom years, there were enough pledges of support which coupled with adequate reimbursement from insurance enabled the building of a new church. This church resembled the previous structure as much as possible while still conforming to modern fire and construction codes. Bishop Donald E. Pelotte dedicated this new church building in 2005. Mass continues to be said there once a week, and the pastor is the pastor of the Four Parishes Community of St. Teresa’s, St. Vivian’s, San Rafael And San Mateo.