Our Lady of Light, Lamy, New Mexico

As with so many other churches in small northern New Mexico communities, the combination of diminishing population and loss of traditional social patterns brought about the gradual abandonment of Our Lady of Light in Lamy, originally built in 1900. By 1988, the building was considered unsafe for occupancy, and was closed by Archbishop Sheehan in 1994. An out-of-town visitor commented several years ago, “This place is a wreck. Might as well tear it down and keep the lot for something useful.” What they didn’t take into account though, was the fierce affection Lamy residents, both Catholic and non, feel for their church. Today, residents of this tiny village 17 miles south of Santa Fe are demonstrating that affection with action.

With help from Cornerstones, the community formed the Lamy Community Association, a not-for-profit organization that now owns the building. The Association acquired title to the building and has begun a major, multi-year restoration effort. As part of the agreement negotiated with the former owners of the building, the Association pledged to donate $75,000 in cash, materials and contributed labor for the restoration. This was a huge task for a community of only 150 but in June 2000, they met their goal. Using the Conditions Assessment Report completed by Cornerstones staff, the community started out working on the roof: replacing cracked rafters, removing old asphalt shingles, and installing a new steel roof while carefully maintaining the original pressed tin ceiling. They stripped most of the old cement plaster from the exterior and plan to replace it with a lime rendering.

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