Priests share remembrances of Bishop Tafoya

By Ginny Revel
During the 29 years that he served as bishop for the Diocese of Pueblo, Arthur Nicolas Tafoya endeared himself to many people, and especially to his fellow priests.

The clergy were continually inspired by his episcopal leadership, his humility in a variety of situations, his unwavering focus on God and his dedicated service to the needs of his flock.

Father Nat Foshage, OSB

Father Nat Foshage, OSB remembers Bishop Tafoya as a close friend from their seminary days. Even then, Arthur was a man of prayer, as well as an inspiration to those dedicated to the pursuit of good health and exercise. During his annual 4th of July visits to Ouray, the two would hike the local mountains to keep cool, before viewing the holiday parade. Bishop Tafoya often traveled to all four of Father Nat’s parishes where he’d concelebrate Masses and preach. “He treated each parish as if it belonged to him,” said Father Nat, “and the parishioners enjoyed being special to their Bishop.”

“He functioned easily in both the secular and the ecclesiastical realms. That ability was a big part of his charism as priest and bishop.” Father Nat shared that “I miss Arthur and our time together. There’s a void in me that won’t be filled soon.”

Father Joseph Vigil

A shared heritage from Northern New Mexico created an instant connection between Bishop Tafoya and Father Joseph Vigil, when they met at the Abbey in Canon City. Bishop Arthur invited Vigil to join the Diocese of Pueblo, which he did in 2004.

“Arthur was a great mentor and a close friend,” Vigil remarked. “At my ordination he said to me, ‘Joseph, be a pastoral and holy priest and love the people.’ I will always remember those powerful words.”

In Father Vigil’s eyes, “the Bishop was first and foremost a man of deep prayer. He was supportive, personal and warm. He always gave me great advice and ‘Consejos’ (‘words of wisdom’). He touched my life profoundly.”

Msgr. Tom Adrians

The Bishop was a model of strong leadership to Msgr. Tom Adrians, who served as vicar general in the Chancery office for nine years during Tafoya’s episcopacy. “Working closely with Arthur enabled me to view firsthand his leadership style, which I then applied to my own ministry,” Msgr. Adrians commented.

“Even when we were relaxing during a hiking vacation in the mountains, the Bishop carved out quality prayer time with the Lord. Seeing how this man was able to balance his pastoral duties with a strong prayer life seriously impacted my priesthood. I learned to emulate him,” said Msgr. Adrians.

Father Carlos Alvarez

Father Carlos Alvarez’ relationship with Bishop Tafoya had some interesting ups and downs.

Before being confirmed, he and his brother, Dominick, were invited to meet with the Bishop, along with the other candidates. Unfortunately, the Alvarez boys got lost trying to find his residence and had to write the Bishop a letter of apology.

Years later, as a newly ordained deacon, he, Derek Scott and some other seminarians enjoyed a Christmas Eve dinner with Bishop Arthur. “The meal was exquisite and his hospitality echoed that of Jesus at the Last Supper. Instead of a Bishop, he modeled our parish priest, a true servant shepherd. He became a true spiritual father to me,” shared Father Carlos.

Father Don Malin

Bishop Tafoya’s warm compassion and personal sanctity inspired Father Don Malin and shaped his priesthood.

While Malin was discerning his vocation, he was notified that his application to Conception Abbey was rejected.

The Bishop, sensing Don’s devastation, met with him and told him, “I know you have a vocation as you’re already being crucified. You are my seminarian. Don’t worry, I will find a place for you.” A few months later Malin found himself at Sacred Heart School of Theology where he completed his studies and was ordained a priest for the Pueblo diocese on June 6, 2003.

On the eve of this ordination, Bishop Tafoya exacted some tough promises from Father Don: “Never let people call you by your first name. Always demand respect for your priesthood by being called Father Don or Father Malin.” Second, “Whenever you’re in your parish or the diocese, wear your clerics. Be a silent witness by your clothing to your vocation as a man dedicated to God.” Finally, “Celebrate Mass every day. This sacred liturgy is the best reminder and expression of your identity as a priest.”

Father Don took these admonitions to heart and fulfills them on a daily basis in honor of Bishop Tafoya’s love and concern for him, his priest.

Father Tomas Carvajal-Basto, CR

“It’s the little things I remember about Bishop Tafoya that remain in my heart,” said Father Tomas Carvajal-Basto, CR. “Like the day I encountered the Bishop frying eggs in the kitchen of the Theatine Provincial House, or the time I brought him some chocolate-filled cakes and the Bishop’s eyes lit up with delight. Or the chance meeting I had with him in the middle of a sea of people filling St. Peter’s Square in Rome.”

“I looked up and saw Bishop Tafoya in the crowd and I started yelling until I caught his attention. What a blessing to connect with him so far from home, when I was desperately homesick. I was so happy to see him!”

After Fr. Tomas’ ordination, he served under Bishop Tafoya for several years as the diocesan Hispanic Ministry representative. He remembers sharing many lunches and daily prayer with Bishop Arthur.

“I love him so much. He was like a father to me. We were very close. It was a privilege to know him.” Fr. Tomas was the last priest ordained by the Bishop before his retirement.