The whole area known as Santa Cruz de la Cañada had been without a resident priest for some time. Fr. Salvador Gené knew of the place, however, because he had previously given various missions there. The Archbishop thought it best that this little group should take charge of this very extensive parish with all its many dependent chapels scattered throughout the northern territory above Santa Fe, including a few among various Indian tribes. Having finalized the necessary transactions and received the pertinent instructions, the first Sons of the Holy Family began the last leg of their journey to Santa Cruz de la Cañada. Their arrival happened on the 24th or 25th of August, 1920.
Fr. Gené informed the Curia General in Barcelona, Spain, of his own first impressions:
“The Archbishop told us that we should take charge of the very extensive parish of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, which is an area already known to me personally because of having given missions there before. Yet I find it somewhat difficult to express my real satisfaction regarding our presence here. It is indeed a very large parish, but I retain excellent hopes of our being able to accomplish much good, not only for our Congregation, but also for the Church, for this Archdiocese, and especially for the people of God throughout the surrounding area.
The first thing we have to do is fix up the house we are to live in: we found it just with its bare walls standing. But with the help of God, everything will turn out all right. As I say, there is a large population and the parish embraces more than 20 other towns and villages, all of which depend on Santa Cruz for religious coverage. Last, but not least, there is a garden to one side of the house. It appears to be much larger than the one we have at St. Andrew of Palomar. It has been abandoned for some time now, but I am sure it will soon be put back in proper condition.”
At the time that the Sons of the Holy Family priests took over the parish of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, it comprised the following 25 towns and villages. Within Rio Arriba County there were: Santo Niño, Española, Corral de Picosa, Guachupangue, San Pedro, Santa Clara (Indian), and a part of upper Chimayo. Within Santa Fe County there were: Santa Cruz, Nambé Pueblo (Indian), Pojoaque, San Ildefonso (Indian), El Rancho, Polvareda, Cuarteles, La Puebla, Llano, Sombrillo, Pico Chiquito, Jacona, Jaconita, Cuyamungué, Cundiyó, Córdova, Truchas and lower Chimayó.
A couple of these places, like Truchas, Córdova and Cundiyó are in mountainous areas and the few roads that existed at the time were nothing more than gully riverbeds which kept undergoing drastic changes after each torrential rain. The sole means of transportation that our first priests enjoyed were two horse buggies.
The apostolic work carried out by these missionaries Sons of the Holy Family was unpretentious but very dedicated and exemplary. Along with providing the basic and required pastoral care for each of the towns and villages within the boundaries of the extensive parish they also preached as many missions as were requested, not only within their own surrounding territory, but even outside the State of New Mexico. In the words of Fr. Salvador Gené:
“We have also accepted and preached as many missions as were requested for various and necessary reasons, but in particular to spread the devotion of the Holy Family. At each place, no matter where, one of the many sermons is to sing the praises of the Family of Nazareth Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to present this divinely constituted Family as the model of all Christian families, and to consecrate all the families of the area to the Holy Family.”
On completing their first year of apostolic work at Santa Cruz, the small community was joined by Fr. Agustín Vilalta and Bro. Andrew Solé who, on 25 August, 1921, had left their own beloved Spain aboard the steamship “Montserrat.” Fr. Gené continues the account:
“Since there was so much territory to cover, we distributed among the four of us the main towns and villages in a way that would allow us to make one or two monthly visits to each of them, according to their need and the importance of the occasion. It goes without saying that there were always services at Santa Cruz and every Sunday and holy days of obligation in the more populated towns of San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Chimayó and Truchas. We tried to visit all the places on fixed days of the week each month by letting the people know in advance.”
During his pastoral visit in 1927, the Archbishop supported the idea of Fr. Gené and the other priests regarding the building of a parochial school in Santa Cruz. At the beginning of 1928, Fr. Gené, as pastor of Santa Cruz, petitioned the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to teach in the parish. Upon their consent, a convent was built next to the church for them to live in.
The Sisters taught first in the public schools until 1948, at which time a parish school of some sort began to function with the full support of the parishioners and the use of different buildings for classrooms, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Fr. Pedro Siguán SF. In the mid-fifties, however, after Fr. Agustín Cortés SF had been made pastor, he undertook the construction of a completely new school building because of the deterioration and insufficiency of the existing buildings.
With the passage of time, there was a constant increase in the overall population and new developments were beginning to spring up all around the territory. During the World War II period, there unfolded on the outskirts of the parish the now well-known government project of Los Alamos, which had a definite impact on the life and culture of the whole Española and Santa Fe areas. With the new people and the new jobs came also new challenges and needs. The time had come for larger areas to be broken up into smaller and more manageable ones, and so there began the establishment of many new independent parishes throughout the whole area.
By 1958, the parish of Santa Cruz had been left with the following missions: La Puebla, Cuarteles, El Llano, La Mesilla, San Pedro and Santo Niño. Such is its composition to this day.