BELENAll dressed in white, 100-plus members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court 1359 in Belen gathered in the Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church parish center after Mass on Sunday, Feb. 11, for a time of celebration.  

For the last 80 years, the court has served the community in numerous ways, supporting youth and adults alike through prayer and action. 

During the Mass and the reception that followed, eight members of the court were recognized for their more than 50 years of service.  

The second-largest missionary organization at Our Lady of Belen, following the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters embrace the principle of faith in the promotion of justice, equality and the advancement of human rights and human dignity for all. 

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos
Eight members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court 1359, Our Lady of Belen, were recognized for their individual 50-plus years of service to the court. The 2024 lifetime members, in order of years served, are Mary Ann Sanchez, 74 years; Mary Jane Sanchez, 74 years; Virginia Chavez, 71 years; Filomena Baca, 67 years; Ursula Sanchez, 66 years; Terry Gallegos, 65 years; Frances Gallegos, 62 years; Rita Montoya, 58 years; Gloria Trujillo, 54 years; Martha Marquez, 52 years; and Hilda Hidalgo, 51 years.

For Aimee Chavez, joining CDA 13 years ago was a calling. 

“They do a lot for the community and you get to know your community,” Chavez said. “I enjoy the camaraderie between the sisters.” 

Members from the Belen court’s sister chapters joined in the 80th anniversary celebration, including Mountainair chapter regent Juanita Candelaria, who said she and other members made the trip because the Belen court has always supported its sisters on the other side of the mountain. 

“When we hold events, there are always a group from Belen who come join us,” Candelaria said, who has been a member for 10 years. “They support us and we support them.” 

Filomena Baca, a member of the Belen court since 1956, sought out the service organization after she experienced a double tragedy — she lost her 9-month-old baby, then, six months later, lost her son. At the time her parish priest gave her the advice that has led her to almost 68 years of service. 

“The best way to heal is to serve others,” Baca said.  

After hearing Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester’s homily during the Mass, Belen Mayor Robert Noblin said he was so moved by the archbishop’s words he abandoned his prepared remarks for the celebration. 

“As a government, we are asked what we’re doing to help those in need. Often we are bound by laws and budgets,” Noblin said. “Thanks to the work of our citizens and many compassionate organizations, one of which is the Catholic Daughters, we’re able to do more for our community and those who need the most. Those who are taking the reins next, the next generation, we wish you all the best. Thank you for what you do for the community.” 

Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester speaks to those in attendance at the court’s celebration reception.

During his remarks, Wester said one of the attributes emphasized in Pope Francis’ three-year Synod on Synodality, which was opened in Rome in October 2021, is lay leadership, which is what the Catholic Daughters of Belen have been doing for 80 years. 

“They’re 80 years ahead of the Pope,” Wester said. “You are putting faith into practice in all the teeny ways you reach out to the community. You are a source of pride for the whole archdiocese.” 

The archbishop continued, calling the chapter a “gem in the archdiocese. You are faithful servants and living the gospel.” 

CDA Court 1359, which was formed on Feb. 20, 1944, has several sister courts, which it has sponsored in Mountainair, Los Lunas and Socorro. The last charter member of CDA 1359, Sebastine “Sabie” Torres Romero, died in 2022 at age 100. 

Catholic Daughters of the Americas was founded in 1903 by the Knights of Columbus in Utica, N. Y. The CDA motto is “Unity and Charity,” and the seven spokes the Catholic Daughters adhere to include life, youth, legislation, education, spiritual, leadership and projects.  

The local court meets once a month to plan local activities, which range from holding a girl’s athletic dinner in April to a Christmas House Tour, which raises money to buy school supplies and clothes for local students.  

They also sponsor Berlie’s Arts and Crafts Fair in November, as well as distributing white ribbons for its anti-pornography campaign, participates in the annual Rosary Rally and provides groceries to needy families at Thanksgiving. 


What’s your Reaction?

Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.