Bishop Tafoya passes away at age 85

By Katie Chrisman
Bishop Emeritus Arthur N. Tafoya passed away March 24 at his home in Albuquerque. He was 85. Bishop Tafoya served as the third bishop of Pueblo from 1980 to 2009.

For those 29 years, he ministered to parishioners in all corners of the diocese and was known for his affinity for being with the people.

He created the permanent diaconate, created the Diocese of Pueblo Catholic Foundation, brought the Poor Clare sisters to Pueblo and emphasized the role of the laity in the Church.

The vigil service for Bishop Tafoya was held April 9 and his funeral on April 10 at the Cathedral in Pueblo. In both services he was remembered through many personal stories from close friends, Deacon Jake Arellano, the homilist at the vigil and Bishop David Ricken, priest of the diocese who now serves as the bishop of Green Bay, Wisc., the homilist at the funeral. Deacon Arellano, who worked as Bishop Tafoya’s assistant, recalled humorous moments on the golf course, bringing laughter from the assembled crowd. He also joked about how he would wag his crooked finger in his stern yet loving way that only Bishop Tafoya could pull off. Beyond all those close, funny moments, Arellano dug deeper into the heart of Bishop Tafoya’s motto as “servant shepherd.” A servant shepherd was how he lived out his episcopacy.

“He wasn’t just a shepherd of the people, he was a servant of the people,” Arellano said. He called him “a man who had true love for the people.”

Arellano went on to describe Bishop Tafoya as “a man of deep prayer; a man of deep forgiveness and a man who was truly humble.”

At the vigil, Bishop Stephen Berg also offered some of his own remarks. He spoke about the pep talks he would get in his quick phone calls with Bishop Tafoya. Even though they were short, he said, “For me, I would gain enormous spiritual energy.”

The following day at his funeral Mass, Bishop David Ricken offered a heartfelt homily that intertwined Bishop Tafoya’s life with the readings so carefully chosen by Bishop Tafoya himself. Bishop Tafoya asked Bishop Ricken to deliver his homily when the time came, but with the instructions, “Not much about me, more about the Scriptures.” Bishop Ricken joked, “Good luck with that.”

Bishop Tafoya ordained then Father Ricken two days into his episcopacy. It was Bishop Tafoya’s first ordination.

Prior to Bishop Tafoya’s move to Colorado, he invited Ricken before to his priesthood ordination to a retreat in Santa Fe so they could get to know one another. Bishop Ricken recalled advice Bishop Tafoya gave that he has never forgotten.

“Just remember the people will teach you more theology than all the years you spent studying in the seminary. Listen to the people. Love the people. Lead and serve the people.” Bishop Ricken said, “I have found his words to be very, very true and have tried to live by them.”