We decided the best way to give you a flavor of Santa Fe was to interview people who live here – We’d like to introduce you to Father Earl Rohleder, Sculptor, Activist and Priest.
I grew up in Indiana with 2 brothers – we lived on the edge of Jasper. The town was largely German Catholic so I learned a great work ethic and had a wonderful childhood running free with lots of other kids. I became a priest partly because I discovered the Young Christian Workers, lay folks from the international Cardinal Cardine Catholic Action Movement – I realized that being a priest could also involve social action.
I retired and moved to Santa Fe in 2003. I came to Albuquerque in 1991/92 for a sabbatical and I knew then this was where I wanted to retire.
I had 4 reasons to come to Santa Fe:
I live just off Zia Road and St. Francis Drive – it’s a very central location in Santa Fe.
It’s a small neighborhood, homey, nothing fancy with nice people. It’s minutes from the Plaza, the churches, and most especially St. Mike’s School
No, when I arrived I actually stayed downtown, Father Jerome took me in. I loved being able to walk around downtown and be inspired by the architecture. I moved out to Rancho Viejo for a short period of time but then I had the opportunity to rent this home from a youth pastor who was leaving the area.
I don’t need to “make a living”, I’m happily retired but this gives me time to sculpt junk metal.
Sculpturing in metal started out as a hobby but I found I loved it and since I am now retired I can devote more time to it. I learned it from a brother in St. Louis on a retreat. During my sabbatical here, I had the great privilege of working with Bob Haouous, son of Alan Houser. I was hired for the summer to do grunt work – grinding, cutting and tedious labor on a large sculpture he was doing. But I got to absorb everything he did; this gave me more confidence to make this medium my own. Until my retirement I worked on pieces as much as I could. Since retirement here I am able to work 3 days a week. I have a wonderful workshop over at St. Michael’s school.
I now hold 2 Art Shows every year and sell my art. Since the beginning I did not do this to make money for me but to raise money to send teenagers to third world countries so they can become world citizens. I had the opportunity to travel in my early 20’s and it changed my life. After 9/11 some of us were sitting around talking about how to help bring peace to our world and we realized that we could help young people become world citizens, learn other cultures and meet the people this would go a long way to understanding. We formed a group and have now sent teams to Haiti and Honduras every year until 2018 (we stopped because of political unrest but hope to resume again after the COVID pandemic on full cultural immersion programs. At one point we had 23 sister churches in Haiti which meant that this wasn’t just a one-time trip but an on-going connection for the kids.
There are several things I love but here’s a few of my top things:
You can live a simple life here – housing may cost more but to actually live in the area is less expensive than other paces. There’re many opportunities to help those who are less fortunate than us – it’s a great way to get involved in the community. There are beautiful people here – one of the first things I would suggest you do is attend a Native American dance.