The birth of a religious institution or ministry often begins with a charismatic person or founder. In the case of Holy Cross Catholic Retreat Center, they were two: Bishop Sidney M. Metzger of the Diocese of El Paso and Father Owen de Silva of the Franciscan Friars, Santa Barbara Province, California.

Bishop Metzger had long dreamed of having a facility in his Diocese to which God’s people might come to find respite “from the cares of the world…” He wanted a spot where souls could be at peace with the Lord. Through the generous response of the Santa Barbara Friars, the Bishop’s dream became a reality in 1954.

That year, a decision was made to buy land in the Mesilla Valley of Southern New Mexico on which to build a retreat center. The first retreat was in September 1957.

After over 55 years of service to God’s people, we reflect upon the many people who have come to this “sacred” space. We desire to continue the rich tradition over the years and we invite you to join with us in making our dreams and desires a reality.

We continue to invest in the growth and maintenance of Holy Cross Retreat center so that it will yield a rich harvest in time and in eternity. With your support during these 50 years and more, Holy Cross Retreat was able to thrive and expand and extend a welcome to priests, women and men of religious orders, recovering alcoholics, married couples, engaged couples, lay women and men, youth, cancer patients and the various religious denominations who come here. All come “seeking” a sacred space to spend time with God.

In 1981, a group of recovering alcoholics, anxious to make available to those who would follow after them the rich spiritual blessings they received during a retreat at Holy Cross, established a Foundation for the support of the Retreat Center. The Holy Cross Retreat Foundation continues to provide financial assistance for maintenance, renovation, and expansion of the facility. They also provide support for retreat programs.

Reflecting with deep gratitude, a member of that group said, “The retreat which I made at Holy Cross not only saved my business but, more importantly, it restored to me my wife and family.” Because of the generosity of these three great men — Riley Brown, Bill Burton and John Clifford — dividends from that Foundation have made it possible for us to resurface the road leading to the Retreat Center, replace the roof of the old house Atrium, install individual air conditioners in each retreat room, and complete many other projects. It is very obvious what good-hearted people can accomplish when they work together.

We are grateful, it needs to be noted, to all those Friars who have gone before us: Owen de Silva, John Altman, Eric O’Brien and Mario Vasquez, to mention but a few of the Santa Barbara Friars; and, from our own Province, Killian Spechner, John Curran, Francisco Gomez, Raymond Ramos, Dominic Manion, Michael Wright, Giles Carie, Bruno Nemcosky, Noel Kramer, Josh Duplissey, Marcos Reyna, John Weber, Sebastian Cunningham, Cyprian Uline, Mike Austin, Bob Roddy, and Miguel Briseño. Recognition and thanks are extended to each of these men for their dedicated work at Holy Cross Retreat.

The following was compiled by Tom Smith OFM Conv. using deeds, original documents, letters, etc. in the HCR archives, Province Archives, and conversations with friars.

If you see errors or can add more information, please contact Fr. Tom.


James Buchanan, Secretary of State, confirmed the rights of the Escarate family to farm the property surrounding the current retreat center.

Frank Monaghan bought 90 acres of the Escarate grant, coming from Riverside, CA for reasons of health.

The original historic house was constructed by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Monaghan with adobe fashioned right on the property. The house had 14 rooms around a central patio.

Frank Monaghan died, and in 1927, his wife also died, leaving the house and ranch to her sister, Shirley Thomas. In 1947 Miss Thomas died and willed the property to her foster daughter, Beatrice White, who had married Henry Fountain, of the original Albert Fountain family. By 1954 the couple decided that the house and property was too much to care for and decided to sell part of the property, and build a smaller home on the remainder of the property.