A tiny catholic mission deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico is known as “the Lourdes of the West” where physical and spiritual healings take place.
The faithful say the curative powers literally swell-up, out of the earth attracting pilgrims as close as San Antonio and as far as Russia.
“It feels like something’s just rising up and I even thought maybe there’s an electromagnetic force in the earth here. That there’s an energetic, something’s going on in the earth, in this valley or particularly here” said church visitor Jules Hemmen.
Native Americans considered the place holy. And then came the Christian faithful.
History says a bright light led men to a spot where they found a crucifix buried.
On the holy ground a church sprouted and so did stories of miraculous healings.
“Si, I believe. That something happened here, especially the conversions,” Father Casamiro Roca said.
Originally from Barcelona, Spain, Father Casamiro Roca stands just over 5 feet tall.
He says the bishop joked he sent a small priest to look after a small church. That was 50 years ago.
Under his care, El Santuario has become one of the biggest attractions to pilgrims. Nearly 300,000 last year.
“Never I ask anything about miracles here. I have my ideas about the ones I am witness,” said Roca.
Testimonials to those healing adorn the church’s prayer room walls. There are rosaries given in thanksgiving for some prayers answered. Also pictures, and discarded braces and crutches, evidence that someone had a life changed.
Roca speaks little about the stories of physical healings, the cancers cured, and the mementos left behind.
But he does speak of what he personally witnessed. An elderly woman who suddenly walked again and a young Texas girl with a cancerous brain tumor that was cured.
Roca says the healings came after prayers before the crucifix, El Senor de Esquipulas.
“She went in front of the crucifix, knelt down, prayed. This is a great miracle, what happened here,” Roca said. The crucifix still hangs over the altar, but lately its adoration has been overshadowed by the dirt pit from which it sprang.
Those who dig deep into their hearts looking for answers to prayers, now dig even deeper in a tiny well in the sacristy.
Some say the soil-blessed each morning with holy water has curative powers.
Liz Stephens of Ohio shows off her baby gift for a friend with premature twins. “She had her babies yesterday. I hope the dirt will provide them safety and hope,” she said.
It is hope that has not only the faithful flocking here, but the frail and disabled as well.
“What was remarkable for me today was just sitting in one of the pews, and feeling the power of the energy. Like there’s a real healing force here. I feel it, markedly,” said Hemmen.
But stories of miracles also brings the curious.
“We’ll see if it works or not,” Michael Joseph said.
Some San Antonians made El Santuario a pit stop for their motorcycle trip.
“Torn rotator cuff, so we’ll see if that’s gonna work or not,” said Joseph.
Roca says if they’re looking for tangible evidence of God, look no further than the church itself. A house of worship built with love nearly 200 years ago.
“There was work of all men, children, ladies, not a single professional and they spent three years to build this,” Roca said. “The poor families, full of faith, people of good faith. This makes miracles. Cures.”
Roca began his ministry, pilgrims came to Chimayo by burro and now it’s by tour bus.
But the result is still the same: a journey of faith.
For more information: Holy Chimayo