There are people you meet in life who touch your soul in such a way that you are never the same. You are enriched and never forget their kind and loving ways. Fr. Graham Golden O Praem, a Norbertine priest, from the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque, New Mexico was that kind of person. I met Fr. Graham back in 2011 at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington D.C. He came by the Catholic Rural Life exhibit booth and began asking many questions about our work in rural communities. He was serving as an intern for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and he was studying to become a Norbertine priest. He invited me out several times to New Mexico to visit the rural communities and see the economic challenges many people were facing. I eventually made a trip to New Mexico in 2016, after Fr. Graham was ordained a priest. He worked for the Catholic Foundation as a Regional Council Coordinator to assess the needs of rural communities, particularly in Northern New Mexico. Fr. Graham drove me around for two days, visiting community leaders who were addressing rural poverty each in their own way.
Fr. Graham was caring, creative, courageous, and full of faith and wisdom. He was only 30 years old when I visited those rural communities with him, but he had a vision for how the Catholic Church could help revitalize the impoverished communities—through its people, its leaders. He wanted to develop lay leaders who could develop small businesses and create jobs. At that time, Catholic Rural Life was working on a project through the support of the Campaign of Human Development to identify rural partners who could help raise up leaders through economic development and spiritual renewal. I returned from my trip to New Mexico with a renewed sense of faith and hope in Christ and for the work in rural New Mexico. My respect and love for Fr. Graham increased over the following five years.
A few weeks ago I received a message via social media that Fr. Graham was killed in an automobile accident on May 21, 2021. I was shocked and deeply sadden by this news. I found solace through reading the many tributes to his remarkable life and the positive impact he made in his parishes, community, and around the country. Though I miss him, I do give thanks to God for the ways Fr. Graham touched many peoples’ lives, including my own. May Fr. Graham’s soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in eternal peace.
– James Ennis is the Executive Director for Catholic Rural Life.