The main school building of St. Joseph School was begun in 1920 and completed in time for school to begin for the 1923 fall term. The Franciscan Brothers from the Cincinnati Province assigned to the area did most of the work on the bright, white adobe building. The San Fidel school building was one of the best in the country. The school first served as a public school. The Franciscan Sisters from Colorado Springs initially staffed the two classrooms until the latter half of the 1950’s when it became a parochial school. From 1960 through 1994 the Ursuline Sisters from Mt. St. Joseph in Maple Mount, Kentucky were responsible for the education of St. Joseph students. From 1994 until 2003 various religious groups shouldered teaching responsibility: Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. Since 2003 the school has had to rely on lay teachers. Many alumni of St. Joseph School pursue college and higher education, some even returning to work at the school or send their own children and grand-children here to be educated. St. Joseph’s alumni include high school valedictorians and salutatorians, accountants, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, teachers, engineers, business owners, and many tribal leaders of the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos.
The small but beautiful village of San Fidel was established in 1868 under the shadow of Mount Taylor and received visitors from Seboyeta and San Rafael in the early days of its existence. When the Franciscan friars came to the Southwest, priests from Gallup visited the area on their rounds, and the parish of San Fidel was created. St. Joseph Church (located on New Mexico highway 124) was built in 1920. It was chosen to be a central location to serve Grants, Laguna, Acoma, Seboyeta, and Cubero. The Laguna and Acoma Pueblos eventually became their own parishes, and the St. Joseph’s Church was only used on special occasions. The rectory in San Fidel was built in the early 1920s and housed the priests who served the missions for many years. In 1981, the rectory was converted into a convent for the Ursuline Sisters. Later, the Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament occupied the convent. Most recently, the last order to live in the convent were the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida. Still today the 11,305-foot, Mount Taylor guards the town and its history.
The area around St. Joseph’s and San Fidel is historically and culturally rich. Once located right off of the famous Route 66, the gorgeous landscape now rolls along Interstate-40. Nearby are the ancient lava flows, named “El Malpais” or “the badlands”, by Spanish explorers. The lava once flowed from Mount Taylor when it was an active stratovolcano almost two million years ago. The mountain is sacred to many of the Native Americans in the area, including the Laguna and Acoma tribes. Both reservations stretch along I-40 and include the beautiful mesas and high desert areas surrounding San Fidel. The road west from San Fidel runs through the McCartys ghost town where the sign of a once popular Whiting Brothers Complex is the only remains from the motel, gas station, and cafe that used to be there when Route 66 was in its heyday. Going 11 miles more leads to Grants, the largest town in the area.