New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Awards 2012
Recognizing Those Committed to Making a Difference
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez is known for his advocacy for social justice on behalf of all New Mexicans, and for his roles as a theologian, a peacemaker, and as a spiritual leader for people of all faiths. Since his appointment as the first bishop of the Diocese of Las Cruces in October 1982, Bishop Ramirez has tackled many of the difficult issues facing society today, such as domestic violence, political unrest, poverty, immigration and environmental issues. His commitment to social justice is seen through his involvement at the local, state, national and international levels as a champion for the abused, neglected and exploited.

He was born in Bay City, Texas on Sept. 12, 1936, and was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 10, 1966 in Houston. He received a Bachelor of Arts in 1959 from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and a Master of Arts from the University of Detroit in 1968. He attended St. Basil’s Seminary in Toronto, Canada from 1963 to 1965, and Seminario Counciliar in Mexico City, Mexico, from 1965 to 1966.

Bishop Ramirez served as Chaplain of University Students/Centro Cultural Aragón in Mexico City (1968 to 1970), Director of the Family Religious Education Project in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico (1970 to 1976), Executive Vice President of the Mexican American Cultural Center (1976 to 1981), Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas (1981 to 1982), member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (2003 to 2009), and spent 31 years as Bishop of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

The Bishop is best known for taking a newly formed diocese from a blank sheet of paper to the thriving diocese it is today, and doing so with humility and a genuine love for his fellow men. He is loved by all who know him, and his influence extends far beyond the borders of the diocese. Bishop Ramirez is an arts patron as well. When he received the Pappen Family Award for his support of the arts, he stated that he was most pleased at the recognition of “the role the church has as a promoter of the arts, in lifting people’s spirits and igniting the divine spark that is the core of all true artistic inspiration.”

Other examples of the Bishop’s service to the community and the state include helping address violence along the U.S. – Mexico border; advocacy for young children and the fight against sexual abuse of minors; support of the Subdivision Act and the Border Health Issues Act; founding the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Las Cruces; establishing St. Mary’s High School; and efforts to create the Colonia Development Council to assist colonias in Dona Ana County, many of which lack a potable water supply, adequate sewage systems and sanitary housing. With his help, parishioners of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Church were able to restore the church, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Historic Places.

How fitting, then, that each of the letters of nomination on behalf of Bishop Ramirez described him as a man of vision and humility whose works reflect his lifelong quest for social equality and justice for all mankind.