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Father Thomas J. Steele, S.J. (1933-2010), a professor of English at Regis College for nearly 30 years, started the Regis Collection of New Mexico and Colorado Santos in 1966 when, as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Mexico, he bought his first santo (saint) in a secondhand store in Albuquerque. The santo tradition of Christian folk art flourished in New Mexico from the late 18th century through the mid-19th century, then as a revival art in the early 20th century. The tradition continues as a strong and diverse contemporary expression of faith and artistic enterprise. Fr. Steele donated his initial collection of 60 objects to the Regis Jesuit Community in 1976, and the university has continued to support acquisitions. The collection, which Fr. Steele envisioned as a “teaching collection,” has grown to nearly 1,000 objects. Following up on Fr. Steele’s book The Regis Santos: 30 Years of Collecting, published in 1996, this essay provides insight into Fr. Steele’s collecting, the history of santo production, and the work of contemporary santeros and santeras (saint makers), illustrated with examples from the collection acquired primarily in the past 20 years.



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