New vicar named at St. Phillips

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Born and raised a Midwestern Roman Catholic, Rev. Diane Figge always knew she had a call to religious life.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Rev. Diane Figge is looking forward to serving the people of St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Rio Communities. The church has been without a permanent vicar for nearly 18 months.

And she is continuing her spiritual journey as the new vicar at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Rio Communities.

In the Catholic church, the only service open to women is to be a nun, Figge said. So, for 14 years, she was a Roman Catholic sister in a Franciscan health care order.

But she knew she wanted to do more.

“I moved away from the Roman Catholic church,” Figge said. After joining the Episcopalian church, she said she became “very aware I was being called to something. I looked at the religious orders in the Episcopalian church, at serving in a leadership role.”

The leadership role she was encouraged to take and drawn to was that of an ordained minister.

“It was quite an experience to process that the priesthood was open to women in the Episcopalian church,” she said. “It felt right but it took time to come to a place of acceptance.”

Growing up, Figge moved back and forth between Missouri and Springfield, Ill. She was born in St. Louis and graduated from high school in the city. After visiting friends in Los Alamos, she fell in love with New Mexico.

“It spoke to my spirit,” she says.

After being ordained at Trinity on the Hill in Los Alamos by Bishop Bill Fry, Figge served as the assistant priest at Trinity on the Hill, before coming to St. Phillips.

The church has been without a permanent vicar for nearly a year and a half. Figge will be installed at St. Phillips at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 by Bishop Michael Vono, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. The diocese covers all of New Mexico, as well as parts of western Texas, including cities such as El Paso and Marfa.

“I very much like being a pastor. St. Phillips is a unique, small church, a mission church,” Figge said. “I see to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the congregation.”

During a typical day, Figge will communicate with the diocese and tend to various administrative duties. Since she is new to the church and the area, she is making it a point to visit her parishioners at home. She also takes communion to the home bound, visits sick congregants in the hospital and helps with planning church programs.

“People are always coming and going,” she said of a day at the church.

Figge said she wants to get more young families with children back into the church and is building the Sunday school program in anticipation.

“It’s exciting to see the church spring back to life with the willingness and enthusiasm of the people who go there. It’s such a wonderful gift. This is God reaching out and touching people to say, ‘Let’s get busy again,’” she said. “It’s getting busier all the time and I’m loving it. I love the people, love the idea of service, love the idea of St. Phillip’s doing more in the community.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.