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Mexican Republic Church
In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain, which brought changes to the Catholic Church. The Spanish government had always supported the Church, but the Mexican government couldn’t sustain this support. Without government assistance, the Church was at a crossroads. The once strong role of the Church began to diminish during the beginning of the Mexican era.

There were several reasons for the change. Mexico deported Spanish priests, fearing they wouldn’t be loyal to the new government. As the Franciscan priests in New Mexico departed or died, they weren’t replaced. With too few priests, lay leaders called Penitentes emerged to keep the Church alive. It is believed that they had their beginnings in the third order of Franciscans in Spain. These lay leaders took over when priests were unavailable.

In time, towns in New Mexico were staffed by secular priests. The Franciscans, however, still staffed all the pueblo churches. Since secular priests had staffed San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque since 1817, they were not surprised by the change. San Felipe had been under secular control for some time and its parishioners were used to providing for the pastor. They also provided upkeep for the buildings.

From 1829 until 1833, Albuquerque and Tomé shared a priest. Eventually San Felipe had a priest assigned to the Church who was expected to staff Bernalillo and Sandia as well. In 1833, Bishop Zubiria noted that morale was low. People were not attending church services regularly. He also reported that the church services were “imperfect and irregular.” During this time, something good did happen, though, when a school was established in the parish of San Felipe.

As in previous periods, the religious life of the families of Albuquerque continued from one generation to the next as shown in the Church records.

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