History of Immaculate Conception Parish
The Jesuits are brought to New Mexico
The priests and brothers of the Naples Province of the Jesuits were expelled by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the great unifier of Italy, because the Jesuits had backed the King of Naples and his nobles. The misfortune of the Jesuits turned out to be a boon for the Catholic Church in New Mexico, Colorado, and West Texas. Bishop Lamy of Santa Fe went himself to Rome looking for the sons of Ignatius. Eventually, five Jesuits of the dispersed Naples Province were assigned to return with Bishop Lamy back to New Mexico. Traversing the Atlantic and pioneering across the US Western frontier, the Jesuits finally arrived with Bisho
p Lamy in Santa Fe on August 15, 1867.
The Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1549, have long looked for new mission fields to help spread the gospel and search for the Greater Glory of God. The Jesuits were happy to be invited to the New World and new land of New Mexico.
The Jesuits were first put to work in Bernalillo where they were given Pena Blanca, and Jemez and the Indian pueblos of Sandia, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Santa Ana, Zia, and Jemez. Bishop Lamy, fulfilling his promise of giving the Jesuits a parish, entrusted San Felipe in Old Town Albuquerque on April 21, 1868. They immediately began administering the sacraments to the people of an area that reached north to Alameda, west to some placitas on the Rio Puerco, south only to Barelas, and east beyond the Sandia Mountains. The Jesuits became very active within the diocese.
The Albuquerque parish of San Felipe had become the seed ground of many Jesuit enterprises, and for some years was even the site of a novitiate for the training of young Jesuits.
Another extension out of the San Felipe parish was the Jesuit mission in the mountain west. This included the creation of the first catholic magaizine in the region, Revista Catolica. The Jesuits also opened the College of Las Vegas, a high school for boys. In time, this school would move to Denver and renamed Regis College and High School.
Arrival of the Railroad
In 1880, the railroad arrived in the region and presented the Jesuits with an opportunity for an expansion of their activities close at hand. It became evident that New Town Albuquerque would need a church as the population now overcame the population of Old Town. So Father Donato Gasparri, S. J., met with some of the New Town’s leaders and chose a site for what would become Immaculate Conception Church.
The New Town’s people generously helped to build the church, and it did not take long for them to build a school as well. St. Mary’s School was staffed and directed by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and a large number of dedicated lay men and women. In 1893 the new school building was completed and began to educate young Catholics.
From 1892 until his departure from Immaculate Conception Parish in 1924, Father Alphonso Mandalari, S. J., managed to become an Albuquerque legend, a leading figure in Albuquerque's civic enterprises. He arrived at the age of 42, while he had youth and vigor. He had served on the Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico; he had worked hard for the construction of an orphanage to shelter children left without parents. St. Mary’s School, which served both elementary and high school students, flourished under his care. He made substantial improvements to both the church and the school. Father Mandalari also worked with the Sisters of Charit
y by providing them Jesuit-owned land for the construction of St. Joseph’s Hospital, now Lovelace hosptial. And it was during his time as pastor that President Theodore Roosevelt made a visit to St. Mary’s School. In 1924, Father Mandalari suggested that a younger man come and take his place as pastor. The whole ecclesial and civic community protested loudly against Father Mandalari being taken from Albuquerque.
Another well-known and well-remembered pastor was Patrick J. Kelleher, S. J., who came on the Albuquerque scene in 1944. Father Kelleher was a builder. He acquired the land on which the church rectory now stands on Copper Avenue. He raised money to build a new elementary school. He arranged for expansion of Mt. Calvary Cemetery to its present size. In 1956, Father Kelleher called together some of the illustrious persons not only of Immaculate Conception but of the City of Albuquerque and began raising funds to build a new conven
t, a church, a rectory, and an addition to St. Mary’s School. The grand dedication of these additions to the parish was held in May of 1960. Father Pat, as he was known by many of his parishioners, left Immaculate Conception in 1965 at the age of 79.
More ecently, the pastors have been Jesuit Fathers Joseph Malloy, Frank Renfroe, Alvin Pilie, Edgar Tiblier, Sidney Lange, and Jack Heaney. It was during their tenure that Sister Amadea Heaney, S. C., a Sister of Charity who had worked in China, returned home to Albuquerque and founded both the Amadea Shelter for Unwed Mothers and the St. Mary’s Rest Home for Seniors under the umbrella of the Faith and Justice Center, Inc. Both institutions have been reimagined.
It was during these years also that the work of the Brothers of the Good Shepherd, under the inspired leadership of Brother Mathias Barrett, blossomed, and Brother Tom Scherman, S. J., visited Catholics at Presbyterian Hospital and did extensive telephone visits with shut-ins.
The Jesuits strategically used Immaculate Conception Church as a home base to begin several other parishes in the neighboring vicinity: Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, St. Francisco Javier, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and San Iganacio.
Recent pastors to Immaculate Conception include Frs. Edmundo Rodriguez, Rafael Garcia, and Warren Broussard.
Today, Immaculate Conceptoin plays an active role to the city of Albuquerque. Providing both daily Mass and daily confessions, the Jesuits have become a staple to the sacramental life of the city. The Jesuit Fathers regularly attend to anointings and communion to the Catholic faithful at the downtown hospitals; the parish happily feeds the downtown homeless on Sunday mornings; and St. Mary's School continues to be the favored Catholic school for downtown students.
Original edifice 1882/3 with detached bell tower.
With an extraordinary three-day ceremony from 7 to 9 May 1909, at which Msgr. Pitaval, the new Archbishop of Santa Fe, with Fr. Mandalari celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the parish with the completion of the recent renovations.
Constructoin began in 1958 for a modern parish building. The grand dedication of the church took place on 24 March 1960. It was an imposing ceremony for an edifice which was and still is extremely imposing.