SAINT PATRICK PARISH
Mary Crow September, 1994
(updated October, 2003)
Recognizing the spiritual needs of a rapidly growing Irish Catholic population in the "new City" on the south bank of the Merrimack, Reverend James Taaffee, O.P., pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church, purchased a plot of land at the corner of South Broadway and Salem Streets. The year was 1868, and, within a few months of the purchase, Father Taaffee died, leaving the task of church building to his successor, Reverend William Orr.
Fortified by the staunch faith and enthusiastic self-sacrifice of the early community, Father Orr oversaw the construction of a wooden church on the site of our present day rectory. Within the year construction was completed, and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1869. The Church was blessed, dedicated and named in honor of St. Patrick on March 17, 1870. For about three years it remained a mission church of the Immaculate Conception.
THE GROWING COMMUNITY
Finally in 1872, Reverend James Murphy was installed as the first resident pastor and St. Patrick became a fully established parish comprised of South Lawrence and North Andover. Reverend Daniel S. Healy served as pastor from 1881-82. With the continuing influx of immigrants the need for a larger church was soon recognized. The foundations were laid in 1881 and many of our forebears in the faith, after their hard day's work, contributed time and labor to build our present church. In 1882 Reverend Michael T. McManus succeeded Father Healy, and with his faithful parishioners experienced the great joy of seeing the new lower church dedicated. The rectory was built in 1884, and after several years of struggle and sacrifice, the upper church was completed. The proud and joyful congregation witnessed the dedication on June 17, 1894. This marked the end of a magnificent era - a time of new beginnings and great dedication ushering in the twentieth century.
THE NEW CENTURY
When Reverend John J. Gilday became pastor in 1900 another era in the history of St. Patrick Parish was inaugurated. This period of unparalleled growth saw the opening of St. Patrick School in 1906 with the Sisters of Charity of Halifax bringing their love of God and their love for children to enrich the parish and transmit the faith to their students. In a period of twenty years, the convent was built, the second school building was erected and the high school for girls was opened. In spite of strikes, wars and economic unrest, the parish flourished.
Monsignor Edmund D. Daly succeeded Father Gilday in 1933. As the nation began to recover from the terrible depression, the strong faith of St. Patrick parishioners carried the day as was evidenced with parish societies flourishing, with a Holy Name society of 1200 men and with increased enrollment in the school. After World War II there were many changes in society, but the parish remained stable and strong. Monsignor Daly oversaw many improvements in the parish buildings. His spiritual stamina guided the parish through years of economic and social struggle.
TIME OF CHANGE
Monsignor Joseph P. Burke succeeded Monsignor Daly as pastor in 1957 and more growth followed. The Methodist Church on Parker Street was bought and became the Parish Center. Houses and stores behind the church and rectory were purchased and demolished and new parking lots were provided. In 1966, after a damaging fire, new side entrances and the elevator were added. Times were changing, however, and St. Patrick High School was closed in 1971. Monsignor Burke, who retired in 1976, had guided the parish through those difficult decisions and had the challenging task of implementing the changes brought about by Vatican II.
This task was continued by his successor, Reverend Eugene P. Curtin, a strong spiritual leader and administrator who continued to strengthen the existing parish community. When the property next to the Rectory on East Kingston Street became available for sale in 1986, Father Curtin, envisioning a Parish Center which through its accessibility and size would become a practical and serviceable addition to the parish properties, helping to further develop a stronger sense of community in the parish, purchased the property.
During the Marian year, 1987-1988, the beautiful Marian shrine was designed and constructed in the parking lot behind the church. The day of dedication was one of great joy as parishioners witnessed the unveiling of the unique statue of Mary, modeled after the Madonna of the Streets. Father Curtin guided the parish through sixteen years of growth and development both in the physical sense as well as the spiritual.
WALKING TOWARDS THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Father Curtin was succeeded by Reverend George F. Carlson in 1991. Father Carlson was entrusted the awesome responsibility of leading the parish through changing times in the life of the Church - yet challenging times, as the laity are called upon to live out their Baptismal commitment in a fuller sense. Father Carlson challenged the parish to nurture their strong faith by collaboratively seeking innovative ways to share their life in Christ with the younger generation as well.
In February 2001, a new pastor was named to St. Patrick Parish – the Reverend Paul B. O’Brien. With Father Paul as shepherd, St. Patrick’s continues to grow as a tri-lingual, multi-cultural congregation. In times that are both exciting and challenging for the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Boston, the parishioners of St. Patrick Parish actively seek to live out their baptismal promises by more fully understanding their faith and putting that faith into action. In the new millennium, the faithful of St. Patrick Parish are particularly focused on fostering evangelization, vibrant liturgy and spiritual development, Catholic elementary school education, catechesis for adults and children, youth ministry, outreach to the less fortunate, leadership formation, the provision of ever-expanding of pastoral and social services, and the security of the parish as a safe home for children and people of all ages.
Throughout the decades, generation after generation has passed the torch of faith, igniting the hearts of all who worship here with a deep love for the Lord and for the Church. It is important to reflect on this rich heritage as we pray without ceasing the prayer of the ages, "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus ... Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest!"