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St. Patrick Parish History




Recognizing the spiritual needs of a rapidly growing Irish Catholic population in the "new City" on the south bank of the Merrimack River, 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 of the land, Father Taaffee died, leaving the task of building a church to his successor, Reverend William Orr.


Fortified by the staunch faith and enthusiastic self-sacrifice of the local Catholic community, Father Orr oversaw the construction of a wooden church on the site of our present-day rectory. Within a year, construction was completed, and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day in 1869. The church was blessed, dedicated, and named in honor of St. Patrick on March 17, 1870. For about three years, the church remained a mission church of Immaculate Conception Parish.




In 1872, Reverend James Murphy was installed as the first resident pastor and St. Patrick’s became a fully-established parish, comprising the territory 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 building was soon recognized. The foundations for a new church building were laid in 1881. Many Catholics in South Lawrence and North Andover, after their hard day's work, contributed time and labor to build our present church.


In 1882, Reverend Michael T. McManus succeeded Father Healy as pastor, and with his faithful parishioners, experienced the 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 congregation witnessed the dedication of the upper church 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.




When Reverend John J. Gilday became pastor in 1900, another era in the history of St. Patrick Parish was inaugurated. This period of great 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 Great Depression, the strong faith of St. Patrick’s parishioners carried the day, as was evidenced by the flourishing of parish societies, including 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’s buildings. His spiritual stamina guided the parish through years of economic and social struggle.




Monsignor Joseph P. Burke succeeded Monsignor Daly as pastor in 1957, and more growth followed. The Methodist church building on Parker Street was bought and became St. Patrick’s parish center. Houses and stores behind St. Patrick’s church and rectory were purchased and demolished for the provision of new parking lots. In 1966, after a damaging fire in the church building, new side entrances and an elevator were added. Times were changing, however, and the girls’ high school was closed in 1971. Monsignor Burke, who retired in 1976, guided the parish through 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 help to further develop a strong sense of community, purchased the property.  During the Marian year, 1987-1988, a beautiful Marian shrine was designed and constructed in the parking lot behind the church. Father Curtin guided the parish through sixteen years of growth and development, both physically and spiritually.




Father Curtin was succeeded as pastor in 1991 by Reverend George F. Carlson. Father Carlson was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the parish through changing times in the life of the Church, with the laity called upon to live out more fully their baptismal commitment. Father Carlson encouraged parishioners to nurture their faith by collaboratively seeking innovative ways to share their life in Christ, including with the younger generation.


In February 2001, Reverend Paul B. O’Brien was installed as St. Patrick’s new pastor. With Father Paul as shepherd, St. Patrick’s has expanded as a tri-lingual (English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) and multi-cultural congregation. The members of St. Patrick Parish actively seek to more fully understand their faith and creatively put that faith into action. Responding to the economic and nutritional needs of the Lawrence community, in September 2006, the parish opened the doors of the beautiful Cor Unum Meal Center, which every year serves more than 250,000 free, restaurant-quality meals to hungry people in Lawrence. Embracing the challenges and potential of Catholic education in Lawrence, Lawrence Catholic Academy was established in 2010 on the site of the former St. Patrick School as a city-wide Catholic elementary school for 450 children in Prekindergarten (age 3) through grade eight. The people of St. Patrick Parish today are focused on fostering evangelization, vibrant liturgy, spiritual development, Catholic education, catechesis for adults and children, youth ministry, outreach to the less fortunate, leadership formation, the provision of pastoral and social services, and the security of St. Patrick’s as a safe home for children and people of all ages.


Our Pastors through the years


1872-1881 Reverend James Murphy installed as First pastor of St. Patrick

1881-1882 Reverend Daniel Healey

1882-1900 Reverend Michael T. McManus

1900-1933 Reverend John J. Gilday

1933-1957 Monsignor Edmund Daly

1957-1976 Monsignor Joseph P. Burke

1976-1991 Reverend Eugene P. Curtin

1991-2000 Monsignor George F. Carlson

2001-         Reverend Paul B. O’Brien


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