Tag Archives: St. Patrick

Halfway to holiday, visiting St. Patrick’s in Harrisburg

I’m writing this post 17 September, which many pubs and other marketers with even the most tenuous connections to Ireland now promote as “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day.” By coincidence, I was in Harrisburg, Pa., for some Irish research at the Pennsylvania State Archives (though not their Molly Maguires collection) and visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral on State Street, two blocks from the hilltop capitol.

The parish and earlier iterations of the church date to the early 19th century, when the construction of a vast system of canals, railroads, and turnpikes along the Susquehanna River brought many Irish immigrants to the area, according to the cathedral’s official history. Construction of the present building began in 1904 and was completed three years later.

St. Patrick. (Note the gloves.)

The church was officially dedicated 14 May 1907, though liturgies began earlier in the year. The Ancient Orders of Hibernians, Division 5 in Harrisburg, gathered at the new cathedral for a 7 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day Mass, a Sunday that year, either inspiring or requiring extra piety.

The fraternal group paid the $1,800 for the transept window of St. Patrick, holding a shamrock to explain the Trinity to the royal court at Tara. The men surely admired the beautiful stained glass from Munich, Germany.

“The Apostle of Ireland is a splendid figure … arrayed in full pontificals, even to the gloves,” is how the Harrisburg Telegraph described the window in a story detailing the church’s architecture and amenities.

But even the grand new worship space had to compete with the holiday’s contemporary commercialism.

“It is doubtful if St. Patrick ever in his life saw such a profusion of tributes to himself as are now displayed,” The (Harrisburg) Courier reported. “[H]is memory has not only been kept green, but his fame has increased. It may be whispered that there are certain tokens which he might not appreciate.”

The paper detailed an array of tchotchkes such as high hats and pipes, “green pigs of every variety,” “clovers growing in pots” and boxes decorated with harps and green flags. The items sold for a few pennies to 20 cents.

About 100 clerics attended the official dedication in May, including Archbishop P.J. Ryan of Philadelphia. He donated the exterior statue of St. Patrick that is mounted over the entrance of the church.

Two days after the dedication, Irish nationalists in Dublin denounced the limited self-government for Ireland bill offered by Irish Chief Secretary Augustine Birrell. The Sinn Fein Society called the measure “an insult to Ireland” and urged nationalists in the London parliament to “devise measures for the material betterment of Ireland and securing international recognition and support of Ireland’s political rights.”

Timothy Healy and William O’Brien were at the forefront of this latest split with Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond. The Catholic Church hierarchy also rejected Birrell’s bill. Read more about this period of Irish history.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg is the 20th St. Patrick’s church that I’ve visited in four countries. See the list.

Adding to my list of St. Patrick’s churches

I visited two St. Patrick’s churches during an a recent research trip; one in Maryland for the first time, the other my longtime favorite back home in Pittsburgh. See my list of 18 St. Patrick’s churches.

In Cumberland, Maryland, the late 18th century St. Mary’s was rededicated as St. Patrick’s in 1851 due to the town’s growing Irish population. The church was closed when I passed through late in the evening, but Catholic Sanctuaries has more than 50 images posted on Flickr.

Architect John Tehan lived from 1796 to 1868. It appears he may have been an Irish American from nearby Frederick, Maryland, where he is buried, rather than an Irish native. Tehan is not in the Dictionary of Irish Architects, 1720-1940.

The sanctuary of Old St. Patrick’s Church in Pittsburgh. A woven crown of thorns on a purple cushion is at left side of the tabernacle in this image during Lent 2017.

Troubles at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, with chapel to the right.

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, with chapel to the right.

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has decided to remove three seminarians from his dioceses at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, due to “an atmosphere of strange goings-on” at the national seminary. Martin is transferring the trainee priests to the Irish Pontifical College in Rome, according to The Irish Times.

In May, The Irish Catholic reported on “allegations of a gay culture in the seminary were made in an anonymous letter to the Irish bishops.” Martin would not comment for the 1 August Times‘ story on whether those allegations weighed on his decision.

In this June analysis, former Irish Catholic editor David Quinn said the seminary is in need of significant reform:

“…[I]f Maynooth was a place of dynamic orthodoxy (absolutely not to be confused with rigidity and fundamentalism), it would be attracting considerably more vocations. If the seminary sounded a certain trumpet, not an uncertain one, it would be attracting more vocations, and if these constant worrying stories about Maynooth dried up, not because they were suppressed, but because the seeming problems were dealt with, then it would attract more vocations.

I spent some time walking around the County Kildare campus during my recent visit to Ireland. Students were gone for the summer, and most of the buildings were locked, including the beautiful late 19th century chapel that I had intended to visit.

Bust of St. Patrick inside one of the college's academic buildings.

Bust of St. Patrick inside one of the college’s academic buildings.

The 2016 class of seminarians.

The 2016 class of seminarians (and this blogger reflected in the image.)

 

A simpler St. Patrick’s Day wish, 1953

I want to get away from all the noise and nonsense that’s come to surround St. Patrick’s Day, the once reverent, if myth-filled, holy day turned raucous global celebration.

So here’s a reminder of a simpler St. Patrick’s Day, a 1953 letter from a sister in Kerry, Ireland to her brother in Pittsburgh, USA. It’s from a collection of letters I inherited from my aunt a few years ago. A few other letters from the 1950s also included sprigs of shamrock from the north Kerry countryside.

letter

Keep in mind that 1953 was seven years before the election of John F. Kennedy as president (a decade before his return to Ireland and assassination later the same year), and nine years before Chicago began to dye its river green. While the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin dates to 1931, it was nothing like today’s massive multi-day festivals.

Diverted to Charlotte, a visit to Cathedral of St. Patrick

My wife and I were diverted to Charlotte, North Carolina on our flight from Tampa, Florida to Washington, D.C., where snow and ice closed the airport. As we settled into a hotel room near the Charlotte airport Saturday night, I began looking for a place to attend Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. The Cathedral of St. Patrick, mother church of the dioceses of Charlotte, was less than five miles away.

Construction of the church began on St. Patrick’s Day, 1938, according to the church’s website, and it was consecrated in September 1939. Charlotte native John Henry Phelan, who made his fortune as a grocery wholesaler and oil producer in Beaumont, Texas, donated money to build the church in memory of his parents, Patrick and Margaret Adele Phelan. I didn’t find any family connections to Ireland in any of the online biographies, or why the church was named for Ireland’s patron saint.

Below are a few images from the church, including the stained glass image of St. Patrick behind the altar. It was a lovely High Mass, succor for not getting home as planned. In a few weeks the city will host its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Charlotte Goes Green Festival.

Finally, here are previous post about St. Patrick’s churches in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Now blogging from metro Washington, D.C.

Mark Holan’s Irish-American Blog has relocated to metro Washington, D.C.

I am living about five miles west of the Irish Embassy in the Virginia Square section of Arlington, Va. St. Patrick Catholic Church is less than seven miles to the east. Both places are within easy walking distance of the Orange line Metro stops. (More of a hike from Green line stations.)

My condo is about halfway between Ireland’s Four Courts and Ireland’s Four Provinces. Both pubs are sponsoring fundraising events to support Washington, D.C.’s 43rd Annual St. Patrick’s Parade on March 16.

I have joined Irish Network DC and look forward to making new friends in the Irish-American community here while exploring the many contributions that Ireland’s sons and daughters have made to America.

Guest post: Visit to Ireland, Part 1

I’ve written earlier of Tim McDonnell’s efforts to start a food collection to help feed the hungry in Tampa through the Salvation Army in the spirit of St. Patrick. It’s been quite an accomplishment for the former executive director of Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center since he arrived in Tampa about two years ago.

Tim just got back from his third trip to Ireland/Northern Ireland at the beginning of October. (His mom is from Brownstown, Co Kildare; his paternal grandparents from Westport, Co. Mayo and Bruree, Co. Limerick.) Below is Part 1 of Tim’s guest post:

The Spirit of St. Patrick

Absolutely worth visiting is the St. Patrick’s Trail and all of the St. Patrick sites on the northern half of the island (where St. Patrick spent his time). The top 3 ‘must do’ sites, though, are: 1) the St. Patrick Centre exhibition and his grave in Downpatrick (he is buried alongside St. Brigid, St. Columcille, and Arthur Guinness’ grandfather – truly ‘holy ground’! – next to Down Cathedral); 2) St. Patrick’s first church at Saul – one of the more spiritually engaging sites on earth, comparable to the experience we had at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sisteen Chapel in Vatican City (as my friend Tim Campbell says “Saul is very ‘thin’…..the distance between heaven and earth there is very slight”); 3) Croagh Patrick – we lucked out with clear skies and were able to climb Ireland’s holy mountain, where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and by legend ‘drove the snakes out of Ireland.’ It will take a bit of faith and endurance to get all the way up, particularly at the top with the loose rocks and vertical climb – but it is the most spiritually rewarding thing that I have ever done, and it also blesses all climbers with the best views on the island.

The view from the summit.

The view from the summit.

 The Scoti

Also worth visiting is Ulster Scots country up in the northeast. People of this heritage informed us that they believe that Northern Ireland is a Scottish province on the island of Ireland and that calling the Ulster Scots Irish is like calling Canadians Americans. They also told us that the inhabitants of Ireland were referred to by the Romans as the “Scoti” in the 4th and 5th centuries and were known to be part of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riata, which spanned the west coast of Scotland and the eastern part of Ulster in what is today’s Northern Ireland. They characterized the creation of the Ulster Plantation of the 17th century, which helped lay the foundation for a few hundred years of conflict, as ‘just the Scots returning home.’ Interesting stuff and worth a bit of homework. Although the history, cultural dynamics, and politics are a bit complicated, the north is breathtakingly beautiful, and the people are as welcoming as anywhere else on the island.

Check back within the week for Tim’s thoughts on food in Ireland and a story of the country’s most famous jockey. MH