GREEN BAY — It has been a year of celebration at St. Patrick Parish as members, past and present, mark the 150th anniversary of its founding.
Known in its early days as the “Irish Church,” it got its beginnings in 1864 at the Fort Howard schoolhouse when five Irish families got together and talked about building a church on the city’s west side. With the support of the bishop, plans were made and they began building a church that would open in 1865 and be dedicated to St. Patrick.
The Irish had begun arriving in the area in large numbers in the 1840s as they fled the devastating potato famine in Ireland. After arriving in Wisconsin, they followed jobs with the railroad and lumber camps in northeastern Wisconsin.
The first pastor, Fr. William Verboort, was well-liked. When he was transferred across the river to St. Willebrod Parish, many St. Patrick families made the trip to celebrate Mass with him for a few years.
Over the years, the church, located at 211 N. Maple Ave., expanded. A school was added and refurbishing occurred. They survived fires and the bell tower being struck by lightning. But by 2007, it became apparent that demographics and fewer priests meant more changes. Fr. Don Everts, pastor for the past eight years, led them into becoming part of the newly created Quad Parish, which brought together the communities of St. Joseph, Annunciation, St. Jude and St. Patrick parishes.
Today, there are 374 registered families at the St. Patrick location. There is a weekend Mass at 4 p.m. every Saturday, and the families continue to celebrate faith and community together.
The present church was built in 1893 and much of its design and some furnishings remain today. This includes wooden pews, its high vaulted ceiling, marble floor around the altar and the stained glass windows. The gathering space and kitchen in the basement are named for former pastor, Msgr. John O’Brien. The hall hosts bingo twice a month.
The parish buildings also are home to St. Patrick’s Food Pantry, which serves residents on the city’s west side.
The parish’s heritage is proudly being celebrated this year with a variety of activities, said committee member Carolynne Younk. The celebration culminates Oct. 3 with Mass celebrated by Bishop David Ricken, followed by a dinner at the Riverside Ballroom.
Younk said other events have included a tailgate party in September, a St. Patrick’s Day meal and a May crowning event that included young women from the parish dressed up as different versions of the Blessed Virgin. They took turns telling about their costumes and how they related to Mary.
One of the bingo nights featured a special nod to the 150th anniversary, Younk said. Everything about the evening was connected to the number 150, including a $150 prize.
“It’s been quite a year,” she said.
A commemorative book on the parish’s history is being compiled and will be distributed at the dinner. It includes information on many of the events held at the church over the years, its 19 pastors and information on the school that closed in the 1970s after 70 years of operation.
The sesquicentennial committee also arranged for the sale of commemorative items such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and reusable grocery bags. There is a new cookbook with recipes from current parishioners and some culled from old parish cookbooks. “The dividers in the cookbook feature pictures from the church’s stained glass windows,” Younk said
Also on sale are long and short cribbage boards made from some of the old wooden pews that had been removed from the church, she said.
Today the church is served by Fr. Everts and associate pastor Fr. Ryan Starks.
On Sunday mornings, the church is the site of Latin Masses presided over by priests from St. Patrick Oratory, an apostolate of the Diocese of Green Bay’s Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.