SALT LAKE CITY — Built 100 years ago to serve Irish and Italian immigrants, St. Patrick Parish in Salt Lake City has continued through the years to welcome the stranger. That history was celebrated July 13 with a Mass and luncheon, both of which reflected the parish’s cultural diversity – Bishop Oscar A. Solis, who presided at the Mass, is a native of the Philippines; Fr. Anastasius Iwuoha, the parish pastor, is from Nigeria; the Deacon of the Mass, Deacon Sefo Manu, is Tongan; and the entertainment at the luncheon showcased dances from the parish’s Irish, Mexican, Tongan, Filipino and African cultures.
“This great church that has stood through decades of grief and joy, has been home to very diverse communities here in Utah,” Fr. Iwuoha said in his comments at the luncheon. “One can rightly call St. Patrick’s the true face of the Utah Catholic Church – Italians, Mexicans, Vietnamese, African-Americans, Sudanese, Congolese, Rwandans, Ugandans, Kenyans, Ivorians, Tongans, Burmese, Pakastani – name it, they are here.”
Bishop Solis made a similar comment in his homily at the Mass that preceded the luncheon, saying, “I believe they call St. Patrick’s the United Nations church of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.”
Concelebrants of the Mass were Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; Fr. Iwuoha; the Very Rev. Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; Fr. Lourduraj Gally Gregory, who was the parish pastor from 2010 to 2016; Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, a retired priest of the diocese; Fr. Jan Bednarz, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish; and Fr. Anil Kakumanu, who in August will become administrator of St. Helen Parish in Roosevelt.
The centennial was a milestone not only for the parish community but also for the diocese, Bishop Solis said, adding, “As bishop and shepherd of this diocese, I take pride in this wonderful faith community here at St. Patrick for your strong faith, perseverance and steadfastness in making this Catholic church a living manifestation of God’s presence and love for us through the 100 years.”
Recognizing the parish’s cultural diversity, Bishop Solis said that throughout the past century, St. Patrick’s has provided a haven “for all those immigrants and other members of the faith community, especially during those times of trials and difficulty,” offering a “stable home where they feel the presence of God’s love amongst them.”
By the grace of God the parishioners have not only survived difficult challenges and adversities, ”but have inspired many more people because of your perseverance in keeping your faith alive in this church,” the bishop said. He then reminded those present that St. Patrick was an evangelizer, and added, “I hope you parishioners will be the new St. Patricks of today, and continue to love the kingdom of God by proclaiming the Gospel of God’s salvation to all people in all the world, not only in this community.”
He called on them to remain a vibrant faith community and to keep the doors of the church open “so that people may continue to find a place to worship, can experience the living presence of God, find nourishment in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, find healing, reconciliation, and consolation in the Sacrament to Confession, the Sacrament of Anointing and other channels of graces.”
During the Mass, a marble stone containing a relic was set in the altar, then Bishop Solis rededicated the altar. The stone was from an altar that had previously been in the church; the current altar has been used for about 10 years.
Among the speakers at the luncheon was Msgr. Fitzgerald, who was pastor of the parish from 1975 to 1982. His grandparents were Irish immigrants who were among the first parishioners, he said. Recalling the work of the nuns and sisters from two different religious communities who had a convent and ran a school at the parish, and ministered to parishioners of various cultures, he said, “This is a wonderful parish with a wonderful history and heritage because of the people. So I pray that in the years ahead that spirit of hospitality, kindness and welcome will continue in your own hearts and in this community.”
Also during the luncheon, Fr. Iwuoha called upon two of the oldest parishioners, who “are standing between the past and the present” to pray for the younger generation to carry on the faith.
“We are celebrating those who have gone before us, and we are also celebrating ourselves, those who are today standing and handing on the baton … to the future generations,” Fr. Iwuoha said.