St. Patrick Parish to celebrate centennial

Friday, Jun. 28, 2019
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — As the diamond bit drilled into the granite stone, a handful of St. Patrick parishioners and diocesan officials looked, uncertain of what would be revealed. More than 100 years ago, in 1916, the cornerstone of St. Patrick Parish had been laid, and a recent scan by ground-penetrating radar had revealed a cavity nine inches deep in the stone, but there was no record of a time capsule having been inserted by the founders of the parish.

Parish officials assumed that the purpose of the cavity was to house a time capsule, so on June 21 they drilled into the cornerstone. As the core of granite was lifted out, it revealed a small metal box. Reaching into the cavity, Anthony Martinez, the parish’s director of religious education and youth ministry, exclaimed, “I just touched a box that hasn’t been touched in 100 years!”

When the box was opened, it was found to contain a Salt Lake Telegram newspaper dated Aug. 13,  1916, an Intermountain Catholic newspaper dated Aug. 12, 1916, a small piece of wood of unknown origin, and a photograph that had been destroyed by exposure to the elements.

Martinez, who is serving as the chairperson for the parish’s Centennial Committee, said he was happy to have the time capsule, although he had hoped that it would contain something more personal from 100 years ago, such as the pastor’s Bible or “something from the priest who opened the door of the church where we still celebrate today.”

As the parish prepares to celebrate its next 100 years, the centennial committee members are discussing what items to place in the time capsule that will be re-buried in the cornerstone. One item that will certainly be included is a commemorative coin from the upcoming 100th anniversary celebration of the dedication of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Although the church was constructed in 1916, its dedication was delayed until 1919 because of World War I. The parish itself was established in 1892; the current church is the second that has served the parish.

The original parishioners were Irish and Italian immigrants. In the 1970s, immigrants from Vietnam began to settle in nearby apartments, said Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus, who served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish from 1975 to 1982. His grandparents were parishioners there, but by the time he became pastor “there were not many of the old Irish left,” he said.  

These days, the ethnic mix includes Africans, Filipinos, Koreans, Samoans, Tongans and, most recently, people from Myanmar.

“From its very roots, this parish welcomed those who were immigrants – the Irish and then the Italians. Those are its roots, so I think it’s kind of in the bricks,” Msgr. Fitzgerald said. “The people have always been welcoming.”

“We’ve always been really diverse here,” agreed Ron Menke, who has been a parishioner for about 60 years. He recalls attending Bishop Glass School, which had been adjacent to the parish but is now closed, and learning square dancing from the Holy Cross sisters who taught at the school.

Deacon Sefo Manu, who moved into the parish in 1977 after coming to Salt Lake City to attend school, said Msgr. Fitzgerald suggested he go to St. Patrick Parish, and it immediately felt like home.

The parish will celebrate its heritage at a centennial celebration on July 13 with a Mass at which Bishop Oscar A. Solis will preside. The  Mass will be followed by a luncheon and entertainment provided by various ethnic groups.

 “It is a good feeling to know that 100 years after the parish is still thriving,” said Fr. Anastasius Iwuoha, pastor.

The centennial will serve as a celebration for parishioners to rejoice in the faith that they have received from generations past, “so that we are able to feel renewed and reinvigorated to carry on the baton of faith and evangelization,” he said.

Fr. Iwuoha’s silver anniversary of priestly ordination will be celebrated Sunday, Aug. 11 at the church. Bishop Oscar A. Solis will preside at the 11 a.m. Mass, and a social will follow.

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