The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, IrishLowell will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Growing Pains: the "other" Catholic Church
Detail fr. Acre scene
If the good Lord meant for the Sabbath to be a day of rest,
the Irish of the Chapel Hill area may not have agreed.Being Irish and being Catholic meant only one
thing on any given Sunday morning, walking almost two miles and back to attend
Mass over at St. Patrick’s Church.And
if you were a really good Catholic you went back in the afternoon for
Benediction and Vespers.When the St.
Patrick’s opened in 1831 conditions were already crowded.Extensions were built onto the church a few
years later, but with the growing numbers of Irish entering the city even that
was not enough.
In July of 1841 Bishop Fenwick came to St Patrick’s to
confirm 60 young men and women.The
church was overcrowded, and before the end of the ceremony he asked the
parishioners to consider building a new church.At the close of the afternoon service he stayed to discuss the
proposition with interested parties.The
excessive heat of the day did not deter the crowd.Forty-two men rose immediately and each
promised $100, which would be applied to purchasing their pew once the new church
was built.That night $5,400 was
pledged.Yet, not everything was
There’s something odd about the Bishop’s story.He says the crowds gave him the idea for a
new church, but the next day finds him in a carriage scouting out a piece of
land he had his eyes on.He appointed
the curate of St. Pat’s, Father Conway, to purchase the plot as soon as
possible.One wonders if something else
was going on here.Did the Bishop know
about the land beforehand?Why was the
curate put in charge of the purchase, and not the pastor of St. Patrick’s, Fr.
McDermott?There were rumors, lots of
them.Not everyone liked the good
pastor.There were certain financially,
solvent men who wanted a split.Many of
the men who stood that day to support the Bishop had homes in the Acre.Why would they pay for a new church?The Bishop’s notes tell of a number of visits
of Fr. Conway to the Bishop’s residence.Why?Then there was the visit by
a number of the St. Pat’s congregation to air their “grievances” about the new
church being built, and that they would “retard as much as possible the
progress.”The Bishop “remonstrated”
against the unnecessary noise” and dismissed them.
The church would be built.(More to follow next week.)