Tuesday 17 March 2015

Record of the Week: the many parishes of St. Patrick

Today is St. Patrick's Day, arguably one of the most recognized feast days in popular culture.

Patrick is the patron saint and first bishop of Ireland who is celebrated for bringing Christianity to the pagan isle in the fourth century. St. Patrick's hagiography famously credits him with ridding the country of snakes and using the three-leafed shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity. March 17th is the date of his death.

Here in the Archdiocese of Toronto, St. Patrick is the most popular parish patron with no less than eight eponymous churches. All of these parishes have roots in the nineteenth century, which is not surprising given the huge waves of Irish immigration to this area. The newcomers settled many rural villages and greatly boosted the Catholic population of Upper Canada, which necessitated the establishment of a new See - the Diocese of Toronto - in 1841.

Do you recognize these churches of St. Patrick?

Photographs Collection PH0190/02CP and Slide Collection 78 #166

St. Patrick's Parish, Wildfield (Brampton) est. 1830
11873 The Gore Road, Brampton

The first wave of Irish immigration to Upper Canada occurred in the early nineteenth century following England's annexation of Ireland in 1800. Irish settlers to the Toronto Gore area arrived in 1818. The oldest of the St. Patrick's parishes, Wildfield predates the establishment of the diocese.
The first church on the site was blessed on 27 June 1830 and the present church (left) was built in 1894.
The stained glass window over the sanctuary (right) depicts St. Patrick in his episcopal garb. In his right hand is a shamrock. There is a snake underfoot, its head pinned by the saint's crozier.

Photographs Collection PH0141/01P and Slide Collection 78 #167

St. Patrick's Mission, Markham est. 1855; Parish est. 1932

The second wave of Irish immigration followed the Great Famine of 1847.
The original site of St. Patrick's Church in Markham was on Rouge Street, in an area dubbed "Vinegar Hill" or "Little Dublin."  The wood-frame church (left) was built in 1870.  Only the cemetery remains on Rouge Street. A newer church was built in 1969 (right), relocated to Highway #7.

Photographs Collection PH0156/10P and Slide Collection 78 #168

St. Patrick's Parish, Mississauga (Dixie) est. 1856

This church was built to serve the settlers of "Irishtown" in the Dundas St. and Dixie Rd. area of Mississauga.  The brick church built in 1872 (left) was replaced by a much larger one in 1971 (right).  

Photographs Collection PH31P/227AL(13) and PH0092/20CP

St. Patrick's Parish, Toronto est. 1861

In 1867 St. Patrick’s Gothic Church was built on St. Patrick's Street in downtown Toronto. In 1908 this “Old St. Patrick’s” became Our Lady of Mount Carmel for the first Italian Congregation. Construction of the new St. Patrick's - a massive Romanesque edifice (left) - was completed the same year beside the older church. By the 1880s, the parish was administered by the Redemptorist Fathers and served many immigrant populations. In 1936, it became home to the German Congregation and then a German Personal Parish in 1981.

The three stained glass windows on the main facade (right) depict St. Patrick teaching the gathered crowds about the Holy Trinity, demonstrated by the shamrock in his left hand. 

Photographs Collection PH0172/28P

St. Patrick's Parish, Phelpston est. 1865
1600 Flos Road Four West, Phelpston

In 1965, the Phelpston parish produced a wonderful centenary souvenir book, which included a poem written by B. Baxter of Penetanguishene in 1893.  Some choice stanzas are excerpted here:

At The Opening of St. Patrick's Church 

I will tell you of a trip we took
On the seventh day of March
To the little town of Phelpston
To the opening of a Church.

When we landed at the station
We met in friendly groups
Some farmers, Scotch and Irish
And a sprinkling of Pea-soups.

Now on the opening ceremonies
I don't intend to dwell
Suffice to say that the Bishop
And priests did their parts well...

Photographs Collection PH0171/01CP and Slide Collection 78 #169

St. Patrick's Mission, Perkinsfield est. 1870; Parish est. 1908
10 County Road 6 South, Tiny

The Irish settled this area of Tiny Township starting in the 1850s.  However, they soon moved on to other farming areas as families from Quebec moved to the vicinity for cheap and fertile land.  The French Canadians, also Roman Catholic, inherited the parish and referred to their patron thenceforth as Saint-Patrique.

Photographs Collection PH0180/18P and PH0180/03CP

St. Patrick's Parish, Stayner est. 1871
215 Pine Street, Stayner

Once the Irish settlers cleared their land and built a family dwelling, their next priority was a place of worship.  It was no different in Stayner, where the pioneers built a log church in 1848.  By 1871 the increasing population of Catholics necessitated the appointment of a resident priest and the cornerstone of the current brick church was laid in 1872. 

Photographs Collection PH0179/08CP and /10CP

St. Patrick's Parish, Schomberg est. 1876
91 Church Street, Schomberg

Though established in 1876, the Schomberg parish did not have a church building for almost forty years.  Instead, Mass was celebrated in the chapel/living room of the rectory.  In 1915, the current church was finally built using bricks from the former Lloydtown Methodist church, which had closed.  The new church was relatively small compared to those of neighbouring parishes because it was built during wartime restrictions.  

And if you are feeling particularly Irish - or just craving carbohydrates - consider whipping up some Irish Bread, Irish Fruit Bread or Irish Soda Bread from this Centennial Recipe Book published by St. Patrick's Parish, Schomberg: 

Recipes for Irish Bread, Irish Fruit Bread, and Irish Soda Bread from St. Patrick's Parish, Schomberg, Centennial Recipe Book, 1876-1976.

Read more about the assimilation of Irish Catholics in a recent Toronto Star article,"19th-century Toronto Irish immigrants a lesson in upward mobility" (14 March 2015).

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