"ST. PATRICK (1881)
As North Denver's pioneer parish, St. Patrick's has an exotic history involving a bitter struggle between Bishop Matz and a pastor powerful enough to twist the 20th Street Viaduct--Joseph P. Carrigan, who also inaugurated festivities that have evolved into Denver's popular St. Patrick's Day parade.
Bishop Machebeuf created St. Patrick parish in 1881. Michael J. Carmody, the first pastor, initially said Mass in the fire station at 15th and Boulder streets while awaiting completion of a small brick church at 3233 Osage Street, in 1883. In 1884, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet opened a parish school, living in the basement while using the first floor as a school and the second floor as a church.
St. Patrick's finally received a steady pastor with the 1885 appointment of Father Carrigan by Bishop Machebeuf. Carrigan, an Irishman born and trained in New York, had come to Colorado after his ordination. A capable and outspoken priest, he had served at St. Mary's in Breckenridge, St. Mary's in Denver, and as pastor of St. Ann (Annunciation) parish before coming to St. Patrick's.
This young priest proved to be an able and popular pastor. He paid off the parish debt and, in 1889, enlarged the church and school. Father Carrigan aggressively boosted church attendance by urging his flock to bring non-Catholic friends to Mass each Sunday. Non-Catholics were also welcome in the church's public reading room.
North Denverites in those days were separated from the city by the South Platte River and a maze of railroad tracks, where trains killed and maimed people every year. Furthermore, the 15th Street bridge over the Platte was so rickety that the city posted a notice at either end: "No vehicles drawn by more than one horse are allowed to cross the bridge in opposite directions at the same time."
Father Carrigan and his parishioners joined the crusade to build a viaduct from downtown to North Denver as a safe crossing over the river and rail lines. Mayor Robert W. Speer cleverly persuaded the railroads to put up most of the cost of the viaduct. Completed in 1911 for $500,000, this three-quarter-mile-long trussed viaduct left Denver at 20th Street but landed in North Denver at 33rd Avenue--at the front door of St. Patrick's. Parishioners praised God for what is now the oldest and largest trussed viaduct in Colorado, and North Denverites still call its bend "Carrigan's Curve."
Father Carrigan could certainly bend the ears of City Hall. This powerful priest also took on Bishop Matz, criticizing his administration of the diocese publicly and repeatedly from the moment Bishop Matz succeeded Bishop Machebeuf in 1889. Carrigan had hoped for an Irish bishop, not another Frenchman.
In defiance of his bishop, Father Carrigan, in 1907, undertook the erection of a new church. After touring the Spanish missions of California founded by the Franscican friar, Junipero Serra, Father Carrigan became enamored with the mission revivial style. With architects Harry James Manning and F. C. Wagner, he designed a beautiful stone church with asymmetrical front bell towers connected by a curvilinear parapet. An arcaded cloister along Pecos Street connected the church with a large courtyard and a rectory. Fund-raising difficulties and Father Carrigan's ongoing feud with the bishop prolonged construction for three years. Priest and parishioners finally celebrated completion of the new St. Patrick's, a block northwest of the old church, in May 1909. A year later, Bishop Matz reassigned Father Carrigan to St. Stephen parish in Glenwood Springs. This solution followed a rather uncivil civil court case, numerous appeals to Rome, and a scandalous public fight from the pulpits.
In 1911, David T. O'Dwyer assumed the pastorate at St. Patrick's and restored it to the good graces of the bishop. During Father O'Dwyer's long pastorate (1911-1928), the parish thrived, reaching a population of 775 families in 1917, when it was the third largest in Denver. Father O'Dwyer, a native of County Cork ordained in Dublin, was noted for his calm judgment and quiet, scholarly temperament. "The gentleman priest," as he was called, restored serenity to a troubled parish. He was later appointed assistant chancellor of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he became director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Father O'Dwyer was succeeded by his assistant, Italian-born Achille Sommaruga. "Father Sam" built a new $53,000 parish school, a one-story brick edifice, at 34th and Pecos. After years of crowded classes on the first floor of the old 1880s church, the Sisters of St. Joseph and their pupils moved into the new school in the fall of 1941. In 1949, a second story was added, and the curriculum was expanded to eight grades. Father Sam, who had paid for the new school by organizing students to collect "ten cents a brick," was awarded the rank of monsignor in 1949. To supplement all the dimes given for the school, Monsignor Sommaruga sold the old rectory, which became Mancinelli's Meat Market, and the old church/school, which became the Original Mexican Cafe, one of Denver's first Mexican restaurants. The cafe converted the upper-floor church to a dance hall, while the first-floor classrooms became dining rooms.
St. Patrick parish and its heavily Irish congregation helped launch Denver's St. Patrick's Day festivities. In l885, Father Carrigan had initiated St. Pat's Day fund raising galas at the old Broadway Theater downtown. These festivals, complete with costumes, musical entertainments, and bagpipers, attracted celebrants from throughout the city. In collaboration with the Daughters of Erin and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Patrick parish spearheaded festivities that celebrated the rich cultural and religious traditions of the Emerald Isle. A more militant approach was taken on March 17, 1902, according to the Denver Times, by Captain Stephen J. Donleavey, secretary of the Denver Fire and Police Board: He announced plans to recruit a volunteer army in Colorado in order to invade England and free Ireland.
In 1906, the Ancient Order of Hibernians organized what may have been Denver's first official St. Patrick's Day parade. The parade was followed by High Mass with Father William O'Ryan's sermon on "Ireland's Loyalty to Patrick's Faith," a grand reception, and an evening ball. St. Patrick's Day parades went out of style during the 1920s when anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan frowned on any such displays of "un-American" ethnic groups.
Not until March 17, 1962 was Denver's parade revived when Red Fenwick, cowboy columist for The Denver Post, and some of his "Evil Companions Club" staged a mini-march. "Witnesses," reported The Denver Post, "claim it was a short march: the paraders walked out of Duffy's Shamrock Restaurant, went around the block, and back to the bar." Others claim that the inaugural modern St. Patrick's Day parade came a month later, April 17, 1962, when Lord Mayor Robert Briscoe of Dublin was visiting Denver. His Irish-American hosts took him to lunch at Duffy's; after a few hours of refreshments and lamentations about the parade deceased since World War I, these worthies took action. They proceeded to march around the block, proclaiming their procession a reinauguration of Denver's St. Patrick's Day parade. Furthermore, they established an official parade committee for 1963.
The 1963 St. Patrick's Day parade was a hit with thousands of marchers and spectators. By 1974, crowed the Denver Catholic Register, Denver's parade "drew a crowd estimated at over 120,000 people, making it the second largest parade in the U.S." Although this claim is contested by Boston, Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and other cities, Denver marchers continue to insist they are number two, if not number one.
While the parade was growing, St. Patrick's congregation was shrinking. The once overflowing parish had given birth to two others within six blocks--Our Lady of Mount Carmel (1894) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (1936). By the 1970s, six other North Denver parishes and a dozen suburban parishes in the northwest metro area competed with the struggling core parish. In May 1969, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet closed St. Patrick School and Convent, which they had operated since September 29, 1883. By 1980, St. Patrick's had dwindled to about 200 families.
Father Thomas M. Dowd, a Nebraskan trained at Denver's St. Thomas Seminary, became the seventeenth pastor in 1973. Father Tom, a personable Irishman, began restoring the church as well as its dwindling congregation. He oversaw restoration of the church, stripping off stucco and white paint to resurrect the original sandstone skin of Father Carrigan's day. The interior, with its heavy wooden ceiling beams, picturesque stained glass windows, and hand-carved Italian marble stations of the cross was spruced up to shine again as one of Denver's first and finest examples of mission revival architecture. In 1977, St. Patrick's was designated a Denver Landmark by the City Council. In 1979, the parish plant was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Despite the honors, the congregation continued to dwindle. Father Dowd strove to enhance the parish by opening the first pastoral counseling center in the archdiocese with the help of Louis Barbato, a prominent psychiatrist. When Father Dowd left in 1983, Doctor Barbato and then Thomas Landgraff, OSFS, administered the parish.
On September 6, 1988, Archbishop Stafford reorganized St. Patrick's as a mission of St. Elizabeth parish, to be staffed by the Capuchins of the Mid-American Province. The spacious and elegant parish plant was given a $250,000 remodeling to become a cloister for ten Capuchin Poor Clare nuns from Mexico. These nuns, ranging in age from twenty-one to seventy, arrived wearing brown habits, rope belts, and sandals. Six hours of every day they spend in prayer. Other time they spend making sugar cookies for sale and vestments for the Capuchin friars.
In 1989, the Very Reverend Lorenzo Ruiz, OFM, episcopal vicar and secretary for Hispanic affairs, moved the Hispanic vicariate into the old St. Patrick School. Thus, what had been a center for Irish immigrants became a hub for the Hispanics who were becoming the dominant ethnic group in North Denver. In honor of the Mexican nuns who now live there, part of St. Patrick's was rechristened Our Lady of Light Monastery. The church and pastoral counseling center, renamed Old St. Patrick's mission, continue to reach out to the diverse economic and ethnic groups of North Denver." (by Dr. Tom Noel from (visit link