Saint Patrick's Church Washington, DC

By: Edward Dye

Saint Patrick's Parish, a gothic stone structure is located at the junction of 10th Street and G Street at downtown Washington D.C. It exists since 1794 and is known to be a historic landmark. Initially, it was a humble wooden building that catered to the religious requirements of Irish immigrants who were employed in construction sites at the Capitol and White House. James Hoban, an architect who was the designer of the White House, also designed a brick structure to replace the church building. Saint Patrick's Parish was among the earliest church buildings at the country's capital. However, Washington became the capital only in 1800, when the Federal Government had moved there.

Father Caffry, who was Irish, became the first pastor in Saint Patrick's Parish. Later in 1804, Father William Mathews became the first American to receive ordination as priest in US, and he also became the pastor in Saint Patrick's Parish. He was uniquely gifted and talented, and in his service of fifty years, he was given positions of distinction that includes the position of the President of Georgetown University. During his time, many important institutions were established in Washington, which still exist. He was a respected person, and a close friend of Presidents John Quincy Adams and Zachary Taylor, who visited the church during important occasions.

Father Walters oversaw the construction of the marvelous gothic stone building that stands today. In spite of the taller buildings that are all around the Saint Patrick's Parish, it is still noticeably impressive, and visually appealing. The texture and color of the stone blocks that are roughly hewn are noticeably rich. The church is being further extended for bringing convenient facilities.

The history of the church is associated with significant events and changes. It has witnessed the British invading Washington. Though several buildings of the Capital were burnt down, the Saint Patrick's Parish mass was faithfully attended by the people. During the civil war, when Catholic immigrants rushed in thousands in to Washington, it provided support for the overwhelming population. The church was very helpful during critical times, and it established an industrial school, an orphanage and an old-age home. Amidst the changes, the church has remained solid and strong.

The surroundings and people have changed, and several near by buildings have been removed. Striking new structures have replaced the older, worn out buildings. The Saint Patrick's Parish has helped wounded soldiers during wars, and has played a part in giving support in the depression. During the tumult that followed after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, the church came forward to help by hosting the troops that were employed to restore peace.

The goal of the church is to promote Catholic education, assist social and national causes, and develop schools and charitable organizations. Presidents Wilson, Taft and Theodore Roosevelt have recognized the contribution of Saint Patrick's Parish to the society and nation. John McCormick, Speaker of the House, and Tip O'Neal, the Congressman, attended mass at the church. The 50th Pan-American Mass held in 1967 was attended by President Lyndon Johnson.

Saint Patrick's Parish hosts a wide range of events and takes part in various activities related to the parish. Further, it has always been close to the people it serves, and continues to function in enhancing educational and charitable deeds. It has been recognized for its significant role in the religion and culture of Washington.



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