Bishop Douglas J. Lucia incenses the new altar at St. Patrick-St. Brigid Church in Syracuse. “We are called to love neighbor,” the bishop says. (Sun photos | Chuck Wainwright)
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
The newly renovated church of “1,000 welcomes” offered a memorable one Saturday as the bishop blessed the altar, concelebrated Mass, and exited to applause.
On July 31, 1870, the Rev. Hugh Shields celebrated the first Mass at St. Patrick’s on Tipperary Hill on the west side of Syracuse. On Saturday, the church now known as St. Patrick-St. Brigid celebrated its 150th anniversary. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia circled the bare altar spreading holy water and incense. Then the altar was covered and the candles were lit.
The bishop called it a “very beautiful church” that gives “honor and praise to God.” He said the love of neighbor is the “heart of Jesus’ ministry,” and he cited the importance of bringing the Gospel to “those we meet in our daily lives.”
The day’s first Scripture reading, Exodus 22:20-26, emphasizes the sense of welcome: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”
The church of his youth
Sharing the sanctuary for the live-streamed Mass with the bishop were Father Kevin P. Maloney, St. Patrick-St. Brigid’s pastor; Father Thomas J. Ryan, who grew up in the area and now serves as the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville; and Deacon Anthony J. Paratore.
“As a priest-son of St. Patrick’s, it is always good to return to the roots for special occasions: praying and grieving with families, celebrating Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and Weddings,” Father Ryan wrote in an email. “Entering this welcoming, awesome, and faith-filled building reminds everyone that our Catholic faith is integral to daily life and that faith has been built on the shoulders of giants, lay and religious, and continues to guide every day of our life.”
“We love our Tipp Hill neighborhood and want everyone to always feel that they are welcome,” wrote Father Maloney. “Cead Mil Failte means 1,000 welcomes in Gaelic and for the past 150 years and the next 150 years, we will be here to welcome all that come through our doors!”
According to its website, St. Patrick’s Church “was dedicated on Sept. 15, 1872, by Bishop Francis McNerny of the Albany Diocese.
“Many of the first parishioners arrived in 1825 from all the various counties in Ireland to work on the Erie Canal and settled in Tipperary Hill. The first Mass was celebrated on July 31st, 1870, by Rev. Hugh Shields, the first pastor, in Cool’s Hall, located at 101 Hamilton Street, on the banks of the Erie Canal.
“During the summer of 2012, St. Patrick’s and St. Brigid’s were canonically linked, which means that they are still separate parishes, but share a pastor. Both parishes have their own history and roots.”
“To me, the 150th anniversary is very special because we are continuing a long tradition of our Christian faith here in Syracuse on Tipperary Hill,” Father Maloney wrote. “To think about the generations of people that helped to build the parish from nothing and to see where it is today is something we can all be very proud of! This sesquicentennial celebration is in honor of our founders who helped build a lasting legacy of faith and friendship on Tipp Hill.”
They always come back
Asked how “Irishness” lives in the parish today, if at all, he wrote:
“Actually, the Irish identity is still quite strong here in the parish! It’s not the same as 150 years ago, but we still have several people who immigrated from Ireland and too many to count first-generation descendants and families. That is one of the strengths of our parish, to have families carry on their traditions of coming to Mass here at St. Patrick’s/St. Brigid’s. They might not live in the neighborhood anymore, but they know the importance of supporting their home parish. We continue to celebrate our heritage every year with an annual Irish Festival in July. It brings the community together in a great way with Irish dancing, music, and of course, beverages!”
Commenting further on the parish’s beneficial presence on Tipp Hill, Father Maloney wrote:
“We have an amazing food pantry that helps out anywhere from 80 to 100 families a month. We are always concerned about those not as fortunate in our community and do our best to help them in any way that we can. You’ll always see volunteers from our parish helping out with community events like the Shamrock Run or spring cleanup days.”
Father Ryan grew up right next to the rectory and attended St. Patrick’s Parochial School from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“My Dad was Nibsy Ryan, owner and operator of Nibsy’s Pub right down the street. He died in 2001,” Father Ryan wrote.
“There were five boys in the family: We were always called on to serve Mass!” he wrote.
Green is the color
St. Patrick’s, he wrote, “has always been a focal point on Tipperary Hill (along with the eminent ‘Green over red’ traffic light and a few Irish pubs!). The early Irish who settled on Tipp Hill were resolute that a Catholic Church be built as the center of life for the predominately Irish Catholic neighborhood at that time. Their sacrifice and wholehearted efforts made this beautiful church a reality and for these many years it has continued to be the center of faith and friendship.”
The former parochial school, he wrote, “was mainly staffed by the devoted Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) for most of its existence; in later years some very fine lay teachers were added to the faculty. The priests assigned to the parish were also very present in the school as they made their way to visiting classrooms, attending basketball and baseball games, and coordinating CYO activities.
“The seeds of many, many religious vocations were formed in the parish. At one time, St. Patrick’s held the record for the most vocations to the priesthood in our diocese, many formed under the long pastorate of Msgr. Thomas Driscoll. While most young men were ordained to the diocesan priesthood, a good number became missionaries for various communities. Most of the young women who entered religious life joined the … CSJ’s and still others became affiliated with different consecrated communities.”
The parish, he wrote, “continues to be a source of great pride for these many families who have carried on the responsible stewardship of their parish with the recent, magnificent renovations.”
The roof renovation was finished in 2017. Interior renovations extended from January to August this year, said Tim Gaughan, a member of the Parish Council and chairman of St. Patrick’s Irish Festival, which his parents helped found 28 years ago. He was in the last eighth-grade class to graduate (1986) from St. Patrick’s Parochial School.
“St. Patrick’s Parish is very important to me and to our family,” said Gaughan, a sales manager for a heavy-equipment company. “I have three kids going to Bishop Ludden [Jr./Sr. High] School now. They’re all active within the church. For example, all three kids are altar servers.”
“The parish unifies us in the neighborhood, in the community,” he said. The parish, he added, “is essentially like an extension of my family.”
Remembering the 100th
Born in 1936, Eucharistic minister and lector Gary Spath has lived in the same house on Tipperary Hill for 65 years. The retired legal assistant received all of his sacraments at St. Patrick’s except baptism (St. John the Evangelist). A graduate of the parish school in 1954, he served on the parish’s 100th-anniversary and 125th-anniversary committees.
“I still see a number of my classmates at Mass on the weekends, which I think is very unique,” he said, “and that shows you how important St. Patrick’s Church is.”
The church, he said, has new lighting, furnishings, altar, ambo, and Easter candle, and refinished pews.
As Saturday’s sesquicentennial Mass concluded, Bishop Lucia expressed his gratitude and the people applauded. The church of “1,000 welcomes” knows about send-offs, too.