Parish History

In 1836 St. Pat’s was only the 3rd Parish in Boston. Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick was the Bishop of all New England. The Know-Nothing Party had already reared its ugly head. The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown had been burned, yet Catholic Immigrants began to arrive even before the Potato Famine in Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Parish - Postcard

Saint Patrick’s Parish – Postcard, early 1900’s.

As with most every Immigrant group the Irish faced bias and problems here. A small wooden Church was built on Northampton St. which had to be defended at night by Parishioners from being torched – the fate of the Ursuline Convent. Yet, the Irish kept coming by the thousands to Roxbury, a town then in Norfolk County which was also spelled Rocksbury, Roxburie and Rocsbury.

Bishop Fenwick dedicated this new Church at 10 A.M. on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, 1836. Appropriately it was named St. Patrick in honor of Ireland’s Patron Saint who is also now the Patron Saint of Nigeria, Africa.

After many years of growth it was realized that the Church was too small and a larger Church was needed. Land was purchased at the crest of a large hill at Dudley St. and Magazine St. among the many Orchards which then made up this area of Roxbury.

The cornerstone of our current Church was laid in 1872. It was dedicated in 1880. In 1888, James Cardinal Gibbons, the first Cardinal in the United States, visited St. Patrick’s and blessed the Church.

.The Church has 3 Altars carved in Italian Marble; many Stained Glass Windows fabricated in 1870 by Tyrolese Art Glass Company in Innsbruck, Austria; an Organ made by the foremost Organ maker in America in the 19th Century, George S. Hutchings; and a Mural of St. Patrick above the main Altar of St. Patrick’s by 2 German Artists, Lanpriecht and Kinkun. The lower Church has a marble Altar of Our Lady of Knock provided by Cardinal Cushing in 1950.

In 1885 the Sisters of Charity opened a St. Patrick school which continues to this day.

How blessed we are today to continue as a Parish of newcomers and Immigrants as we did in 1836 at our beginning. Many Italians come in the early 20th Century. Some settled in our Parish in the area called “Little Italy”. They suffered bias as their predecessors had and those that followed them. In the 1950s and 1960s many African Americans came from the South. St. Patrick’s Parish was no longer a so-called Irish-Italian Parish but a Parish for any Catholic from any place. Spanish from Puerto Rico and other Hispanic Nations arrived; Cape Verdeans came in the 1970s and 80s, people from Africa and the Caribbean Islands keep on coming.

Our Parish has always had a great Missionary tradition. Two Priests who served here over 100 years ago went on to found 2 of the most prominent Catholic Missionary Societies in the world: Fr. James Walsh, later a Bishop, started the world wide Maryknoll Society of Priests and Sisters 101 years ago; Fr. Richard Cushing, later the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, began the Society of St. James the Apostle in 1957 to serve the people of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

Currently we have 9 Priests and 6 Sisters who serve the people in various ways of our trilingual Parish: English, Spanish, Portuguese/Criolo in their native languages.

In addition, the Carmelite Sisters have had their Monastery a block from our Church for over 100 years. We consider them a part and prayerful dynamic of what makes St. Patrick’s St. Patrick.

Our Parish property consists of the 1872 Church, the Rectory attached to the Church, the School built in 1887, St. Patrick Convent which also houses an Adult Education Program, Our Lady of Guadalupe Friary, and the Convent of St. Francis. All properties are in good repair.