Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 3, 2008
St. Patrick's built for Quebec's English speaking Catholics
Patron saint of the Irish, St. Patrick converted the Irish to the true Church
St. Patrick – March 17
By TED FITZGERALD
St. Patrick's was the first Quebec church to be designed by noted architect Thomas Baillairge.
Noted area author and historian Marianna O'Gallagher explains that a popular misconception exists that holds that the first immigrants from Ireland arrived en masse in 1847 as a result of the potato famine.
They did, but 30 years earlier there were enough English-speaking Catholic newcomers in the city to petition Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis for their own church.
As early as 1819, the city's Irish residents were celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a special Mass and in 1822 were blessed with the appearance of an aggressive advocate for establishing their own church.
Newly ordained, 24-year-old Father Patrick McMahon was assigned to Notre-Dame-de-Quebec Cathedral, parish church of most immigrants. Under his leadership, construction of a church for English-speaking Catholics was begun on rue Sainte-Helene in 1831.
St. Patrick's was dedicated two years later, one of the first ethnic parishes in Canada. Of stone construction with a single bell tower, it was the first Quebec church to be designed by noted architect Thomas Baillairge.
By 1915, the congregation had outgrown the building and a new church was begun on Grande Allee outside the city walls. When it was completed in 1958, the last Mass was celebrated at old St. Patrick's on March 17.
The remains of McMahon who had died in 1851 was removed from their place beneath the church floor and re-interred in St. Patrick's Cemetery.
Little evidence of the old Irish area is obvious today in the walled city. On rue McMahon, renamed for the first pastor, in addition to the old fa‡ade, an impressive stone Celtic cross stands, a gift in 1997 from an Irish resident to the people of Quebec after he had read of the extreme charity offered to the hundreds of famine orphans that were taken in by Quebecers.
And just off central Place D'Armes, the porch of the old stone city courthouse features a bas-relief stone plaque that prominently displays, beneath the fabled harp of Ireland, the timeless "Erin Go Bragh."
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