Why should we save St. Patrick?
· It is the second oldest Catholic worship site in Cecil County, Maryland
· Built in 1819, the chapel is a testimonial to the impact of the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution. This chapel was built by Irish immigrants working on the Susquehanna canals and the local lumbering industry. In Ireland, the Penal Laws denied suffrage to Catholics. They were not allowed to have schools and the ownership of property was carefully restricted. Rentals and taxes were designed to drive Catholics off the land. In their new country, they had the freedom to worship, and to build their own church, rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It is note worthy that these immigrants, who certainly were not wealthy, used their meager savings to build a worship site, an investment that as Americans they felt secure enough to do.
· It is one of the oldest public buildings in Cecil County and is part of the heritage and history of the county as well as the state of Maryland.
· In 1978 the site was considered valuable enough by the state of Maryland to be placed on the register of the Maryland Historic Trust as a historic site.reserving monuments and buildings for the future.
In 1819 the Rev. Roger Smith, a priest from St. Ignatius Church in Hickory Maryland, purchased a half acre from Daniel Glackin for a church and a burial ground. The church was built and the first religious service was held in 1819. The congregation consisted mostly of Irish immigrants working in the lumbering operation bordering the Susquehanna River and the canals on both sides of the river. They called it St. Patrick’s Chapel.
St. Patrick’s Chapel is a testimonial to the toil and faith of the early nineteenth century residents of Cecil County. Old Conowingo was a busy thoroughfare; a major crossing of the Susquehanna River. Here Lafayette and Compte de Rochambeau, with their troops, crossed the Susquehanna in 1781 on their way to Yorktown. Here, lumber operations were established and canals created to foster the growing economic life of the county and here people built their church telling us that their faith was as important as their commerce. For these reasons alone, the chapel is an important landmark deserving preservation.
With the advent of the railroad, canal commerce diminished and the population shifted away from Pilottown. The chapel was abandoned several times during its’ 188 year history. In spite of sporadic “restoration” attempts, the chapel frequently experienced neglect. A passerby in the 1920s remarked that the grounds were overgrown with brush, the front door swinging on its hinges, and the interior invaded by animals. Most old wood framed buildings would not have withstood such an assault. However, this building refused to collapse; refused to die. In 1934 a Mass Commemorating the chapel's 125th Anniversary was celebrated. Plans were made to restore it but the Depression and World War II sidelined those goals. In 1947 Good Shepherd Parish assumed responsibility for the chapel and repairs were made. In the early 1970's, more work was continued and a Mass was celebrated in 1972. In 2004, the St. Patrick's Historical Association was established and the chapel was once again restored. In September 2010, the newly renovated chapel was rededicated by Bishop Malooly. It still stands, a witness to our past, and a potential refuge to future generations. This is a humble, courageous building, but it needs our help! It stands there saying “I’m part of your history, I won’t let you forget me.”
Other important dates:
1832 – First wedding, between John Poole and Mary Ann
1859 – Chapel administered from St. Patrick’s, Havre de Grace
1864 – Chapel administered from St. Teresa, Port Deposit.
1881 – First “restoration” by Rev. Joseph Barry
1892 – Chapel under jurisdiction of Wilmington Diocese
- Fr. Peter And, St. Teresa, continues “restoration”
1908 – 1925 – Chapel abandoned.
1934 – Last public Mass for many years.
1960 – Fr. William Couming, Good Shepherd, undertakes
1971 – Fr. Thomas Peterman renovates chapel.
1972 – Bishop Mardaga celebrates first Mass since 1934.
1978 – St. Patrick’s registered as a site in the Maryland Historical
1990 – Fr. Raymond Forrester continues restoration work with small grant from the Cecil County Historical Society
2005 –-2006 - St. Patrick’s Chapel Historical Society
incorporated in the State of Maryland. and acquires
Federal tax free status under Section 501 (c) (3) of the
Internal Revenue Code.
Sept. 1, 2018 BiCentennial Celebration Begins!
How can I help?
We seek your assistance in this valuable project. You can obtain additional information by contacting the Society’s resident agent,
187 Harrisville Rd.
Colora, MD 21917
Also Visit our Facebook page for upcoming events! https://www.facebook.com/StPatricksChapel/?ref=bookmarks
Masses are held in March, September and December. Please check our Facebook page for dates. The community is welcome to attend. Other events may be scheduled by contacting Mr. Pare.
We rely on the generosity of our supporters. We are especially grateful to William & Marilyn Pare and Jack Scarbeth who began this labor of love and have continued with it thru trials and tribulations. We are also indebted to our board of directors who keep the vision alive: President Jack Scarbath, Secretary JoAnne Bierly, Treasurer Bill Pare and members Jerry Callaway, Bud McFadden, Ken Miller, Kathy Lay, Robert Rando, Chris Quinn, The Rev. Jay McKee, Tom O'Hara, Jim Zabmbuto and Erika Quesenberry Sturgill.
The chapel is thankful to St. Kevin's Ancient Order of the Hibernians, the Irish Jasper Greens, Good Shepherd Parish and countless others that donate their time, talent and treasure to ensure that St. Patrick's Chapel stands for many generations to follow.
UPCOMING AND PAST EVENTS
St. Patrick's Bicentennial Celebration!
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 9:30 AM!
Join Us! All are Welcome!
A small country church said to be a symbol of religious freedom will begin a yearlong bicentennial celebration with Mass on Sept. 1.
St. Patrick’s Chapel, in the far northwestern corner of Cecil County, Md., was built by Irish Catholic immigrants who came to the area to build a canal along the rapids of the lower Susquehanna River and to work in lumber and mining industries.
Bill Pare, spokesman for the St. Patrick’s Chapel Historical Society, said Catholics in Ireland were disenfranchised in the early 19th Century. “At that time, Catholics were not allowed to build churches in Ireland, but they did have that right here in America, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.”
Father Jay McKee, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Perryville, will celebrate the Mass at the frame church north of Conowingo, in what formerly is known as Pilot Town. St. Patrick’s is one of four churches within Good Shepherd Parish, and the only one not used on a weekly basis.
“It’s always a thrill to go to a chapel and say Mass in that intimate space,” Father McKee said. “It’s a very prayerful and very spiritual venue.”
Since the church can seat only about 100 people, a tent will be set up with additional seating and a video feed, Pare said.
The church and grounds open at 9:30 a.m., with a PowerPoint presentation on its history starting at 10. Mass begins at 11. Historical memorabilia and bicentennial mementoes will be on display.
The observance will continue at quarterly Masses through September 2019. Details for those Masses are yet to be announced.
St. Patrick’s is the second oldest Catholic church in Cecil County. The oldest is the Shrine of St. Francis Xavier in Warwick, dedicated in 1797. Both are historic churches on the Diocese of Wilmington’s 150th Anniversary pilgrimage tour, on the first Saturday of each month through March.
The church and its cemetery are on a half-acre lot on Pleasant Grove Road, just south of the Pennsylvania state line.
Both the exterior and interior of the church are as close to the original structure as possible, Pare said, thanks to a $180,000 renovation. The altar, side tabernacle, large candle stands, and altar rail were part of the original church, he said. The Stations of the Cross and stenciling on the wall are reproduced as shown in photographs from the 1930s, apparently for the 125th anniversary Mass.
Bishop Malooly rededicated St. Patrick’s in 2010.
That St. Patrick’s Chapel still stands today seems almost miraculous. After the wooden church was built, Mass was celebrated every fifth weekend (10 times a year) by priests from Harford County, across the Susquehanna.
By the end of the 19th Century, the canal traffic gave way to railroads that crossed the Susquehanna downriver, just north of the Chesapeake Bay, bypassing the Conowingo area. In 1927, construction of the Conowingo Dam flooded the old town of Conowingo. Most of the Irish immigrants who had come to the Conowingo area moved away, reducing the church’s population base.
St. Patrick’s fell into major disrepair by 1934, when a Mass marked its 125th anniversary. Plans to restore St. Patrick’s fell to the wayside, victim of the Great Depression and World War II. Despite sporadic repairs and renovations, the church had drastically deteriorated again by the start of this century.
Efforts to renovate the church began anew with the creation of the historical society, which raised the money needed for the renovations.
July 7th Mass at St. Patrick’s Chapel
Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Chapel on Saturday, July 7th, 2018 at 11 AM as part of the Diocese of Wilmington’s 150th sesquicentennial anniversary celebration. We also take this event as an opportunity to provide information regarding the chapel’s upcoming 200th anniversary. Items highlighting the chapel’s 200th anniversary, which will be on display this Saturday, include commemorative coffee mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, and historical pamphlets. At 10 o’clock a “tour”/power point presentation is scheduled. The presentation outlines the history of the chapel and the activities which were instrumental in restoring the chapel. Following Mass, refreshments will be available.
If you have any questions regarding this event, or need driving directions to the chapel, contact Bill Paré at 410-658-4378 or e-mail email@example.com.
April 7th Mass & 150th Anniversary Celebration
Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Chapel on Saturday, April 7th at 12 noon as part of the Diocese of Wilmington’s 150th sesquicentennial anniversary celebration. St. Patrick’s Chapel was selected as one of nine historical worship sites in the diocese to participate in this year long celebration.
Mass will be celebrated on the first Saturday of each month starting in April 2018 and ending on March 2nd 2019. Printed historical information regarding the chapel’s long history will be available. Information will also be provided regarding the schedule of events in the diocese sesquicentennial celebration. Pilgrimage information for the other historic churches will be available.
Visitors will also be informed about the preparations being made for St. Patrick’s Chapel 200th anniversary celebration which will start in September 2018.
Revised Schedule for 150th Celebrations at St. Pat’s
As one of the ten historic churches chosen by the Diocese of Wilmington to celebrated the 150th anniversary of the diocese, Mass will be celebrated on the first Saturday of each month throughout the year . However, while the dates remain the same, the hourly schedule for these events has been modified. The new schedule is as follows:
9:30 AM – chapel open.
10:00 AM – tour/power point presentation
11:00 AM – Mass
Refreshments will be served after Mass. This modified schedule should provide visitors the opportunity the learn more about the history of the chapel and also view pictures describing the renovation/restoration process which took place in 2008 – 2009.
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Contact us at:
St. Patrick's Chapel Historical Society
Attn: William Pare
187 Harrisville Road
Colora MD 21918
287 Pleasant Grove Road, Conowingo, Maryland 21918, United States