Racine County ALHN

St. Patrick's Catholic Church

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), p. 391-392

The origin of the Catholic congregations in Racine, of which St. Patrick's is the mother church, dates from 1842 when Rev. Father Morrisey, a missionary priest traveling through the entire State, made monthly visits to this locality, and held Divine services alternately in the old Court House and in the dwellings of private families. During his ministry, a small frame house of worship was built on the northwest corner of Market Square. After the visits of Father Morrisey ceased, Father Kundig, of Kenosha, took charge of the small congregation. In the year 1845, a more commodious church was erected, and called St. Ignatius, which was under the pastoral charge of Rev. Father Pendergast, who remained from 1847-48. He was succeeded, in the latter year, by Rev. Fandar. In 1849, Father Schrandenbach assumed the spiritual care of the Church, remaining a short period, being followed by Rev. Father Norris, D. D., a native of Baltimore, educated for the Roman Catholic clergy in Rome. He departed in 1852. In this year it was that the separation of the German from the English speaking Catholics took place which resulted in the organization of St. Mary's congregation. From 1852-56, Rev. Father Smith administered to the religious wants of the mother church. The congregation having so largely increased in numbers, it was deemed not only advisable but necessary to contruct a larger church edifice; consequently, on August 28, 1856, the corner-stone of the present magnificent church, situated on what is known as the North Side, was laid with imposing ceremonies, and subsequently the church was solemnly dedicated to the service of God, on the 1st day of September, 1861, by Rt. Rev. John Henni, Bishop of Milwaukee, assisted by Rev. F. H. Sailer, Pastor of St. Mary's Church, of Racine, and Rev. M. Obermiller, Pastor of St. George's Church, of Kenosha, and Rev. M. W. Gibson, Pastor of the new church, which was named St. Patrick's. The solemnity was attended by about 3,000 people. For about one year, Father Gibson served at both St. Patrick's and St. Ignatius' Churches. Preceeding Father Gibson, Father G. M. Brennan officiated in St. Patrick's Church some nine months previous to its completion. In May, 1863, the present Pastor, Rev. Father G. W. Mathew, succeeded Rev. Gibson. Through the efforts of the former, the church was cleared of all financial incumbrances, and a substantial pastoral residence built. He also encouraged and secured the establishment of the Young Men's Literary and Benevolent Society, which continues in a flourishing condition, and has a membership of about 150. Under his supervision, also, the Father Mathew Temperence Society was organized, and to-day it exercises an active and beneficial influence over the congregation. It has a membership of some 200 males and females. Soon after the successful operation of these societies, appeared the necessity of a hall as a place of meeting, where entertainments might be held to attract the members, and keep up the interest of the good causes embodied in the constitution of the societies. The result was the erection, in 1865, of the large and well-appointed brick building adjoining the church. The lower part is arranged for school purposes, and the hall above is furnished with a stage, necessary scenery and adequate seating facilities. The building is called Father Mathew Hall. The lower rooms are at present rented to the city for a public school. The entire Church property is valued at about $28,000. The present membership numbers 225 families.

St. Patrick's Catholic Church

As published in "Commemorative Biographical Record of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1906), pages 99-100

The pioneer settlers of the Roman Catholic faith in Racine and Kenosha counties had their spiritual wants attended to by Rev. Thomas Morrissy, who came to the Territory about 1840. There was not then, nor for some years afterward, any Catholic Church in these two counties. Upon the arrival of Father Morrissy, which was at somewhat irregular periods, it was customary to notify the few Catholics in the vicinity to meet at a certain house, where mass and instructions were held, and the necessary sacraments dispensed. One of the stations of his very extensive circuit was at Racine.

Near the close of 1841 Rev. Martin Kundig came to the Territory from Detroit, Mich., and made his headquarters in Milwaukee. He also made frequent visits to Racine and Kenosha Counties, gathered the faithful together, said mass, instructed the people, and baptized the children. In time, the number of Catholics increasing in Racine, property was purchased on Fifth street, near where the "Commercial Hotel" now stands, and an unpretentious frame building erected theron. This was the first Catholic Church in Racine, and was called St. Luke's. In less than two years this church was found to be too small to accomodate the rapidly increasing number of Catholic worshippers, and steps were taken to build a larger ediface. A Mr. Riodan gave the society a quit claim deed for two lots on the southwest corner of Eighth street and Lake avenue, upon what was then the school section. In 1845, a church building sufficiently large to accomodate the Catholics of all nationalities was erected on this site. Services were then discontinued at the old St. Luke's Church and the property sold.

In September, 1846, by the appointment of the Right Rev. John Martin Henni, who, two years previously, was made Bishop of Milwaukee, Rev. Prendergast was sent to Racine as the first resident pastor of the church, which was called St. Ignatius. Father Prendergast remained in charge only about a year and was succeeded by Rev. P. J. Fander, who remained two years. In August, 1849, Rev. Charles Shroudenbach took pastoral charge, and remained about three years. In November, 1851, Rev. John W. Norris, D. D., was appointed pastor, which position he held one year, when he was succeeded by Rev. Martin Kundig, V. G., in August, 1852. During his pastorate, which lasted about two years, the German Catholics saw that they were numerically strong enough to build a church of their own and support a priest of their own nationality. The English speaking Catholics indemnified their brethren for the money interests they had held in St. Ignatius Church when the Germans proceeded to build a church on the corner of College avenue and Eighth street. Father Kundig became the pastor of the new St. Mary's Church and Rev. T. A. Smith succeeded him as pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius in June, 1855. Though additions had twice been built to St. Ignatius Church, and notwithstanding that the Germans now had a church of their own, it was soon apparent that the old church was entirely too small to afford room for the English speaking Catholics. In canvassing the opinions of the congregation on the subject of a new church, it became manifested that by far the greater number of the communicants resided on the north side of the river, and as a consequence voted to have the new church in question erected on the north side. Under the management of Father Smith, property was secured on St. Clair street, and the present St. Patrick's Church completed in 1856. The pastors of St. Patrick's Church also officiated at St. Ignatius Church, on the south side, every Sunday up to May 12, 1862, when services were discontinued. From this time until 1885 the English speaking Catholics of Racine worshipped at St. Patrick's. At this time the necessity of having another English speaking church in the city, and located on the south side, became apparent. The result was the building of St. Rose's Church, at the corner of Eleventh and Grand Avenue.

In September 1859, Father Smith was succeeded by Rev. G. H. Brennan, who remained in charge until Jan. 14, 1861, when he was followed by Rev. M. W. Gibson, who, in turn, was succeeded by Rev. George W. Matthews, on the 14th of May, 1863. Under the administration of Father Matthews, which continued for twenty-three years, more church property was secured, a brick parsonage built, a commodious schoolhouse and church hall were erected, all church indebtedness paid, and many improvements made. Father Matthews died while acting as pastor of the church, Jan. 27, 1886, highly esteemed by all classes.

The present pastor, Rev. Stephen Trant, was appointed to the charge of St. Patrick's Church after the death of Father Matthews. St. Patrick's congregation has an excellent parochial school, a fine pastoral residence, which has been considerably remodeled and improved under the present management, and a beautiful church property. The temporal or business affairs of the society are managed by a committee elected by the congregation, and whose duty it is to confer with the pastor on matters of a purely secular nature. The affairs of St. Patrick's Church now, as in the past, are conducted without the least friction.

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