Napanee's St. Patrick's is surely a house worthy of God

By  Fr. Raby
  • December 1, 2006

It was a once-in-a-lifetime celebration for St. Patrick's parish, Napanee, my parish when I left to the seminary more than 60 years ago, and since my retirement 10 years ago.

We celebrated the 150th year of the opening of the parish church in what was then the village of Napanee, but is now the town of Greater Napanee. While there were a few other churches in the town at that time, St. Patrick's was the first built in native limestone.

A planning committee decided on three goals to involve the parish and celebrate the anniversary in a fitting way both spiritually and socially. Since we were celebrating 150 years of eucharistic presence in St. Patrick's, it was suggested that we begin with 150 hours adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in thanksgiving for all that the parish means and has meant throughout the years.

Second, an up-to-date history of the parish be published. Third that the archbishop be invited to celebrate the anniversary Mass on Nov. 12.

Parishioners were invited to fill in the Adoration Hour list during weeks before the celebration. Wishing to be an example of a good parishioner, I signed up every midnight to 1 a.m. All went well accept for one night when my relief overslept or forgot, then the Lord, in spite of my best intentions, had an on-and-off again adorer.

Because of his illness Archbishop Anthony Meagher asked retired Archbishop Francis Spence to celebrate the anniversary Mass. Among the visitors were Napanee Mayor Schermerhorn and wife and Frank B. Edwards, the author of the new parish history, A House Worthy of God.

After the social hour in the school following the Mass, the unveiling of the new history was presented, Edwards signed autographs of the history recalling the beginning of the parish and the times and the people involved. The book has a unique feature showing the beautiful stained glass windows and a brief account of their meaning and the donors, which adds to the history. Edwards, a well-known author and historian from the area, has produced a volume that is worthy of a place in every home.

At the time it was built, the parish numbered only about 50 families, mostly Irish immigrants anxious to have their church. It was one of the parishes and missions started by Bishop Alexander Macdonell, the first bishop of Kingston to look after the growing numbers of new Catholics in the predominantly Protestant Upper Canada.

The church that opened in 1856, and with many improvements and numbers of parishioners, still serves the Catholics of Napanee.

Fr. Rod McNeil, the 24th pastor, succeeds a long line of priests who have served the people of Napanee as pastor and citizen.

As the town grew so too did the involvement of the people in the life of the community. It now has a large Catholic school, named after former pastor Fr. John J. O'Neill, who served from 1969-84.

Times may change, but life goes on in St. Patrick's to keep up with them.

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