Since its dedication on Christmas morning in 1856, Old St. Patrick’s has been a sacred site embodying the dreams and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans. In few neighborhoods have the bricks and mortar mattered so much.
—Ellen Skerrett, Editor of At the Crossroads: Old St. Patrick’s and the Chicago Irish
Since its founding by Irish immigrants on Easter morning in 1846, Old St. Patrick’s has been interwoven in the life and history of the City of Chicago. Founded in 1846 as the first English-speaking parish in the city, the current church building was designed in a Romanesque style by two of Chicago’s earliest practicing architects Augustus Bauer and Asher Carter. The cornerstone was laid on May 23, 1853, and the building was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1856.
Old St. Patrick’s is one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Its survival makes it the oldest public building in the City of Chicago.
Inspired by the Celtic art exhibit at the Columbian Expostition of 1893 and the Book of Kells in Ireland, Thomas A. O’Shaughnessy designed, constructed, and personally installed the 15 beautiful stained-glass windows of Old St. Patrick’s between 1912 and 1922. The 12 side windows were inspired by the Celtic designs of Ireland’s Book of Kells. The final triptych windows, done in an art nouveau style and installed in the eastern facade of the church, are the “Faith, Hope & Charity” windows, also known as the Terrence MacSwiney Memorial Triptych. In 1977, Old St. Patrick’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, Old St. Patrick’s is home to a membership of more than 3,000 households and innumerable friends. As we grow, we continually redefine what it means to be an urban church. We are committed to remaining open to new visions and possibilities, seeking broader horizons as we journey into our future.
Old St. Patrick’s Historical Timeline
Old St. Patrick’s Church was founded on Easter Sunday, April 12. The wooden structure of Old St. Patrick’s Church was built and was the second parish established in Chicago.
Old St. Patrick’s laid the cornerstone on May 22, which was a public act of faith linking congregation, church, and neighborhood.
Rev. Denis Dunne becomes the pastor of Old St. Patrick’s.
Dedication of the church, conducted by Rev. Denis Dunne, was held on Christmas morning.
Mozart’s 12th Mass was performed on St. Patrick’s Day at the church.
On Dec. 31, Rev. Denis Dunne brought the St. Vincent de Paul Society to Chicago making Old St. Pat’s the first parish to found a society created specifically to serve the needs of the poor. St. Vincent de Paul Society has its roots in Catholic Charities.
The Great Chicago Fire missed Old St. Patrick’s Church by just two blocks.
The spires of Old St. Patrick’s Church were completed and by the same architect as Holy Name Cathedral and the Archbishop’s residence.
1912 – 1922
Chicago artist Thomas O’Shaughnessy creates Old St. Patrick’s magnificent stained-glass windows.
Old St. Pat’s is in danger of demolition. In addition, expressway construction and enrollment decline, eventually leading to school closings.
Thomas O’Shaughnessy passes away.
The first St. Patrick’s Day downtown parade was restarted in honor of Old St. Patrick’s 100th Anniversary.
Old St. Patrick’s, Chicago’s oldest church and public building, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Only four people are registered members of Old St. Patrick’s Church when
Rev. John J. Wall becomes pastor. Along with Rev. John Cusick, Fr. Wall
unveiled his “church for the marketplace” plan with strong outreach to
young adults and also launches the Center for Work and Faith, which targets
The first Old St. Patrick’s “World’s Largest Block Party” draws 5,000 people to Des Plaines Street.
Old St. Patrick’s mailing list grows to 10,000 people.
Old St. Patrick’s Sunday attendance rises to 2,000; membership increased to over 1,000 households. Old St. Patrick’s opens the first new Catholic grammar school in the Archdiocese in more than 25 years called Frances Xavier Warde School.
“Old St. Patrick’s Renaissance” campaign was launched in an effort to begin plans for the church’s restoration.
Old St. Patrick’s Church conducted a cross-raising ceremony outside the church.
Reconstruction and restoration of most of the church interior and exterior were completed.
The “A Place to Stand” capital campaign was undertaken to expand Old St. Patrick’s Church campus for the needs of generations still to come.
Old St. Patrick’s begins campus construction and launches the Momentum Phase of the Capital Campaign. The Center for Social Concerns moved to the newly renovated 703 West Monroe building.
Current membership is more than 3,000 households. Associate membership is 5,000 plus, and thousands of Old St. Pat’s members and friends participate annually in church programs.
The new Frances Xavier Warde School is completed on the Old St. Patrick’s campus.
Old St. Patrick’s Church conducts a year long observance celebrating 150 years in this historic, sacred space and 160 years as a faith community.
Fr. Tom Hurley officially became pastor of Old St. Pat’s Church during a Mass of Installation held on Oct. 14.
Fr. Jack Wall became president of the Catholic Extension Society, founded in Chicago in 1904. The Society connects U.S. churches with poorer or more remote ones that can be assisted by those with greater resources. We are grateful that Fr. Wall will always be a part of Old St. Pat’s.
A special Liturgy was held on May 18 at UIC Forum, which was called Hope Sunday. This was a historic gathering of more than 3,000 members, friends and associates in one place at one time for the Eucharist. This spirit-filled day of inspiration was a recognition and celebration of a “Pentecost Moment” at Old St. Pat’s Church.