Sunday, March 17, 2019
HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!
On behalf of all the people who are the sustaining members of Old St. Patrick’s Church, it is my pleasure and delight to welcome all of our many visitors who have found their way here to this historic church today as we celebrate our patronal feast day! Of the many distinctions which makes Old St. Pat’s so unique is the fact that we are not a typical Chicago parish that defines itself by the geographical boundaries laid out by this local diocese. Our members come from over 200 zip codes around Chicagoland and northwest Indiana and we are supported by other members and friends from an additional 100+ zip codes from around the country. What I like to proudly say about Old St. Patrick’s is that we are “a church without borders!”
Likewise, on days like today, when we pause to acknowledge Saint Patrick and the many Irish saints who continue to intercede and watch over us (captured in the magnificent stain glass windows and statuary that surrounds the entire sanctuary), our “church without borders” also becomes a “shrine of destination.” In our Catholic tradition, a Shrine is a place of special and unique distinction, perhaps dedicated to a particular saint’s birth place or burial location, an apparition of Mary, or some other significant religious event. Even though we are not officially a shrine, on days like today as we honor St. Patrick and Irish heritage, I like to acknowledge the many people who come to Old St. Pat’s just once a year for this particular occasion. Therefore, I believe that for this special day, we do become a sacred Shrine of destination for many people.
Our late, great friend and wizard Roger Hughes who served this church faithfully for 24 years always used to say that he never wants Old St. Patricks’ to turn into a “museum.” I couldn’t agree more. Museums capture artifacts and history; they don’t propel mission. Even though you have come to this “Shrine” today, always remember that since its founding as a Catholic parish on Easter Day 1846, Old St. Patrick’s has been an active place of Mission, dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel and the building of the Kingdom of God. Although we have historically hit a few rough patches during our century and a half of existence here in Chicago, primarily in the mid 20th century with the building of the expressway, Old St. Pat’s has proudly honored our Irish immigrant ancestors and we have pushed the doors open even wider to welcome ALL people to this sacred oasis of Faith. Patrick himself was an early 5th century Missionary whose vocational call was to bring the Christian message to the people of Ireland. My hope and prayer is that Old St. Pat’s, this “church without borders” and this “shrine of destination,” will always see ourselves as people with a missionary spirit: to be welcoming, forgiving, generous, and committed to living the Gospel while always staying in tune with the signs of the times.
Yes, you are seated today in an old building. In fact, it’s Chicago’s oldest building dating back to its dedication on Christmas night of 1856. But more than just coming to an old sacred structure and strictly reminiscing about Irish saints of old and our immigrant ancestors, let us truly honor those who established this Shrine by renewing the Church, both here in Chicago and in Ireland today. Our ancestors and St. Patrick himself would be more pleased and excited if they found us expressing the mission of the church in new, Holy, and energetic ways.
May the Spirit of St. Patrick and the Irish Saints keep us united in Faith and eager to live the Mission of the Gospel as we leave this place.
Thank you for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with us.
Father Tom Hurley