St. Patricks to celebrate 150th year

By Joseph Slacian

One of the most well-known landmarks in Lagro, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, will mark its 150th anniversary on Friday, March 17.
The church dates back to the 1800s and was formed by Irish Catholics who came to the community to work on the Wabash and Erie Canal. The church, one of three to carry the St. Patrick name in Lagro, was dedicated on March 17, 1973, by Bishop Dwenger.
On Friday, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will celebrate mass at the church. Services will begin at 5:30 p.m., with a soup supper to follow at the Lagro United Methodist Church. Father Jay Hornung of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Wabash will be assisting in the service.
The choir from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Huntington will be on hand to provide music during the service.
According to St. Patrick history, Thomas Fitzgibbon and his brother-in-law, Michael Hogan, were the prime movers in the construction of the church. Fitzgibbon was one of the canal construction superintendents, while Hogan was a distiller in the town.
“They donated this land,” according to Becki Wagoner, a member of Friends of St. Patrick’s. “Because he lived in the house right across the street and his mother was quite elderly and didn’t always want to come to church, so she could sit on her front porch and look in and see mass.”
The house across the street and the church share at least one architectural detail, Friends president Janet Poole noted. A winding staircase that goes from the main floor of the church to the organ and choir loft above is a replica of one found in the former Hogan home.
“It’s supposed to be exact,” she said.
Friends of St. Patrick’s members have been planning the celebration for several months. 
The church is no longer an active parish. Rather, it has been an oratory since 1997, meaning it is no longer an active parish. It does host a monthly mass on the first Sunday of the month.
Walking into the church is like walking back in time, as there are many relics from the church’s earlier days on display.
One of the original Stations of the Cross, which formerly hung on the church’s wall, is on display at the front of the church. The Stations of the Cross is a 14-step devotion which commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on earth.
The original confessional can be found in the rear of the church, and a pipe organ can be found in the choir loft.
Also on display are receipts given to former parishioners who paid to reserve their pews for Sunday service. The more paid, the closer to the front of the church they were able to sit.
Interestingly, the pews at St. Patrick’s are blocked so a row is divided in half.
Wagoner said legend has it the pews were built that way so large families couldn’t occupy one row. The divider forced them to pay for two pews.
Some of the pews still have the names of those who paid to sit in them listed on the side.
In 1997, the church was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Another relic within the church, though not really visible to the public, is the church bell.
According to church history, in 1848, following a fundraising campaign, a man name Pasque volunteered to take his team of oxen to pick up the bell in Toledo, Ohio. He was gone for more than one year and many thought he had absconded with the funds.
Pasque told the parishioners that when he arrived in Toledo, he couldn’t find a suitable bell. Rather, he was directed to a foundry in Bethlehem, Pa., known for making fine bells. It took a few months to travel to Bethlehem and, once there, he was directed to Buffalo, N.Y. There, according to the history, he found the bell and began his journey back to Lagro.
It is believed that the St. Patrick’s bell is the first to have rung out in the Wabash Valley.
“We encourage people to come a little early because of the parking,” Poole said.
Those attending should not park in front of the church, as that area is reserved for Bishop Rhoades.

Posted on 2023 Mar 14