Sure ‘tis himself and no other: St. Paddy, giving a grand Irish pause to Lent so we can go all sentimental for the old country — whether she’s ours or not.
Still, we’re thinking the mighty saint may be abroad for his day some places more than others. Indeed, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin must echo with the slivering ghosts of Ireland’s banished snakes on his holy day and its light must shimmer with the green of the shamrock he used to explain the Holy Trinity.
Boston, where St. Patrick’s Day is a legal holiday, has its own St. Patrick Cathedral and enjoys the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country: It began in 1737.
Chicago proves its own long Irish tradition by turning its river green for the day.
Here in the Archdiocese of Portland, six hours of driving over 296 miles, mostly straight up the I-5 corridor, will take you to all four of our own St. Patrick churches: in Cave Junction, Independence, Canby and Portland.
“They have great parties out there,” says Sammie Burton, bookkeeper at St. Anne, Grants Pass, of the parishioners at St. Patrick of the Forest in Cave Junction.
Theresa Zick downplays Burton’s compliment, comparing today’s celebration, after the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, March 12, with those of years gone by. “We normally have a potluck,” she says.
Chef Dan McLeod (locally famous for hitting a would-be robber over the head with a broom handle at the Chevron station seven years ago, when McLeod was 75) made the corned beef, and Susan Brockman cooked the cabbage and potatoes.
Father Tetzel Umingli, parochial vicar for St. Anne and its mission churches, St. Patrick of the Forest and Our Lady of the River in Gold Hill, experienced his first St. Patrick’s Day with the community. “He’s wonderful,” says Theresa Zick. “A delight.”
St. Patrick’s Day is also the faith community’s anniversary.
At the celebration, parishioners brought to mind Cave Junction’s first Mass. “Our first church building was dedicated — not too many miles from our present location — in the mountains above Allen Gulch,” notes Ed Zick.
That church, built by gold miners, was dedicated on March 17, 1864, by Father F.X. Blanchet, a French Canadian. “When he arrived on horseback to dedicate the cemetery, he was surprised to find that since his last visit, the miners had collected $900 and built an 18-by-30-foot church,” says Zick.
While that original church is long gone, the congregation has continued to maintain the cemetery for the last 153 years.
The next St. Patrick Church is in Independence. There, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration had fallen by the wayside for three years. It’s back this year, with a dinner and auction on Saturday, March 11. Attendees dined on corned beef, red potatoes and cabbage, Irish soda bread and apple pie. Roundhouse, a local bluegrass band, provided music for the party.
Forty miles up the highway is St. Patrick in Canby, where parishioners come together for soup and stations of the cross on Fridays during Lent. On March 17, the routine changes. There’s still soup at 5:30 p.m. — an Irish soup with soda bread — but it’s followed by a Mass at 7 p.m. in honor of St. Patrick.
Parishioners will come together again for a potluck and Irish sing-along at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 19 in the parish hall. That event follows close upon the end of the Spanish Mass, and so it’s natural that the Irish potluck has a spiciness that Dubliners might not recognize. Retired Father John Waldron, a true Irishman, leads the singing.
“It’s fun,” says Ellen Hannan, who pulls the event together.
St. Patrick Church in Portland also boasts a long history: It’s one of the oldest Catholic churches in Portland, having been founded in 1889.
By 1980, however, the parish had fallen on hard times. Linda Lopez, coordinator of the St. Patrick dinner, says the church was surrounded by highway interchanges and everything — from its roof to the boiler — seemed to be breaking down at the same time. “It was on the verge of closing,” Lopez says. “But then Father Frank came and revved it up again.”
During the time Father Frank Knusel, now retired, was pastor, the St. Patrick’s dinner was a much-needed fundraiser. “Now the focus is community,” says Lopez.
The dinner served traditional Irish fare on Sunday, March 12.