History of St. Patrick Parish
Walk through the doors of St. Patrick Church on a Saturday or Sunday at any one of the four weekend services, and you’ll find pews crowded with people of all ages and backgrounds. For over 250 years, Catholics have been gathering at the current site of the St. Patrick church building in downtown York. Its long-time urban, centralized location has helped make St. Patrick Parish what it is today: a vibrant community rich with diversity and tradition. Approximately half of St. Patrick’s parishioners have been in the parish for sixteen years or more, which testifies to the congregation’s loyalty and faithfulness. Conversely, about one quarter of St. Patrick’s parishioners have been members for less than five years, providing evidence that the parish is growing.
The origin of St. Patrick Parish dates back to as early as 1741. At that time, a congregation was gathering and worshiping in York in a Mass-House or chapel, probably on a farm owned by a Catholic family near Codorus Creek. No records of this mission exist prior to 1776. However, many believe that the priests from Lancaster, Conewago, Baltimore and Emmitsburg cared for this mission. Anti-Catholic British laws made public worship impossible. In 1742, Thomas Penn, proprietor of Pennsylvania, wrote to the land agent of York as follows: “I desire that no ground may be granted to any Roman Catholicks [sic]… they hold tenets destructive to all others, and I would not have a lot in town (York) granted to any one of them, even for a private dwelling.”
In 1776, when the spirit of the times changed with the prospect of independence, Joseph Schmidt purchased the present site of St. Patrick Church for the use of the Catholic congregation. A stone house on the lot served as a Mass-House until 1810 when a brick church was erected. Services were provided by visiting priests until Father Lorence Huber became the first resident pastor in December, 1819. During the next 30 years, a succession of pastors cared for the increasing number of parishioners. Then, in 1852, the German members separated from this mission and established the parish of Saint Mary’s.
The first parish school was opened in 1851 in a remodeled dwelling with lay teachers. The Sisters of Charity from Mount Saint Vincent, New York, came in 1875 to take charge of the school, remaining until 1934. At that time, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary assumed this duty and continue to lovingly serve until this day. The present school was constructed in 1886, with an addition built alongside of it in 1964. In 1895, the present church and rectory were erected. The church was dedicated in 1898. A hall was built on the parish grounds in 1980 to accommodate school and other parish-wide functions. In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the church underwent an extensive renovation in 1995.
In the past 30 to 40 years, the community at St. Patrick’s has built upon and respected its rich tradition while adapting to changes in the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council. Just over 30 years ago, Rev. George Koychick, the first pastor in the diocese to follow the mandate from Harrisburg ‘s former bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Daley, created a pastoral council and gained support from the laity to assist in the operation of the church. The role of the laity continues to increase, a trend that the parishioners and religious of St. Patrick’s recognize and embrace. Today, hundreds of lay disciples serve in one of the dozens of ministries, such as youth ministry, RCIA, stewardship, peace and justice, perpetual adoration chapel and the choir.
Rev. Msgr. Thomas R. Brenner, pastor of St. Patrick’s from 1981 to 1995, played a vital role in the history of the parish. A “mover and a shaker,” as many parishioners fondly say as they recall his tenure, Msgr. Brenner spearheaded numerous projects and saw them through to completion. Exemplifying his strong belief in the value of Catholic education, Msgr. Brenner continues to support the educational needs of St. Patrick Parish through the Msgr. Brenner Fund, established in 1995.
As St. Patrick Parish continues to journey in the new millennium, it recommits to its ongoing mission of serving God by being a community that spreads the gospel message and puts faith into action. Located in the inner city of York and comprised of members of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, St. Patrick Parish strives to increase solidarity and to foster a greater sense of belonging among all its members. St. Patrick’s looks to further embrace and nurture children and young adults by providing a safe and supportive place for them to grow to spiritual maturity. St. Patrick’s seeks to understand and build greater awareness of the local community’s needs. Grateful stewards of God’s many gifts, the St. Patrick community looks to use its talents to serve those needs. The Holy Spirit guides the parish in all these efforts.