St Brigid Roman Catholic Church of Meadville PA – Church History
The history of ST. BRIGID parish begins in the Spring of 1862, when a group of English-speaking Catholics, mostly Irish extraction, decided to separate from the primarily German-speaking congregation of St. Agatha parish, then the only Roman Catholic Church in the Meadville area. The request was granted, and on May 18, 1862, a building known as “Divinity Hall” was rented for the fledgling congregation. The church was dedicated by the Bishop of Erie and placed under the charge of Fr.
Mark DeLaroque, pastor of St. Hippolyte’s in Frenchtown. In the following years, he was instrumental in acquiring a new church building with the cornerstone being laid August 11, 1878, opening a small parish school and establishing a cemetery for the parish in 1869.
In the early years, the parish was called St. Bridget, rather than the current St. Brigid, and was often familiarly knows as St. Bride’s. From the beginning the church had a pronounced Irish character, which was strengthened by succeeding waves of immigrants in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Many of the newcomers came to Meadville with the railroad, or company, Island at the foot of Chestnut Street, or in Vallonia (now Fifth Ward).
Early church records are replete with Gallaghers, Sheehans, Corrigans, Flanagans, Cadahans and Callahans, Henrattys, Cronins, Clancys and Carews, Horans, Hanlons, Scanlons and Hanaways among others. Their faith was strong, their attachment to the old country undying; both were reinforced by the church.
For many, life revolved around the religious and social activities of St. Bridget’s parish. In fact, one of the first references to the new parish in local newspapers concerned a Catholic “celebration and festival” for St. Patrick’s Day, 1863.
In mid-1864, charge of the church was given to Rev. Samuel C. Fayella (daPrezza) and Rev. James Titta (da Gambitelli), Franciscan fathers from Olean, NY, whose mission was to establish some sort of Catholic school or college in the area. Very few things can be said about these two men with any certainty; however, it is know that Fr. Fayella, a native of Italy, completed his studies at the Monastery of Santo Pietro in Montorio, Rome. https://126.96.36.199/
He arrived in New York in 1855, one of the small groups who established the first Franciscan Province on the eastern shores of the U.S. He purportedly served as a chaplain with Union forces in the Civil War, but no record of this has been found. He remained at Allegany (New York) only a short time, then secularized and with Fr. Titta came to Meadville to found a college in the Erie Diocese. idn live
Fr. Titta came from gambitelli, in the province of Lucca, in central Italy. He was, however, ruddy-faced and fair haired and often mistaken for an Irishman. He arrived in Allegany (New York) in 1859, from the Roman Province of St. Michael the Archangel, and was first assigned to St. Patrick Church in Buffalo. He arrived in Meadville with Fr. Fayella in 1864.
Few existing records chornicle the Franciscans’ stay at St. Brigid parish. They pursued their mission of establishing a school and announced in the Crawford Democrat, August 8, 1865, that “the Catholic College will be opened in this place about the 1st of September.” The school, if it ever opened, was apparently not a success, and both men left Meadville in December, 1865. Fr. Titta appealed to have his secularization revoked and returned to the Custody. He died March 11, 1877, while pastor of St. Anthony’s friary in NY City. Fr. Fayella returned to Italy and spent the rest of his life in his native town. slot gacor
The Franciscans were succeeded by Rev. DeLaroque, a native of France and the pioneer priest at Frenchtown, althoguh half a dozen other priests, including Rev. John L. Finucane, assistant pastor, were occasionally officiating at parish weddings and baptisms. The church prospered under the dirction of Fr. DeLaroque and several significant milestones were passed during his pastorate. oxplay
First, and perhaps most noteworthy, was the purchase of an old Methodist church and parsonage on Arch Street, near Liberty, on September 2, 1867, to replace Divinity Hall. The church was a brick building in Green Revival style, built by the Methodists in 1830-34. Th new builgin was dedicated Sunday, December 1, 1867, with the Rt. Rev. Domenec, Bishop of Pittsburgh, officiating.
Once Divinity Hall was vacated, a parish school was opened there. Teaching duties were handled by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, who had arrived in Meadville in 1865 to “build an institution for the accomodation of sick and destitute orphans.” And finally, a small plot south of the city was purchased for a cemetery. This “handsome little ground of five acres” was solemnly conserated August 1, 1869 by the Bishop of Erie, Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, D.D. https://188.8.131.52/brand/slot88
Following the move to the new church building. social and religious activities seemed to increase. News paper accounts tell of missionaries welcomed, benefit picnic given, Sunday School held, First Communicants honored and Confirmations conferred. St. patric’s Day celebrations perhaps best epitomized the exhuberance of the young parish. The Crawford Democrat of March 12, 1870, carried the following card:
I would most respectfully inform the citizens of Meadville that on Thursday, March 17, the feast of St. Patric, the Apostile of Ireland, the congregation of St. Bride’s Church will endeavor to celebrate the festival with all the pomp and ceremony in their power. slot88
Religious services will be held at St. Brides church in the morning at 10 o’clock, durig which the panegyric of the Saint will be preached and solemn high Mass changed (the children of the congregation forming the choir under the leadership of Prof. O.B. Young). In the evening a grand soiree and supper will be held at Opera Hall. Toasts (in no inebriating beverages) proposed, speeches made, songs sung and everything done to effect a social and happy feeling. All citizens of whatever nationality or religious denomination, are cordially invited to join the occasion and thus testify their own liberality as well as appreciation of patriotic devotion by whatever people manifested. If it be not too much to ask, I would likewise solicit as a favor not soon to be forgotten by our people, that during the public procession in the forenoon, such of our worthy citizens as may possess a United States flag, would fling them to the breeze, and thus honor their own flag which will be borne in front of the processio, as well as do honor to the national sentiments of (if not a very influential) a considerable portion of their own fellow citizens. I would not ask this favor did I not know that such is customary in the many cities of the East, both large and small.
Respectfully, John Finucane, Pastor of St. Bride's Church Admission to the religious services in the morning free to all.
The writer, Fr. Finucane, had succeeded Rev. DeLaroque as pastor in 1869 or 1870. Fr. Finucane was a native of Ireland, born there in 1835. He may be the same Fr. John Finucane who was stationed at Pithole, the Venango County oil boom town, in the early 1860’s. During his stay at St. Brigid’s, he published a spirited series of newspaper articles in defense of Catholicism, and was generally know for his pulpit oratory. Length of tenure at St. Brigid’s was often brief in the early years, however, and Fr. Finucane was replaced by Rev. John L. Madigan i the summer, 1871. Fr. Madigan remained only three years, but he was the erection of a new Catholic school in Dock Alley (Clinton Court) behind the church. He departed rather unexpectedly, as recorded by the Evening Republican, March 3, 1874:
Rev. Father Madigan departed yesterday (March 2, 1874) for his new charge in Potter County. He preached his farewell sermon on Sunday last. Next Sabbath, Fr. Dunn of Petroleum Center, the newly appointed pastor of St. Bride's will officiate. The cause of Fr. Madigan's removal was the serious charge preferred of keeping a horse. The reverend gentleman had raised the horse when residing in a sparsely settled district, and as he had numerous long journeys to make, he could not get along without a horse. The horse proved to be a valuable one and could make good time, besides being a handsome mouse-colored animal. About the worst charge that could be brought against Mr. M was that his judgment of horse flesh was excellent. The Bishop, although agreeing with Father M., thought that his usefulness might be impaired by remaining here, and hence ordered the charge.
Whatever Fr. Madigan thought of his “exile” to Potter County, the change proved fortuitous for St. Brigid’s, for it inaugurated the long bening pastorate of Rev. James J. Dun, D.D. When Fr. Dunn came from Petroleum Center (Venango County) he came well-recommended, even among non-Catholics. Reporting the changeover, the Evening Republican commended that “Fr. Dunn his highly spoken of and considered one of the most zealous workers in the Church.” Fr. Dunn was born June 9, 1841 at Malahide County, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Richard and Ann Dunn. The family emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland about 1849. He was educated at St. Vincent Parish school in Baltimore and Moutn St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was ordained a priest on Oct. 28, 1866. He remained at Mount St. Mary’s for a year as a teacher of Latin and Greek, and was then appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Oil City, PA. Fr. Dunn served as pastor at Petroleum Center from 1868 until his assignment at St. Brigid’s in 1`874; he remained here 41 years. Fr. Dunn celebrated his silver jubilee in 1891 and was made a monsignor in 1905. He died at Meadville on December 20, 1915, after a short illness.
Among his outstanding accomplishments at St. Brigid was building and paying for the present church, opening the parish school, and building the recotry. One of Fr. Dunn’s first tasks at St. Brigid was the planing and financing of a new church building. The congregation had grown a lot in its first ten years, and the old Methodist building was no longer large enough or sound enough for continued use. On October 8, 1875, land at the corner of Arch and Liberty Streets was purchased by the congregation from Alfred and Catherine Huidekoper for the sum of $1400, with the construction beginning in the spring of 1878. After three years under construction the new church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1881. The new church, designed by architect John Crowe, a member of the congregation, was to be of Gothic style, and to have the capacity to seat 700 persons. It was to have a cut stone foundation, red brick exterior, and a slate roof. Each of three front entrances was to open into an aisle through the interior. Five windows, each 20 feet high, would adorn the two side walls of the church. Est. cost was $7,000-$8,000, with an additional $4,000-$5,000 for interior construction, furnishing and decoration.
The cornerstone, a simple square block inscribed “1878” under a cross was laid August 11, 1878, by Bishop Tobias Mullen, D.D. of the Erie Diocese, in “impressive and quite lengthy” ceremonies. Visiting priests, along with members of local Irish benevolent societies, processed to the construction site to the music of the Keystone Band. “Bishop Mullen, at the conclusion, made some well-timed remarks while the congregation contributed willingly to the building fund.”
The new church was formally dedicated o Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1881, with pomp and ceremony. Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen of Erie blessed the church, then celebrated a Pontifical High Mass. He was assisted by over a dozen priests, including Fr. DeLaroque, former pastor of St. Brigid.
Fr. Dunn proceeded to build a new brick parish house on Liberty Street, where it still stands. It was finished in 1891, at a cost of $7,100; a sound investment, it served the priests of the parish well in the ensuing years.
Fr. Dunn enlarged the cemetery, purchasing eleven additional acres of land in 1910. Fr. Dunn was a sincere and earnest man, widely recognized and respected for his dediction to the Church. He gained much goodwill for the Church by the personal integrity and tolerance he exhibited, and his quality as a “mixer” endeared him to Catholics and Protestans alike. Two incidents speak clearly of his unbiased goodwill and the respect accorded him by the community in general. The first, perhaps most indicative of Fr. Dunn’s character on a purely personal level, was his 38-year friendship with Rev. Theodore L. Flood, pastor of the First M.E. Church in Meadville from 1877 to his death in 1915. In an age of conservative sentiments and narow-minded secretarianism, it speaks highly of Fr. Dunn that he was asked to assist at the funeral of this Methodist minister. The general respect accorded him as a man of letters was demonstrated by an invitatio to speak to the student body at Allegheny College, then closely affiliated with the Methodist church. Fr. Dunn lectured at Ford Chapel, May 22, 1896, the first Catholic priest ever to do so.
Fr. Dunn witnessed a gradual change in the make-up of the parish. As the years passed, French, Italian, eastern European and even Belgian names began to appear in church records, and by the turn of the century, St. Brigid was a parish of ultiple ethnic origins, as it remains.
Fr. Dunn was followed briefly by the young Rev. John mark Gannon, D.D., who served as pastor from 1916 to 1918. It was during this time the name was changed from St. Bridget to St. Brigid. He became Auxiliary Bishop of Erie, succeeded by Rev. Joseph L. McCabe, was was to serve the people of the parish for the next 24 years.
Rev. McCabe was especially interested in the youth of the parish, and in the field of education. Under his tutelage, St. Brigid school doubled its enrollment. He directed necessary remodeling projects at the school. The first parish-sponsored Boy Scout troop was starte dwhile he was pastor, as well as a boy’s basketball team. He is still remember for his generosity to anyone in need. It was said that this outstanding quality as a priest, was his rat chairty, not in a flamboyant or public way, but on a personal level. He was responsible for the first major renovations to the church in 1927, which included new interior decorations and the insallation of new stained glass windows. He became seriously ill while at St. Brigid and died at Spencer Hospital on October 8, 1942, having been a priest over 42 years and was buried at Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Next was Pastor John Joseph Cannon arriving in Meadville on January 2, 1943 and he sayed here until his death, 27 years laster. Born January 25, 1895 in Brooklyn, New York, son of John and Mary Brennan Cannon, originally from Roscommon County Connaught, Ireland. He was a shrewd and able financial administrator, both wiping out church debts and financing major renovations. He was responsible for the first major change in the outward appearance of the church, overseeing in 1948, an 11-month $100,000 remodeling and redecorating project. The church was re-dedicated and blessed on November 27, 1949, by Bishop McManaman. He had annual sports banquets which began in 1946 as a dinner for ex-servicemen of the parish. Rev. Cannon retired in 1968 and died December 5, 1970 while serving as chaplain abouard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. He was made a monsignor prior to his death.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Richad Fitzgerald, a native of Sharon, became pastor He celebrated his Silver Jubilee while at St. Brigid. Plagued by ill health and recovering from heart surgery, Msgr. Fitzgerald resigned from the pastorate in December, 1972. In the five years he served at St. Brigid, he was responsible for remodeling the school and rebuilding the church entrance.
St. Brigid was then under the care of Rt. Rev. Thomas Griffin. Msgr. Griffin had been an assistant pastor at St. Brigid under Fr. Cannon in the lae 1940’s and his return was welcomed by parishioners.
Fr. William Karg was assigned as permanent pastor on June 3, 1973, assisted by Fr. J. Thomas Dugan. Other associate pastors were: Frs. Francis Coughlin, Martin Meagher, Joseph Seyboldt, Stephen Kotyuk, Conrad Kraus and Paul Schill.
Erection of the church was not, however, Fr. Dunn’s only accomplishment at St. Brigid. Early in his pastorate, he had seen to the furnishing and official opening of a new two-story frame school for the parish. Classes were taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who had come to the Meadville area in 1865. The parish school continued until 1973 when it joined with St. Agatha Church to form Seton School. Since June, 1990, St. Brigid has continued to grow with the addition of a new Parish Center, attached to the west side of the church and a newly developed parking area.
St. Brigid of Ireland, Patroness
St. Brigid of Kildare, patroness of our parish, is also the patroness of Ireland. Known as “Mary of the gael” and “Virgin of Kildare”, her feast day is celebrated on February 1. She grew up in the fifth century when the great St. Patrick was Christianizing Ireland. She became associated with one of Patrick’s followers and fellow bishops and under his authority she became a nun and founded a famous convent at Kildare. The community grew rapidly and soon her sisters were spread throughout the land. Brigid is looked upon as the initiator and abbess of the first women’s religious community in Ireland.
Altar Rosary Society
The Altar Rosary Society is responsible for the sanctuary area in the church. They provide for cleaning of the space and liturgical linens as well as the funding for the purchase of necessary liturgical items. No meetings January, July & August. Meetings as follows: 1st Tuesday in February at 6:15 PM with a tureen; 1st Tuesday in March at 12:15 with a light lunch; 1st Tuesday in April at 7 PM; 1st Tuesday in May at 6 PM beginning with the May Crowning & a banquet follows: 1st Tuesday in June at 6:15 PM with a picnic.
Holy Name Society Men’s Club
The Holy Name Society provides Christian fellowship for the men of the parish as well as providing an opportunity to work on fund raising activities that assist the parish in a variety of ways. Meetings are usually each month on the 2nd Sunday at 8:15 AM in our parish social hall, except July & August.
Parish Care & Concern
A group of volunteers dedicated to serving others in a variety of service ministries including:
transportation, visitation, welcoming, bereavement, caregiver support, Hats of Hope, prayer line, respect life, Elizabeth ministry, and military support.
Each year St. Brigid does two major dinners as fundraisers for the parish . . . During the Fridays of Lent (except Good Friday) we offer baked or fried fish dinners from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in our social hall (parking lot level). We are handicapped accessible.
Allegheny College Adoption Program
The Allegheny College Adoption Program provides a liaisons between families and college students who wish to experience a “home away from home”. Contact Fr. Mark Hoffman at 333-6161.
The 55+ Club was founded to meet the needs of and likes of today’s elderly. Each meeting opens with a prayer and short reading and continues with refreshments, card playing and visiting with friends old and new. Meetings held the 2nd & 4th Tuesday each month from Noon-3:30 PM.
Respect Life Committee
Consistent with the Catholic Chruch’s ethic of respect for life, Saint Brigid Church has been active in promoting pro-life activities locally and nationally.
Pastor’s Fund/Food Pantry
Through the generosity of the people of Saint Brigid in donating food to our in-house food pantry and money to the Pastor’s Fund, our parish offers help to those in need of temporary assistance.
The Garden Committee works together to beautify the church grounds throughout the growing season and to decorate the church exterior for special occasions.
Parent Baptism Program
Two sessions must be attended. These will be held on two Thursday evenings from 7-8:30 PM every month except December and are held at different local parishes. Parents preparing for the baptism of their child must attend both sessions; however, both sessions need not be at the same parish. Godparents are welcome and encouraged to participate. Expectant parents may wish to come prior to the birth of their child. Call our parish office.
As a service to bereaved families of persons buried from our parish, a committee provides a luncheon for the family and other mourners after the funeral in the McCrory Social Hall
Mission of Friendship
Celebrating one of the oldest “sister parish” relationships in the Diocese of Erie, Saint Brigid has a sister parish in San Pedros, Sotuta, Yucatan. The parish provides financial support, Mass intentions and other support as needed to this community in Mexico.
Members of Saint Brigid have a long history of involvement in the diocesan Cursillo movement, a program of spiritual renewal and call to service within the parish community.
St. Brigid has instituted a “prayer line” to meet the intercessory prayer needs of members of our faith community.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter offers couples a very special weekend to focus on their lives together, away from the distracting tensions of everyday life.
The Retrouvaille Program is provided under the auspices of the Diocese of Erie and is for those couples who are experiencing difficulties in their marriages.
Saint Brigid Parish has a pastoral council of fifteen members of the parish who act as the primary consultative body to the pastor on the spiritual and pastoral concerns of the faith community. Membership is by election by the parish community, held triennially (July, 2009).
President :Darlene Shenk
Vice President :Jim Cihon
Recording Secretary :Todd Sommers
Rose Allen :Gloria McDonald
Brett Jastromb :Diane Johnson
Rosemary Jones :Jean Lynch
Margaret Malloy :Bill Leffingwell
Carole Tidball :Tim Smith
Under the provisions of the Code of Canon Law, St. Brigid has a finance council made up of five members who advise the pastor on the temporal and financial needs of the parish. Membership is by election by parishioners.
Education For Youth & Adults
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION Pre-school thru Grade 6
Contact Shari Bronson for enrollment in the program at 336-4459.
Come and be a part of the Religious Education program!
Perhaps you would like to co-teach with another? As a catechist one not only nurtures the faith life of the youth but also nourishes their own faith development. We do many exciting things throughout the year such as: sacramental celebrations, parties, service projects and retreats.
Other benefits include on-going faith formation through the Diocesan Ministry Training Program and C.E.O. Days and the books and materials fee is waived for your children in the program. Is God calling you toward this ministry? If so, please contact Shari for more information.
Catechesis aims “to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (National Directory for Catechesis, no. 19B). This weekend we celebrate Catechetical Sunday. The theme of our celebration is “Catechesis: Encountering the Living Christ.” During our tribute we will commission catechists during our 9:30 a.m. Eucharistic celebration. We also recognize the role parents and guardians play in handing on the faith to the children and youth in our parish. Take a minute and thank our catechists for all they do to share the light of faith with our children, youth, and adults. This year our volunteers are: Cheryl Leech, Patty Fiely, Arlene Wilson, Valerie Maziarz, Leah Bronson, Marcy Monnie, Kim Crowl, Marianne Pruskowski, Leeny Mullen, Nicole Persichini, Aleta Mizner, Andrew Maziarz, Jean Lynch and Joyce Miller.
SETON CATHOLIC SCHOOL
Principal: Regina Merritt
Seton School, operated jointly by St. Brigid and St. Agatha parishes, assists students from kindergarten through eighth grade to receive a quality Catholic education. Seton’s philosophy is to develop each child an active and living faith, reflected in academic activities and presented through the Christian role model and work of Seton teachers.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION for Primary Grades — Shari Bronson
Primary Grades (K-6) — The primary religious education program meets on Sundays from 10:30 – 12:00 during the school year. The program is designed to assist young students in an introduction and overview of the Catholic faith while preparing them for the sacraments of Initiation in Eucharist and Confirmation, as well as Reconciliation. The students are invited into a way of life through critical reflection on their own lives in the light of the Gospel and the life of the Church.
YOUTH GROUP (7-12) – Sandy Clancy
St. Brigid Youth Ministry program has historically recognized the special and unique needs of older adolescents. Meeting Sunday evening 4:00-5:15 p.m., the program has been designed to challenge the young people to reflect upon their lives in relationship to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Grade 9 meets at Saint Mary Center (lower level), Grades 7, 8, & 10 meet at St. Brigid, and students in grade 11 meet at St. Agatha Center Sunday evenings preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
ALLEGHENY CAMPUS MINISTRY
The priest at Saint Mary Church, Meadville provide weekly celebration of the Eucharist and reconciliation service in conjunction with the campus ministry program. Catholic Chaplain is Rev. Mark Hoffman.
Come home! We want to see you. Just join us for worship or talk to one of the priests at Saint Brigid.