St. Brigid Church celebrates 150 years

St. Brigid parishioners during a Mass Sept. 23 to mark the parish’s 150th anniversary. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Parishioners of St. Brigid Church, who gathered to mark the parish’s 150th anniversary Sept. 23, were called to continue building the parish for those to come.

Father Gary Padgett, pastor of the clustered parishes of St. Brigid and St. James in the Highlands, marked the anniversary with a special Mass, concelebrated by several other priests who have served at the parish.

Throughout St. Brigid’s history, he told the congregation, “There’s been hills and valleys and challenge.” The parish’s 150th anniversary is “such a great moment, a moment that should catch your attention.”

“Much has changed and the urban church has had to find a new mission, and that’s what St. Brigid and St. James have been doing,” he said. “We’re builders. We’re risking that what we do may be for naught, but God is calling us to build a bridge … a bridge to proclaim Jesus Christ.” 

St. Brigid, located at Baxter and Hepburn avenues, is dedicated to the patroness of Ireland. The parish began as a small wooden structure at the corner of Baxter and Payne Streets in 1873. 

Father Gary Padgett, prayed during a Mass Sept. 23 to celebrate St. Brigid Church’s 150th anniversary. Deacon William Tribbey, from left, Father Jim Hackett, Father Muwonge Expedito, Father John Burke and Franciscan Father Cristian Moore con-celebrated.

Less than two decades later, the parish relocated to the Highlands. 

The second church building was dedicated on Nov. 30, 1890. It was a two-story red brick structure that seated about 250 people. The church occupied the first floor and the school operated on the second floor. It was situated where the church parking lot now sits, abutting Winter Avenue.

The cornerstone of the current church was laid on July 28, 1912. Designed in the mid-nineteenth century French Renaissance style and constructed of stone and yellow brick, the current church building was ready for dedication on Oct. 5, 1913.

Father Padgett said the “beautiful church” that St. Brigid is today is possible because so many individuals did their part.

Historical records show that construction of the current church cost $50,000. Parishioners raised funds with the help of an annual bazaar, concerts and fairs. 

“Ultimately, the parishioners themselves, at great personal sacrifice,” provided the remainder of the building fund, records say.

During his homily, Father Padgett pointed out the many stained glass windows bearing the names of parishioners who’d donated to the construction. 

St. Brigid parishioners smiled as they left the parish following a Mass Sept. 23 to mark the parish’s 150th anniversary. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

They are a “testimony to the men and women who didn’t live to see the church (completed) but believed,” he said. “As we anticipate the next 150 years, it’s where we find ourselves. We’re the men and women of vision to keep doing those good works though we won’t get to see it. … They’ll thank us 150 years from now.” 

St. Brigid has had many men and women carry out these “good works” over the years.

Don Guilford, 83, was baptized at St. Brigid and attended the school along with his five brothers. He served as a lector for at least a decade, he said. “It’s just a beautiful church and a great place.”

Jerry Powers, 87, has been a member for about 20 years and has served as a sacristan for the 8 a.m. Mass ever since. 

“I look out and I know all the people,” he said. “I can tell when someone is missing.”

Betty Harrison, 84, has been singing in the St. Brigid choir for more than three decades. In 2003, she was hired as the parish’s administrative assistant, a role that called for her to wear many hats, she said with a laugh. 

“I loved every minute of it,” she said. She retired from that position in 2019 but continues to sing in the choir.

Harrison said over the years, St. Brigid has been known for its “beautiful” music, but it’s the people who make the parish a special place. 

“The people are so lovely, they stand out to me,” Harrison said. “There’s a special camaraderie there.”

Following the Mass, parishioners gathered for a reception in the parish’s Goetz Center where they were joined by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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