History of St. Patrick's Parish

The second St. Patrick's & Rectory

Jesuit Missionaries from France were the first to bring the message of the Gospel with them to this part of New York State. The earliest record of a priest's appointment to serve the Catholic community in Central New York is 1838, when the Archbishop of New York assigned the Rev. William Beecham to live and serve in Rome, NY. It was his work to care for the spiritual needs of Catholics living in Oneida, Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Madison, Onondaga, Chenango and Broome Counties.

Records testify that in 1851 and 1852, Catholics in Chittenango were gathering in the home of James Stewart for the celebration of Mass with the Rev. Michael Heas, pastor of St. Mary's in Syracuse, and the Rev. James O'Hara of St. Patrick's in Oneida presiding. In 1853 the parish of St. James in Cazenovia was formed with Chittenango attached to it as an out-mission. The pastor of St. James continued to celebrate Mass in the Stewart home for the Chittenango parishioners. His successor, the Rev. Michael Rooney realized that the Chittenango congregation was growing and could no longer be accommodated in a private residence. He took his flock to the "Union Hall" where Mass was celebrated regularly through 1859.

In 1859, a new pastor, Rev. Bonaventure Carney, purchased the congregation's first permanent home, the former "Second Presbyterian Church of Chittenango", which stood near what is now the Sullivan Free Library, the purchase price- $900. 

The Rev. James Collins was appointed as St. Patrick's first resident pastor in January 1883. Early in 1886 he asked the Bishop for assistance because he was in poor health. The Rev. Richard Gahan was assigned to assist him. On September 26,1886, the church was destroyed by fire. Father Gahan entered the burning building and rescued the Blessed Sacrament, sacred vessels, the Altar Stone and a few vestments. Everything else was lost, including the documents pertaining to the Holy Relic in the Altar Stone. It is a mystery to this day which saint's relic is in our Altar Stone.

The parishioners of St. Patrick's were once again worshiping in the Union Hall. Two months after the fire, on November 3, 1886, St. Patrick's became incorporated as a parish. A few weeks later on November 20, 1886, the Diocese of Syracuse was formed out of the Albany Diocese. The Right Rev. Patrick Ludden, Bishop of Syracuse assigned Rev. Martin Stanton as pastor of St. Patrick's in the summer of 1887. Father Stanton began to make plans for the building of a new church. It was the vote of the parishioners not to build on the site of the old church. Property at the northern end of Chittenango was purchased to build the new church and the old site was sold.

On November 17,1887 four building lots were deeded to the church, and work began immediately on the new church.  On August 10,1888 the dedication of the new church was announced, however Bishop Ludden refused to dedicated the church. Because the outstanding obligations were so great and there seemed to be no visible means of repayment due the builders, the Bishop ordered that the dedication would not be held until the parish could meet these obligations.

After the fire St. Patrick's was penniless. By subscription, the parishioners raised funds to purchase the new site, but not enough to build the church. So they went into debt for the materials and supplied most of the labor themselves. When the building was completed, they applied for a bank mortgage in order to meet their outstanding obligations. In a petition to the County Court for the mortgage, dated July 23, 1888, parishioners pledged all their worldly goods and bound themselves individually and collectively to assume liability for the mortgage; John Quinn, John Devine, James McGinnis, Patrick Tierney, William Devine, William McNulty, Phillip Lynch, Patrick Flaherty, Timothy Ryan, John Ryan, Denis Sullivan, Michael Conley, Bartly Baker, John Brannon, James Clarke, Richard Lynch, Bridget Moran, John McGraw, Phillip Gibbons, William Watkins, Patricia Baker and John Hopkins and the Board of Trustees: Bishop Ludden, Rev. J.S.M. Lynch, Rev. Martin Stanton, Robert Devine  and James Ryan. It is to the everlasting credit of  these people, their unselfish sacrifice to give their all, that the Catholic Church stands today in Chittenango. On March 7, 1889 at the 10 am Mass, St. Patrick's Church was dedicated by Bishop Ludden.

St. Patrick's Cemetery is located on Salt Springs Road at the south western end of the village, the original two acre plot was donated to the church by Mary E. Brinkerhoff on April 14, 1875 and was previously named St. Agnes' Cemetery.

Father Stanton continued as St. Patrick's pastor until 1891, he was succeeded by the Rev. James Walsh, 1891-1893, Rev. William Slavin, 1893-1896, Rev. James Collins, 1896-1902. The Very Rev. James Kelly was appointed as pastor on April 1, 1902. In addition to his duties here, he also served at St. Agatha's in Canastota and St. Patrick's in Oneida, the Rev. Thomas Flynn assisted him in this ministry. Father Kelly, upon his appointment as pastor, immediately went about the task of  restoring the church property (Father Collins had kept his horse and chickens in the church cellar). Repairs were made with the help of the Oneida parish. Father Kelly was also successful in significantly reducing the debt owed for building the church.

In 1903, the assistant pastor, Father Flynn, became the pastor and he remained until his death in 1917. The Rev. Daniel Hennessey succeeded him as pastor, from 1917-1924. During Father Hennessey's pastorate, the church steeple was removed from the church. It was one of the highest and most picturesque locally, but it had been struck by lightning several times and sustained considerable damage the last time it was struck. Faced with costly repairs, it was decided that it would be best to simply remove it rather than chance a recurrence of damage.

The next pastor, Rev. Clement Shaughnessy, 1924-1929, also brought about some improvements to the church. In 1927 the parish hall was built to provide a suitable place for social activities and meeting space for parish societies.

From 1886-1929, the pastor of St. Patrick's was also the pastor of St. Agatha's in Canastota. On July 1, 1929, Bishop Daniel Curley realized the difficulty for the proper care of both parishes and divided the two. Father Shaughnessy remained pastor of St. Agatha's and Rev. Francis Horrigan was appointed pastor of St. Patrick's.  The rectory had been located at St. Agatha's, and so there was a need for a home for the pastor. The new rectory was built in 1930 next to the church. Father Horrigan was the first official historian of St. Patrick's and much of this information was gathered from his original transcript in 1939. Father Horrigan remained pastor until 1944 and was succeeded by Rev. John Mahony, 1944-1947, followed by Rev. Charles Dee, 1947-1950.

 The Rev. Bernard Duhamel, 1950-1969, was the 13th resident pastor of St. Patrick's. The Church continued to grow, additional Masses had to be added to the schedule to accommodate the increase of parishioners. During the period from 1953-1969, the Jesuit priests from LeMoyne College came to assist Father Duhamel with the celebration of Mass and the sacraments.

Seventy-eight years after building the church, the parish realized the need for a newer and larger church in which to worship God. So in 1966, the parish began raising funds and planning their new home which would be triple the capacity of the current church. With the new church nearing completion and the work load growing, Rev. David Walker was assigned to assist Father Duhamel in 1969. The new church was dedicated on February 1, 1969 by Bishop Walter Foery. In July, just six months after the dedication, Father Duhamel retired, he passed away on May 17, 1970.

 Father Walker served as administrator during the interim between Father Duhamel's retirement and the arrival of Monsignor John Zeder. Though his stay was short, he accomplished much in setting the future of St. Patrick's. The Parish Council was established to aid the pastor in his administrative duties. Dr. John McCann was elected the Council's first president. Father Walker was transferred to St. Joseph's in Oneida in 1970 and Monsignor Zeder returned to missionary work in Ecuador.

From 1950-1970, the Sisters from St. Ann's Convent in Manlius handled the parish's release time Religious Education Program on a part-time basis. In 1970 the parish was blessed with the appointment of our first full-time religious education coordinator, Sister Mary Nicholas.

On July 1, 1970, Rev. John Heagerty assumed his duties as the 15th pastor of St. Patrick's. His weekend assistant was Rev. Robert Defulio. The rectory at 418 Genesee St. was sold to parishioners Bill and Joan Danahy and a new rectory was in the works next to the church. For a short time the priests lived in the Zinn house on West Genesee St. just below Joe Byrne's Flower Shop and then for three months they resided in the Baptist parsonage, which happened to be for rent at the time. The new rectory was ready for occupancy in October of 1971.

The Rev. Paul Keefe was our pastor for a few months in 1972 until Rev. Adam Smalley was assigned the pastorate of St. Patrick's and Rev. John Zeigler was the weekend associate. Both were musically talented, together they were known as "Mutt & Jeff", and organized a music ministry and a liturgy committee. The Church year had a variety of spirited liturgies which served to involve the people and be a rich teaching experience. Children's liturgies became a prominent part of the scheduling with each grade level taking part in the celebration, a tradition that continues today.

Father Smalley served as pastor until 1978, The Rev. Richard Morisette succeeded him, 1978-1984, Rev. Edmund Durr 1984-1991 and Msgr. Timothy Elmer 1991-2002.

St. Patrick's has seen many changes since 1969, renovations to the church began in June 1998 and was rededicated on October 11, 1998 by Bishop James Moynihan. Further renovations took place in the rectory, changing it over to much needed classrooms and is now the Rev. Timothy S. Elmer Education Center dedicated on October 25, 2000. Rev. Edward Reimer, was assigned to St. Patrick's in 2002 and retired in 2018.

On September 14, 2003, St. Patrick's celebrated 150 years of the Parish's founding (1853-2003). The Most Rev. Thomas Costello, Bishop of Syracuse, celebrated the anniversary mass with Father Reimer, Father Elmer and Deacon John Murray and Deacon Steve Young concelebrating. We continue to grow and in 2010 completed a new Parish Center.

In the summer of 2018, it was announced that Rev. Kevin Corcoran would become the next pastor of St. Patrick's Parish. Father Kevin serves both St. Patrick's and St. James Parish in Cazenovia.

This is an abridged version of the history of St. Patrick's Parish that was originally compiled by Father Horrigan in 1939 and updated in 1978.