LAGRO — There have been many “Friends of St. Patrick” in Lagro, going back to the French missionaries who first brought the faith to the Wabash valley in the early 19th century, but it was the Irish who literally “dug in” and built the Wabash and Erie Canal and the first church dedicated to St. Patrick. Some canal workers remained in the area, became parishioners, and watched Bishop John Henry Luers lay the cornerstone for the present church on June 15, 1870 and Bishop Joseph Dwenger dedicate the church on St. Patrick’s Day three years later.
The canal waters nourished commerce in Lagro but steam from the Wabash railroad brought about the first signs of business decline.
Now liturgically classified as an oratory (an inactive parish) the church itself, on a quiet street, locked most of the year, remains a silent sentinel of hand-crafted treasures; oak pews, a black walnut Communion rail and a walnut stairway carved by the pioneer parishioners with imported statues and stained glass, all guarded by walls of brick baked in Huntington and delivered on canal boats.
The Friends of St. Patrick became an organized group in 2000 and has never had more than 12 members at any time. Being a Catholic is not a requirement for membership since some members serve from a historical perspective.
Recently, “The Friends” was named as a beneficiary in the will of a non-Catholic who left a significant amount of money to the three churches of Lagro — St. Patrick’s, the United Methodist and the Community Church of Lagro (formerly Presbyterian). Proof that “The Friends” is a working group was a 10-year project, now completed, that called for sustained fundraising and restoration of the church’s 1800 Erben organ. Upcoming activities include a community band concert on March 20 celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, church tours during Lagro Good Old Days the last weekend in June, and the enormously popular Brat/Fish Fry in September.
Monthly Mass is held during spring, summer and fall on the first Sunday of the month. Father Sextus Don, pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Wabash, offers Mass at 12:30 p.m. Historic St. Patrick Church is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
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