St. Patrick Cathedral
1118 N. Mesa Street El Paso, Texas 79902
915-533-4451; Fax: 915-532-8761
St. Patrick Cathedral
El Paso – 1917
Plans to build the church of St. Patrick originated with the Irish Catholic community in El Paso in 1908 when parishioners at Holy Family Church (formerly St. Mary Chapel) began to fundraise for a larger church. In 1913, as the need for a larger church became even more pressing, Rev. Edward Barry, S.J., the pastor at Immaculate Conception, devised a unique fundraising idea. In December, he distributed cards with a picture of a proposed new church to parishioners saying that whoever donated $10,000 would be given the right to name the new church after a saint. Delia Lane presented a check for to Father Barry on December 31, 1913 but passed along the naming privilege to the Daughters of Erin, of which she was a member, who unanimously chose St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, as the name of the new church.
Several sites were considered for the new church before Father Barry settled on the corner of Mesa and Arizona Streets which he bought in February 1914 for $20,000. When Bishop Schuler became the first bishop of El Paso in November 1915, he indicated his intentions to make St. Patrick the Cathedral. On November 12, 1916, Bishop Schuler blessed the cornerstone and the site of the altar was marked by a large wooden cross. In the cornerstone was placed a metal box with coins, medals, a historical record of the ceremony written on parchment and placed in a glass tube to prevent its destruction from dampness, the names of the governor, mayor, and officials and a list of benefactors and contributors.
The plans for St. Patrick were drawn up by Barnett, Haynes and Barnett of St. Louis. The church was designed in the Byzantine style of architecture and constructed from brick and carrara marble. Designed to seat 720 worshippers, the interior is modified byzantine with the woodwork of golden oak and the floor of polished oak. The interior is adorned with Roman columns, elaborate frescoes that depict biblical scenes, and the Stations of the Cross that are carved in bas-relief on the interior walls. The impressive marble altar, 75 feet tall, is a duplicate of the altar in the St. Louis Cathedral and contains an eight-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus under a large canopy that is topped with a golden eagle.
On November 19, 1917, the finished St. Patrick Church was officially designated by Bishop Schuler as the Cathedral for the Diocese of El Paso. The dedication ceremony took place on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1917. Bishop Schuler requested that the Cathedral be administered by the Jesuits but his request was denied by Rome because the New Mexico-Colorado Province of the Society of Jesus was in the process of being divided. Therefore, St. Patrick Cathedral has been administered by diocesan clergy since its opening. Bishop Schuler appointed Rev. George C. Frund the first rector in October 1917. One of the early pastors at the Cathedral was Father Malachy O’Leary who started St. Patrick Parochial School and laid the plans for the Catholic Community Center which became Cathedral High School.
In June 1925, Father O’Leary was succeeded by Father Robert O’Laughran. Under him, the Community Center was finished and the Christian Brothers arrived in El Paso to open Cathedral High School. In time, the parish came to encompass the entire city block including the church, Cathedral High School, the priests’ homes, St. Patrick Parochial School, the Christian Brothers’ home, and the Catholic Museum building. Across the street was the Chancery and Bishop’s house. St. Patrick School was administered by the Sisters of Loretto from its founding in 1923 until 1979. Initially, it shared the building of Cathedral High School until September 2, 1938 when St. Patrick Parochial School opened in its own building. Today, St. Patrick Parochial School has 350 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades.
The Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick is the seat of the Diocese of El Paso and the mother church for 686,000 Catholics. In 2005, the parish dedicated a nave to the memory of San Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, the martyr of the Diocese of El Paso who was ordained in the Cathedral in 1918. Over the years, many seminarians for the Diocese have begun their service as ordained priests at St. Patrick Cathedral. From 1997 to 2012, St. Patrick Cathedral was faithfully served by Father Richard Matty as rector.