St. Patrick Cathedral celebrates 125 years of serving Catholics in Fort Worth

by Jacqueline Burkepile

North Texas Catholic

July 13, 2017

The rector of St. Patrick Cathedral, Father Sojan George, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving on July 10, 2017, exactly 125 years after the church was dedicated. (NTC photo/Jacqueline Burkepile)

FORT WORTH — Catholics at St. Patrick Cathedral ­joined in prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon the Catholic community of Fort Worth and beyond on Monday, July 10.

The cathedral commemorated a milestone in its history: the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the first Catholic church in Fort Worth. The event began with a Mass of Thanksgiving presided by Father Sojan George, rector, with Father John Robert Skeldon, parochial vicar, as the concelebrant and homilist. Mass was followed by a potluck dinner in the parish hall.

The Catholic community in Fort Worth dates back more than 140 years, before the establishment of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth. Bishop Claude Dubuis of Galveston assigned Father Thomas Loughrey to Fort Worth in 1876, which eventually led to the building of a modest frame-structured church named after St. Stanislaus Kostka. In 1884, French native Father Jean Marie Guyot took over care of the church and led the community in the building of a new, Gothic Revival-style church building. Many of the parish’s Catholics were of Irish descent and voted to name the new church after their patron, St. Patrick.

St. Patrick Church in 1903 (NTC file photo)

The new church was dedicated on July 10, 1892. Bishop Thomas Brennan, the first bishop of the new Diocese of Dallas, presided over the dedication. When Pope Pius XII changed the name of the Diocese of Dallas to the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth in 1953, St. Patrick Church was then elevated to co-cathedral status, alongside Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dallas. The Diocese of Fort Worth was later formed in 1969, and St. Patrick became the cathedral for the diocese.

One hundred and twenty-five years after the church dedication, Fr. Skeldon recalled that St. Patrick “was named a cathedral precisely because it had been a church and is a church.” He explained it is “the gate of heaven,” and “the cloak of Jesus.”

Fr. Skeldon said this “cloak of Jesus” represents Christ’s healing and love. He referenced Matthew 9:20-22, in which the hemorrhaging woman knew she would find healing by simply touching Jesus’ cloak. Fr. Skeldon then compared this Bible verse to the cathedral’s history, mentioning that it was built within the confines of “Hell’s Half-Acre,” an area of Fort Worth where sin, debauchery, prostitution, and poverty were common in the 1800s.

“That was precisely where the cloak of Jesus needed to rub edges, and where the gate of heaven needed to be opened,” Fr. Skeldon said. “Commemorating today as the 125th anniversary of the dedication of this church is nothing less than realizing how for more than a century, the cloak of Christ has gone out to cover the hurt, pain, and sin of this part of the vineyard of the Lord.”

Fr. Skeldon continued, “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else than an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.”

After Mass, parishioners and visitors packed the parish hall for food and fellowship. The reception also displayed several items significant to the cathedral’s history, including monstrances, saints’ relics, and photos. 

Interior of St. Patrick Church taken during Msgr. Robert Nolan's tenure as pastor from 1907 - 1939. (NTC file photo)

Many of St. Patrick Cathedral’s parishioners expressed their gratitude and love for the mother church of the Diocese of Fort Worth. Long-time parishioner Pat Maschino began attending Mass at St. Patrick in 1963 and went to the 1969 ceremony celebrating the church’s new cathedral status. She thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Mass of Thanksgiving.

“I thought the Mass was very nice and devout,” Maschino said. “This cathedral has been a major part of my family for many years…It is the end-all, be-all, because right there is the Body and Blood of Christ.”

St. Patrick Cathedral parishioner Jeff Jendel also thought “it was a wonderful celebration,” especially since he grew up in the parish community.

“It’s important to honor the cathedral’s history. One hundred and twenty-five years is a great landmark for anything, especially…for a Catholic church,” Jendel said. “It’s exciting and a great honor to be here.”

Fr. George said he “did not want this day to pass without a celebration.”

“I thought it was important for us to come together as a parish family to thank God for this wonderful place of worship,” Fr. Sojan said. “The community here at St. Patrick is so grateful for our beloved cathedral.”

FORT WORTH —Catholics at St. Patrick Cathedral ­joined in prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon the Catholic community of Fort Worth and beyond on Monday, July 10, in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the church.

Published (until 7/13/2033)