DETROIT (CNS) — It wasn’t the “packed house” normally associated with St. Patrick’s Day Mass at Most Holy Trinity Parish, but the faithful did gather to give God thanks for the Irish patron’s spreading of the faith on the Emerald Isle.
An estimated 300 worshippers gathered at the famed church in Detroit’s Corktown district for Mass with Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron on a subdued but still faith-filled March 17.
“How appropriate for us to begin the Holy Eucharist by praising the Holy Trinity,” Archbishop Vigneron said in reference to the opening hymn, “Sing Praise to Our Creator,” and its homage to the Holy Trinity. “This is the great mystery Patrick taught in Ireland: this gift God has given for us to be with his Son.”
Most Holy Trinity’s pastor, Msgr. Charles Kosanke — who was keen to mention his mother’s maiden name is the far more Gaelic “Clancy” — told those gathered about how his grandfather immigrated to Ellis Island in 1914, making his way to Detroit to work for the Ford Motor Co.
Most Holy Trinity was built in 1834 by the Irish community who established the Corktown neighborhood as a bastion of Irish culture in Michigan.
The St. Patrick’s Day Mass still featured Irish songs before the liturgy, a color guard of Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians and pipers. The Mass, dubbed the “Sharin’ o’ the Green,” is a prominent fundraiser for the Most Holy Trinity community, including its schools and nonprofit Cabrini Clinic.
Father Brian Hurley, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer, Michigan, delivered the homily, recalling how, as a seminarian, he went on a trip to Ireland, where he got to venerate the relics of St. Patrick and St. Brigid of Kildare and St. Columba, the three patron saints of Ireland.
The priest admitted being underwhelmed by the experience, until he saw a large hill the sun had illuminated and decided to walk up it.
“There was this beautiful green hill, and walking out, on top of those hills, there are these statues of three saints that look small from below, but (up close) they are mammoth; they are stunning,” Father Hurley said. “These amazing statues overlook these green hills, the blue of the water, and it was amazing to see this amazing country God had created.
“It is a foreshadowing of what God has promised us,” Father Hurley continued. “Ireland was enslaved to paganism, and it was Patrick, the second bishop of Ireland, a former slave himself, who set the prisoners free. He cut a path to the very heart of Christ for others to follow. He wants to make open a path for all the graces and blessings of Christ.”
Father Hurley said the faithful can look to the saints in times of uncertainty and trouble, knowing they are powerful intercessors whom people can call upon.
“A year ago, I did a Mass and procession around (the parish) campus to protect us from the plague,” Father Hurley said. “We wanted to protect ourselves, our loves ones, our businesses and jobs. Our Lord understands those pains and trials. St. Patrick understands those pains and trials. They give us the blessings we need. … The more we are in love with the saints, the more we grow devoted to the Lord.”
In Maine, Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated the Portland Diocese’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. And his thoughts temporarily drifted to Ireland, not just because St. Patrick is its patron saint, but for a personal reason: His parents came to the U.S. from County Galway and many of his relatives still live in Ireland.
His friends and relatives “have no public Masses” because the country is in lockdown. said Bishop Deeley. “I was talking with a cousin in Galway last week to see how her vaccine had gone. She envied us the possibility of gathering. Mass (in Ireland), for now, is on the radio. Some of the cousins tell me that they are able to watch this Mass on the computer. If they are with us today, I wish them a happy St. Patrick’s Day on behalf of all of us!”
The feast day also holds special meaning to Maine, where St. Patrick is one of the secondary patrons of the Portland Diocese, along with St. Jean Baptiste, in recognition of the early influence of the Irish and French in the founding of the Catholic Church in Maine.
“St. Patrick’s life story is known to us. As a young man in his early teens, he was captured in Britain and brought to Ireland as a slave. He went to Ireland very much against his will. He was given work as a shepherd. One would not think that would lead to the life of a saint,” said the bishop. “His own story tells us of the hardship. He was often hungry and cold. Keeping body and soul together on an Irish mountain side as a shepherd would not seem a promising start to a holy life.”
Yet, it is on those long days on the mountain that Patrick first began to listen to the voice of the Lord as he reflected on a faith that he had really not practiced very well before he was captured. It was then, he wrote, that his faith grew through daily prayer, the bishop said.
While he was still captive, “he found the meaning of his life. He had found the message of the Gospel,” Bishop Deeley said. “That message brought him great peace, and he determines that he must return to Ireland. He wants to answer a voice which calls him ‘to come and walk among us once more.’ Patrick understood that God has called him to return to Ireland, this time not under duress, but as a missionary, serving the people ‘humbly and sincerely’ and conveying to them the message he had discovered in the fields on the side of the mountain as a young shepherd: God is love.”
After he was made a bishop in about 432 and returned to Ireland, St. Patrick preached tirelessly, made countless converts and founded monasteries in his 30 years of ministry.
His life and example, that will forever inspire, Bishop Deeley said.
“Faith is given to us to be shared. We, too, have listened to the word of God. We are here at the Eucharist because, as it did for Patrick, it brings us meaning, freedom, peace and hope,” he said. “Such a gift is not something we can keep to ourselves. Even in the adversity of difficulty and suffering, God brings us hope and life.”
In New York City, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan celebrated a morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, was the homilist.
The cardinal greeted members of the famous “Fighting 69th” infantry regiment outside the cathedral before Mass. As ABC News reported, there was “a small but significant group of marchers” in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, They included first responders and essential workers, two groups honored by the parade to mark the ongoing pandemic and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In a March 16 blog post, Cardinal Dolan noted St. Patrick’s Day is “indeed a ‘great day for the Irish,'” but is a feast for all in the New York Archdiocese, because St. Patrick is its patron.
But beyond the annual festivities marking the day, “it’s about faith — to be precise, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith,” he wrote. “(Patrick) was a pastor, a bishop, a preacher, an evangelist, a missionary, a saint. He spoke, not of a pint or corned-beef and cabbage, but of God — Father, Son and Spirit — his church, prayer, salvation, and reconciliation with God and one another.”
“The embrace of that faith cost the people of Ireland a lot,” Cardinal Dolan said, so St. Patrick’s Day is always when today’s faithful should remember their suffering and “those persecuted for their Christian faith right now, and those bent with war, poverty, bondage, and disease, and hunger.”
Because Ireland’s sons and daughters had to leave their tiny beleaguered country just to survive, the feast day also is a wake-up call to the needs of today’s immigrants and refugees, he said.