St. Patrick

As the Episcopate of Bishop Carrell came to a close, there were five parishes in the city of Covington, four of which were for German-speaking Catholics, and one, St. Mary Cathedral, on East Eighth Street, for English-speaking Catholics. For many years another church for English-speaking Catholics had been imperative. Towards the end of his episcopate, Bishop Carrell personally had selected a site for another church for the English-speaking Catholics at the northwest corner of Philadelphia and Elm Streets, which at that time was the western city limit of Covington. On November 7, 1868, Very Reverend James M. Lancaster, Administrator of the Diocese, following the death of Bishop Carrell, purchased the above-mentioned site, carrying out the Bishop's plan.

In 1870, Bishop Toebbe assigned Reverend James Smith, an assistant at the Cathedral, to organize this new English-speaking congregation in the "west-end." On August 28, 1870, Bishop Toebbe laid the cornerstone of the new church, and on Sunday, August 25, 1872, he formally dedicated the attractive Gothic church, 135 x 50 feet, under the patronage of St. Patrick.

In the spring of 1875, Father Smith began the construction of a rectory, which was also to serve as a school. The two-story brick building, attached to the rear of the church, had two rooms on the first floor, which served as the parish rectory, and one large room on the second floor, which was used for school purposes. The parish school continued at this place from 1876 to 1885, conducted by lay teachers, among whom were Gertrude Moore, Sarah Haley, Nettie Haley, and Professor Osborne. During 1891, property was purchased adjoining the church, and a new two-story frame school, with four class rooms, was erected during that year. In September, 1891, the new school opened under the supervision of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, with an enrollment of two hundred and thirty-four pupils. For twenty years, Father Smith had cared for St. Patrick Parish alone, but in 1891, the parish had grown so large, that Bishop Maes appointed the first assistant to the parish, the Reverend Charles P. Voellm.

In 1897, the entire church was remodeled in preparation for the Silver Jubilee of the parish, which was observed on Sunday, August 22 of that year. On July 18, 1905, Father Smith purchased property for the parish on the southwest corner of Fourth and Philadelphia Streets, the site of the present parish school. In less than three years later, St. Patrick's first pastor was called in death. On February 28, 1908, Father Smith died at the age of seventy, having spent thirty-eight of the forty-two years of his Priesthood in the care of St. Patrick Parish. His remains were laid to rest in a vault in the church, on March 8, 1908. Father Smith left the parish well organized, both spiritually and materially. Many of the parish societies existing today, were formed under his direction.

In march, 1908, Bishop Maes appointed Reverend James Cusack as successor to Father Smith. Father Cusack guided the parish for a period of about four years, when on January 1, 1913, because of ill health, he resigned the pastorate, and retired to his native city of Ashland, where he assisted Reverend Clement Bocklage in the work of Holy Family Parish until his death, November 27, 1932.

The third and present pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Right Reverend Monsignor Thomas J. McCaffrey, assumed office on January 29, 1913. Appointed to a parish which has been well established spiritually through the zeal of his two predecessors, Father McCaffrey immediately took steps to augment that life in the parish. Shortly after his arrival, he inaugurated the custom of an annual visitation of every family within his parish limits, both Catholics and non-Catholics. The poverty stricken and those afflicted with suffering of any kind, in the "west end" of the city, during the past forty years, including two world wars and their aftermaths, have found a friend in Father McCaffrey. During the passing of the years, St. Patrick Parish had experienced a steady growth, not too much affected by the so-called decline in city parishes.

Shortly after his appointment as pastor, Father McCaffrey took steps to meet the need of a larger parish school, a need which his predecessor had foreseen. Ground was broken for the new school March 17, 1913, on the Patronal Feast of the church, and the cornerstone was laid on July 4. The plans called for a two-story brick structure, with six classrooms, auditorium, society rooms and gymnasium. On Sunday, November 30, 1913, the present St. Patrick School at the corner of Fourth and Philadelphia Streets was dedicated by Bishop Maes.

The annals of the parish record that on Sunday, May 7, 1916, death came to Cornelius Mulcahey, the oldest Irish citizen of Covington, and a member of St. Patrick Parish, being at that time one hundred and six years old. He had been a pioneer resident of Covington, and one of the founders of St. Patrick Parish, being a most assiduous worker when the parish was in its infancy.

In 1917, the exterior of the church was changed and improved from its original brick construction to the present imitation stone finish. On February 1, 1920, Father McCaffrey began the remodeling of the present rectory, which was completed by May of that year. During 1921, the interior of the church was renovated in preparation for the Golden Jubilee of the parish which was observed September 25 - October 1, 1922.

In 1928, Father McCaffrey, realizing the need of a convent for the Sisters of Charity who were obliged to live at La Salette Academy, because of no local residence, erected the present Sisters' home on Fourth Street. Because of its proximity to the Ohio River, St. Patrick Church has often suffered extensive damage from floods. In the disastrous flood of 1937, the entire church property was completely inundated, causing much damage to the exterior and interior of all the parish buildings.

On Sunday, October 12, 1947, St. Patrick Parish celebrated its Diamond Jubilee, Bishop Mulloy offering a Solemn Pontifical Mass on the festive occasion. The parish today numbers four hundred and thirty-eight families.


excerpted fromĀ History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan