Archbishop Wuerl blesses a new addition at St. Patrick's Church in downtown Washington after an Oct. 17 Mass. The addition includes a large room for parish meetings, and new restrooms.
Archbishop Wuerl blesses a new addition at St. Patrick's Church in downtown Washington after an Oct. 17 Mass. The addition includes a large room for parish meetings, and new restrooms.
St. Patrick's Parish downtown, founded in 1794, is the oldest Catholic parish in the federal city. On Oct. 17, parishioners celebrated another milestone for the historic parish located at 619 Tenth St., N.W., as Archbishop Donald Wuerl blessed a new parish addition.

"After much work and prayer by so many members of this parish, we gather to bless this new parish meeting place," Archbishop Wuerl said during a special ceremony after Mass, when he blessed the addition. "In this place, you will come together as a family of faith."

The new parish addition, built in what had previously been an outdoor space between the church and rectory, includes a large room that will be used for RCIA classes for people preparing to become Catholic, and it will also be used for other parish activities, including for parish luncheons, choir practices, committee meetings and as a bride's room for weddings performed at the parish. The addition includes new restrooms, an amenity that the historic church had lacked.

The new addition "is going to give us the opportunity to get together as a parish that we didn't have (before) outside of Mass," said Bill McGrath, who coordinates the lector program there with his wife, Brenda. "It's a real blessing for the entire parish."

Brenda McGrath, who married her husband at St. Patrick's in 1993, added, "The people who will appreciate this the most will be the brides!"
During the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl noted the generosity of parishioners in supporting the project, and he thanked Cherrie Doggett and Blanca Paulino for their support of the addition. The room furnishings were donated in memory of the late Leonard "Bud" Doggett Jr., a well-known Washington businessman, and the addition's artwork, including framed historic photos of St. Patrick's Church, were given in memory of the late Dr. Eliseo Paulino.

At the Mass, Msgr. Salvatore Criscuolo, St. Patrick's pastor who also serves as a Catholic chaplain to District police officers and firefighters, welcomed parishioners and thanked them for their generosity in supporting the new addition. "It (this addition) has been 215 years in the making," he said, smiling. Concelebrants at the Mass included Bishop Leonard Olivier, a retired auxiliary bishop of Washington; and Msgr. Michael di Teccia Farina and Father Paul Liston, two retired priests of the archdiocese who served for many years at St. Patrick's.

Michelle Harris, a St. Patrick's parishioner who attended the reception at the new addition with her mother, Eloise, said, "It's beautiful, it's cozy. It looks like it's been here forever."

Eloise Harris, who will turn 85 next month, noted that as an African-American woman, she had always felt welcome at St. Patrick's. In earlier decades of the past century, the racial segregation in Washington, a southern city, even infected some of its Catholic churches. Soon after becoming Washington's first resident archbishop in 1948, Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle worked to integrate its parishes and schools.

"They were nice (to me), all through the years," Eloise Harris said of St. Patrick's.

Bill McGrath noted a special appeal of St. Patrick's for him and his wife. "We're both of Irish-American heritage. St. Patrick's has been a special place" for us, he said. The downtown church hosts a special Mass each March 17 to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of the sons and daughters of Ireland. In May, the parish hosts an annual Blue Mass to pray for those engaged in public safety work.

St. Patrick's Church, a majestic stone building located near Ford's Theatre, is a short walk from the Metro Center and Gallery Place stations, and its weekday Masses are attended by federal workers and attorneys from downtown law firms. The church is located next to the headquarters for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.