By Kristine Sarver
For The Catholic Messenger
This year’s St. Patrick’s Day Homecoming Celebration on March 14 will be particularly sweet for Melrose. It will mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of our beloved St. Patrick Parish. Our pastor, Father Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S., has chosen the theme of our celebration: “The Church as Family.” Parish families and organizations are busy making pages for a parish scrapbook that we will display at the Community Center in Melrose during the celebration, which includes dinner, an auction and a dance.
Our parish spans seven or eight generations and our parish directory contains the names of descendants of some of those early families such as Murphy, Ryan, Ward, Knowles, Hannam and Navin. Descendants of some other families have moved from Melrose, but within short driving distance. Some have slipped from the local radar.
St. Patrick began in 1870 as a mission parish. In 1874, Father J. J. Cadden became the first priest in residence. Father Leo Ward’s book, “Holding up the Hills” described Father Cadden as “not too tall, but a very large man with a heavy neck, a ring on his finger, a cross on his watch chain, his black prayer book in his hand (even when he was downtown) and the possessor of a great big black team of horses that he could drive like blazes.”
Father Armbruster is the 19th priest to serve our parish. As in the early days, our pastor lives in residence elsewhere. Father Armbruster drives his SUV like blazes from Centerville’s St. Mary Church to Melrose every Sunday and twice during the week to bring Christ to our still predominately Irish Catholic community.
Lay organizations have also morphed through the years. The men of the late 1800s banded together in the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Melrose, “The Sons of Old Ireland.” Today Melrose’s Catholic men join surrounding communities in the Knights of Columbus, still serving the causes of friendship, unity and Christian charity, just in smaller numbers. The women still populate the monthly circles of the Altar and Rosary Society. Despite having busy lives, men and women make time for their church family, living out Jesus’ prayer for them, “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21)
Join us for our celebration of 150 years as family at the community center. We will serve dinner from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Choose between corned beef and cabbage or pasta. Cost is $10 but free for children younger than 7 years old. An auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a dance to follow. A raffle and children’s games are part of the festivities.