Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Dancing the Irish jig at St. Patrick March 17, 2011

I’M NOT IRISH, not one cell of me. But I am the niece of an Irishman from Northern Ireland who married in to our German family. Does that count for anything on St. Patrick’s Day?

Despite the fact that I’m not Irish and I don’t celebrate St. Paddy’s day, in the spirit of the day, I’m posting these images of a lovely old building I discovered in 2009 while photographing a veterans’ memorial in Shieldsville for a magazine feature story.

Shieldsville is a tiny community along Minnesota Highway 21 west of Faribault. But it’s more than just a pause in the road. This town lays claim as Minnesota’s first organized Irish settlement, dating back to 1855.

If not for my fondness for meandering, I never would have discovered this quaint circa 1910 parish hall belonging to, ta-da, the Church of St. Patrick.


The old parish hall at the Church of St. Patrick, Shieldsville, is now used primarily for storage.

‘Tonight the parishioners of St. Patrick, and others who wish to be Irish, will gather across the street from the old parish hall in the new parish hall. There they’ll dance an Irish jig. They’ll feast on mulligan stew and Irish soda bread. And they’ll drink green beer in a toast to their ancestors.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Sign above the parish hall door.


The front entry to St. Patrick's Parish Hall, photographed in 2009.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


4 Responses to “Dancing the Irish jig at St. Patrick”

  1. dorothy bowman Says:

    I do have a string of green yarn around my neck today. Does that count for wearing green? Actually that Irish Uncle of yours and myself will celebrate St. Patricks day with friends tomorrow night. We have to wear something green so am saving my green for tomorrow nite. Got the green yarn for my neck at sewing group this AM.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      If all it takes is a string of green yarn to be Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, well, then count me in. That works for me. Give my Irish uncle a big hug from his German niece.

  2. Bernie Says:

    How quaint. I love this. I also love the idea of “those who wish to be Irish” *lol*

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I only wished I could have gotten inside this parish hall. Another time…another visit.

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