Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

St. Patrick’s Day at one of Minnesota’s oldest Irish Catholic parishes March 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:05 AM
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A sign on the old St. Patrick's Parish Hall, circa 1910, photographed several years ago.

SOME MIGHT CALL it the luck of the Irish that St. Patrick’s Church—Shieldsville, has persevered through two devastating fires.

Or perhaps St. Patrick’s, one of Minnesota’s first Irish Catholic parishes, established in 1856 in rural Rice County, could be considered unlucky given those two inferno-inducing lightning strikes upon church buildings nearly 100 years apart.

Bad luck or good luck, these strong Irish Catholics have withstood the tests of their faith, rebuilding after fires in 1888 and in 2002.

The congregation's newest church and fellowship hall, built in 2004 after lightning presumably struck and burned the previous sanctuary to the ground in 2002. The Brazil-Dudley Fellowship Hall, linked to the new church, is the site for the annual St. Patrick's Day meal.

This weekend they’ll celebrate their heritage and patron saint namesake at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, going strong at 18 years. Beginning with an 11 a.m. Mass, the Irish, and even those who aren’t, will gather to worship.

Starting at noon, congregants and guests will meet in the social hall for the annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch of Mulligan Stew, coleslaw, Irish soda bread, buns and dessert. All homemade.

For those over 21, “Irish libations” will be available. I assume that means green beer and not Irish whiskey.

No reservations are needed to dine with the Irish and no fee has been set for the meal. Give a free-will offering.

While I’ve never dined at the St. Patrick’s Day lunch, this may be the year to imbibe. I’m talking food here, not beer, although I could possibly be persuaded to swig an ale. I’ve been to enough church dinners to know that you’ll find some of the best and tastiest homemade food in parish halls.

For those of you who enjoy Irish music, the Twin Cities-based band, Reverse Cowboy, will present its interpretation of traditional and contemporary Irish music during a 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. concert.

The circa 1910 parish hall, photographed several years ago, once served as the social hub of Shieldsville. Folks congregated here for Saturday night dances, card parties hosted by the Ladies' Rosary Society, St. Patrick's Day plays, an annual chicken dinner and bazaar, and for other events. Confirmation classes were also taught here and grain was once stored in this building. When St. Patrick's 1882 stone church burned to the ground in 2002, parishioners gathered here for worship services.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, if any, for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Click here for more information about St. Patrick’s Church—Shieldsville. 

Situated along Minnesota State Highway 21 about 10 miles northwest of Faribault, Shieldsville is not an incorporated city, but rather a township. It was one of Minnesota’s first Irish settlements. St. Patrick’s Church is located at 7525 Dodd Road. To learn more about Irish history in Minnesota, click here. 

As long as we’re talking Irish history here, historians consider Jessenland Township north of Henderson in rural Sibley County to be Minnesota’s first Irish agrarian settlement. You’ll find St. Thomas Catholic Church here, built in 1870 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The first church was built in 1855. Click here to read more about the Irish in Minnesota and specifically those who settled in Jessenland.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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