St. Patrick Church – a brief history
Just fourteen years after the dedication of Saint Joseph Church, Woods Hole, the Bishop of Providence, Matthew Harkins, granted permission to Father Cornelius McSwiney, Pastor of Saint Joseph Parish, Woods Hole, to purchase land on which to build a wood-framed church on Main Street, Falmouth. Building costs were not to exceed $5,000. The construction of Saint Patrick Church was completed in 1899. This makes us the oldest continuously-operating Catholic parish church in Falmouth.
To give you an idea of the size of the original building, sit in the south section. The four steel girders supporting the steeple and the cross-aisle should be immediately behind you. Now, look up. The two dormers (clerstory windows) closest to you indicate the size of the original church. The rest has been added over the years.
St. Patrick Church remained a mission of Woods Hole until 1931, when it was designated a parish church. Father James Coyle was appointed the first pastor. St. Thomas Chapel was also assigned to his care. Additions to the original church building and significant renovations were made in 1946, 1964, and, most recently, in 1999. With the combined seating capacity of Saint Patrick Church and Saint Thomas Chapel, and with the fact that we celebrate six summer weekend Masses, we are able to accommodate far more people at Mass by than any other Catholic Church in Falmouth.
The pastors of St. Patrick Parish and their dates of service are as follows:
1931 – 1937 Rev. James Coyle
1938 – 1952 Rev. Msgr. John Kelly
1953 – 1976 Rev. Msgr. James Gleason
1977 – 1989 Rev. James McCarthy
1989 – 2000 Rev. Msgr. John Regan
2000 – 2012 Rev. Msgr. John Perry
2012 – Present Rev. Tim Goldrick
St. Thomas the Apostle Chapel has an earlier history before it came under the care of Saint Patrick Church. Located on the shore of what was once a landlocked body of water known as Deacon’s Pond, the building served as a social hall for the enjoyment of summer visitors.
After the pond was dredged and connected to Nantucket Sound in 1908, Deacon’s Pond became Falmouth Harbor. Although the front door of Saint Thomas Chapel faces Grand Avenue, the official address remains Deacon’s Lane to this very day.
The affluent summer residents brought with them their Irish immigrant servants. The Irish were Catholic and needed a place to gather for Sunday Mass. Father Thomas Kennedy, Pastor of Woods Hole, purchased the social hall. Named St. Thomas Chapel (after the pastor), it opened for Mass on 4 July 1918.
Now Saint Joseph Parish, Woods Hole, had three missions: Saint Patrick (Falmouth), Saint Thomas (Falmouth Heights), and Immaculate Conception (Megansett). A decade later, Bishop Feehan of Fall River decided to lighten the workload of the pastor of Woods Hole. St. Thomas Chapel became a parish unto itself, with the mission of Immaculate Conception Chapel, Megansett. Both had been social halls purchased by Father Kennedy and converted into chapels. In 1931, Immaculate Conception Chapel reverted to the care of St. Joseph Parish, Woods Hole. It never became a parish. It closed in 1977. That was the year an entirely new parish was established in North Falmouth. Never a mission of Woods Hole, it was named St. Elizabeth Seton Church.
Father James Coyle served from 1928 as the first and only pastor of Saint Thomas Church, Falmouth Heights.
In 1931, when St. Patrick Church became a parish under Father Coyle, it was assigned a mission: Saint Thomas, Falmouth Heights.
And that, dear readers, is how we became St. Patrick Parish on Main Street with a seaside chapel named St. Thomas.