Saint Patrick at Saint Joseph’s Oratory

An Irish pilgrim was observing the niches on the walls outside the original chapel. Saint Joseph sits on the facade, while the sides are respectively occupied by Saint John the Baptist and… Saint Patrick. Could the archives shed light on the presence of the patron saint of Ireland?

The Irish community has a long tradition in Montreal. In fact, it is recognized as one of the four founding groups of the City. In the 19th century, the number of Irish immigrants increased to 25% of the city’s population. Irish associations and clubs appear quickly, followed by the Irish figures in our history. St. Patrick’s Parish, where the Basilica of the same name is located, was established as early as 18471.

This means that, at the inauguration of the chapel of the first oratory in 1904, the Irish were present, but one can only speculate on their presence at the Oratory in those early days. Were they on a pilgrimage?

The magazine Les Annales de Saint-Joseph (ASJ) raises the veil on the Irish face of the shrine. Their presence was important, indeed, from the very first years of the shrine. In fact, the first pilgrimage recorded in the publication is that of the “[…] Irish orphans, girls and boys, of the Hospice d’Outremont,” the workings of the Grey Nuns for Catholic Anglophone orphans established in Outremont since 19072.

Fig. 1 – In this picture taken around 1911, Saint John the Baptist, on the East wall.

Fig. 2 – After the construction of the crypt, the small chapel with St. Joseph in the front and St. Patrick on the West wall.

As for the presence of the statue of Saint Patrick, it is necessary to wait until the April 1916 publication. History brings us back to 1911 when the chapel’s sacristy walls are completed. The contractor arranged “a curved niche about four feet high” on each side. Sunday, May 21, Father Rector Georges-A. Dion publicly blessed the statues “[…] one of them will look toward the east: it will be that of John the Baptist; the other will face the west, it will be that of St. Patrick, apostle of Catholic Ireland.” He adds:

“As for the personification of Saint Patrick, it will also preach […] to all the noble children of Ireland who have come to establish their homes on the hospitable land of Canada, and often present themselves here in large numbers, […] with social and domestic virtues that make families happy […]”3.

Let us wish Ireland, Saint Patrick and all the Irish a happy celebration!

  1. Archives de Montréal’s Website. (content in French)
  2. Les Annales de Saint Joseph, 1st year, number.1, p. 27
  3. Les Annales de Saint Joseph, 5th year, number 4, p. 107