GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Behind the stone walls of what used to be the old St. Patrick’s church in Green Bay, a transformation has been underway for years.
It is now St. Patrick’s Oratory and, with permission from Bishop David Ricken, is the home for some 600 parishioners who celebrate the classical Roman liturgy or “Latin mass.”
Canon Antoine Boucheron recently shared with Local 5 News a little bit about the church’s history.
“Beautiful story. It was built by the first Irish immigrants who came with nothing and built this beautiful church,” he explained. “So from the start, our goal was to continue what we have received from our ancestors.”
Canon Boucheron said the minute they moved in, they knew there would be a lot of work for a long time, given the age of the building.
The idea was not to change the church but to bring its original beauty back, and as they worshipped among the scaffolding, anticipation was building.
“It just caught in your throat when you saw the altar newly painted,” Secretary Mary Roehring recalled. “You thought, God is here. It’s bestill my heart and know that I am God. When you walk in here, that’s how you feel.”
Roehring said it was Cannon Boucheron’s passion that provided motivation and a welcoming spirit.
During the visit with Local 5’s Michele McCormack, church members took note of her Irish background and pointed out the painted shamrocks, a symbol of the Trinity, and the prayer of St. Patrick’s at the entrance.
Much like the experience of the Irish immigrants who built this church, the faithful have had to be patient to see this vision come to life.
“I mean, this is now seven years,” Roehring noted. “But whenever they needed help, we showed up.”
She recalled at least 100 people stayed after to tear out all the pews and make room for the replacements.
The restoration included the church rectory, which houses clergy offices, sleeping quarters, and the kitchen.
When they could not do the work themselves, church members gave their own money and held fundraisers for more to hire professionals for jobs such as replacing all 780 feet of pews.
“It’s a red oak,” explained David Nickel of New Holland church furniture company. “They’ll last 80 to 100 years. If they’re taken care of, yeah.”
The original stained glass windows remain, and the baptismal font. This was thanks to the work of members of the church before it became an oratory. It was their efforts in the early 2000s that preserved the stained glass that included a tribute to Father O’Brien.
For all the talk of the building, Cannon Boucheron says this is very much about the people.
“We know we are working for the future generation.”
St. Patrick’s Oratory is located at 211 N. Maple in Green Bay. Most of the construction work should be done by Thanksgiving.
The church, which operates with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, celebrates mass daily with special times for confession.
Latin Mass on Sunday is celebrated three times: 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m., and 10 a.m.