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St. Patrick’s Day has special meaning for Erin


Prayer service in historic chapel kicks off festivities



For the Daily News

TOWN OF ERIN — Just as St. Patrick made pilgrimages, so do those who return each year to the Catholic chapel named in his honor.

About 30 people attended a 30-minute morning prayer service Saturday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at St. Patrick’s Chapel.

“It was beautiful,” said Maureen Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel. “It’s so special to celebrate St. Patrick's Day here and to get to worship in this beautiful building. I cry every time I am in here.”

It was the first time since St. Patrick Church became a chapel in 1999 that a Mass was not held in it exactly on St. Patrick’s Day. That decision was made because St. Patrick's Day fell on a Sunday this year, and Mass was held at St. Kilian Church in Hartford, which merged with St. Patrick. A Celtic celebration was also held at St. Kilian on Sunday.

The chapel is now only occasionally used for special services and on St. Patrick's Day.

Gene and Anita Schaefer of Hartford attended St. Patrick for 10 years before it closed.

“St. Patrick’s Day was the biggest day of the year for my dad,” Anita Schaefer said, “so we love this church.”

Anita Schaefer said her great grandfather helped build the altar at the church, which opened in 1842.

“We like to come back here,” she said.

Celebrating Mass and prayer services at the church is also a treat for the celebrant, said the Rev. David LaPlante, pastor at St. Kilian. LaPlante led the service with assistance from the Rev. Wally Vogel, who had been pastor at St. Patrick from 1996-99.

“If you can't be in Ireland (for St. Patrick's Day), at least you can be at St. Patrick's (chapel), LaPlante said.

LaPlante spoke of the saint's commitment to living according to the gospel, and urged attendants to do the same. However, although many Catholics are fasting during Lent, LaPlante offered a chance to feast in the namesake's honor by serving two large trays of green and white cookies.

“This chapel has great meaning to those who come back here each year on St. Patrick's Day,” LaPlante said. “I am happy I can worship with them at this special time.”