Saint Patrick Church originated as a mission church and was raised to parish status on January 15, 1887 whereby at the Morris County Hall of Records, a certificate of incorporation was filed naming Fr. Winant Michael Wigger as pastor and Peter McGoey and John Doran as the first trustees. Shortly thereafter, Fr. Wigger was replaced by Fr. Charles Muhl who acquired much of the property that makes up the complex of St. Patrick Church. Many early inhabitants of the church were refugees from the 19th century potato famine in Ireland who found work in the small community of Chatham. They dedicated much time and service in the early years of St. Patrick Parish. The initial three years of the parish brought in three different pastors; it was not until 1889 that Fr. Joseph C. Dunn became the first long term pastor of St. Patrick. He remained pastor for ten years.
Saint Patrick School was established prior to the church in 1872. The people of this era wanted children educated in Catholic values and were willing to walk two miles up Main Street to Madison for Sunday mass so that a school could be built. In the mid to late twentieth century, the school went through a major change as lay people began to staff the school. Prior to this occurrence, the Sisters of Christian Charity staffed the school. The desire for Catholic education and tradition exists today as families seek our school’s academic excellence partnered with Catholic values.
St. Patrick Parish continued to flourish as new challenges and changes occurred over the years. Vatican II Documents became the foundation for the vision set at St. Patrick Parish. Over the past half century, our campus and facilities have changed and evolved. A Parish Center was built to accommodate the many activities sponsored by our parish. In addition to several renovations in the Church, the former convent housed on Oliver Street was totally reconfigured into Parish offices and the church basement became our middle school. All of these physical changes were the result of an ever growing faith community, nurtured by the Eucharist and the Word of God. A partnership with Our Lady of Victories Church in Paterson New Jersey was formed and a Caring and Health Ministry emerged, spearheaded by our Parish Nurses. Many social justice ministries and projects began such as Christmas in a Box, cooking for Eva’s Village, Forget-Me-Not monthly food collections for local food pantries as well as many community building activities such as the Oktoberfest, St. Patrick Day party and Breakfast in Bethlehem. These, along with many other ministries continue to grow each year while many, many more projects continue to emerge, all due to the imagination and care of our parishioners.
Since 1887, the people in each generation who served the parish are the true foundations of faith. They are the living “Body of Christ.” All who pass down the traditions, and find a home at St. Patrick share a common bond that unites us through joys and sorrows, challenges and surprises, and the success and failures of life. The beliefs of people who promoted Catholicism to this area of New Jersey in 1887 exist today through worship, faith formation, a parish school, and social activities. St. Patrick Parish continually seeks to be a Christ-centered community and acknowledge our mission to live our Roman Catholic faith, strengthen the spiritual life of all parishioners with truth and love, serve the needs of others and ourselves, give witness to the joy of the Gospel and reach out and welcome those who are searching for a community of faith.