St. Patrick Parish was founded by immigrants who settled in the townships of Grattan, Ada, Vergennes and Cannon in the early 1840s. By June of 1844, Fr. Andrew Viszosky was coming regularly to say Mass in area homes. On December 7, 1844, 29 families pledged money to build a small church. The church was dedicated the next year, but it was outgrown by 1859.
A second church was built during the pastorate of Fr. Henry Rievers. It was destroyed by fire in 1868. A third church was completed in 1871, but it too was lost to fire in 1876. The fourth church, the one currently in use, was completed in 1878. The fieldstone rectory was built by Fr. John Troy in 1910.
Over the years, St. Patrick became one of the larger rural parishes in the diocese. A school was opened by Fr. James Crumley in 1893. Fr. Crumley is also credited with naming the community “Parnell” in 1889. A larger school was built in 1905 by Fr. James Byrne. This school included a high school from 1920 to 1963. The current school was built in 1963 during the pastorate of Fr. Edmund Farrell.
St. Patrick Parish is well known for its large, historic church. From 1989 to 1993, Frs. Julian Reginato and Wayne Wheeler led the parish through a complete renovation of the church and rectory. St. Patrick is also well known for its chicken dinner festival, which dates back to the 1860s. The parish celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1994. A number of descendants of the Irish founders still remain in the parish, and many new families have moved in as well. The parish center was constructed in 2000. In 2005, the church steeple was refurbished; pastor Fr. Rock Badgerow gilded the cross himself. From 2009-2018, Fr. Mark Peacock led the parish and oversaw a renovation of the church interior and exterior, as well as tremendous growth in the parish and school. Today, Fr. Tom Cavera leads the parish in its continuing mission of Catholic service to the community.
History of the Church Building
Twenty eight area residents met with Fr. Andrew Viszosky from Grand Rapids to form a Catholic community. $97.25 was pledged toward the erection of a church building.
A small log church was dedicated to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. This church stood in what is now the oldest part of the cemetery.
Construction was begun on a rectory and new frame church to replace the overcrowded log church. This new church faced Five Mile Road just west of the present church. The building was completed in 1863.
This church was being expanded, to create more space inside, when a fire broke out and destroyed the building.
The parish began to build another church on the same spot. It was of the same dimensions as the present church: 136 feet long, 50 feet wide, with a spire of 168 feet tall. This church was completed in 1871.
The church and rectory were destroyed by fire.
A contract was entered into with a builder to begin a new church.
The fourth church building was completed. This is the building in use today.