St Patrick’s, in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, has a long and intriguing history. Built between 1771 and 1774 for the Scottish Episcopal Church, it was sold to a Presbyterian Congregation in 1818. When they moved to a building in Infirmary Street, they agreed to sell their redundant building to the Catholic Church.
It was bought by Bishop Gillis in 1856 to serve the growing number of Irish immigrants who had settled in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. The cost of the new church was £4000. Half was paid for by the Church; the rest was raised by the people. Though they lived in poverty they were determined to raise money for a church of their own. St Patrick’s was officially opened as a Catholic church on Sunday 3rd August 1856 by Bishop Gillis. The congregation present was estimated at 2,600.
In 1898 a new sanctuary was built, extending outwards from the north wall, and a high altar was installed. In 1921 the mortuary chapel was erected as a memorial to the 320 men of the parish who had fallen in the Great War. In 1924 a new Lady Chapel was built and the following year a chapel dedicated to the Sacred heart. In 1929 a facade was added incorporating the statues of St Patrick and St Brigid in niches above the entrance. An impressive terrace and steps completed the design of the church and gave it the appearance we know today.
St Patrick’s is a highly significant building in Edinburgh’s Old Town, its tower a notable part of the skyline. As well as being a place of worship for a flourishing congregation it is also known an oasis of peace for the soul in a busy city centre.
Our parish priests are Fr Gerard and Fr Benedict, they belong to the order of the Congregation of the Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy. The congregation was founded by the Most Reverend Anthony Gogo Nwedo CSSP, the first Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria on 25 October 1970, on the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is a Missionary Congregation of Priests and Brothers and the first indigenous religious congregation for men founded in Africa by an African for a worldwide mission.
The purpose of its foundation is to work for the glory of God, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the salvation of souls. Thus members follow the footsteps of Christ, bear witness to the infinite mercy of God through a life of compassion, forgiveness and kindness; in this way making their lives signs of God’s love for this world.
The Apostolate include teaching in schools and ministering in Parishes, while members who are religious Brothers make sacred vestments, teach in schools, teach doctrine in Parishes and care for the sick and needy. Their charism is bearing witness to the mercy of God, following the footsteps of Christ the Saviour and Mary, our Mother of Mercy and the salvation of souls. This mercy is expressed in compassion, forgiveness and kindness. The spirit of the Congregation is that of charity, humility, prayer, penance and abandonment to the will of God.
The Congregation continues to grow and has produced so many Priests working in Parishes in Nigeria, Cameroun, Ghana, Canada, the United States, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK, including now Scotland about which we are very happy!