Year of Faith pilgrimage: Saint Patrick Parish

Friday, Sep. 27, 2013
Year of Faith pilgrimage: Saint Patrick Parish Photo 1 of 2
Saint Patrick Catholic Church was built in 1916 at its current site; the original church was at 500 West 417 South in Salt Lake City. IC photos/Marie Mischel
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

(Editor’s note: For the Year of Faith, which ends Nov. 24, Bishop John C. Wester has designated 12 churches in the Diocese of Salt Lake City as pilgrimage sites. This article is one in a series about the sites. More information can be found at

SALT LAKE CITY — The most difficult part of my pilgrimage to Saint Patrick Parish in Salt Lake City was choosing which Mass to attend.

My decision had nothing to do with the time. Rather, my concern was which choir I wanted to hear, for the parish is blessed with both African and Tongan choirs, which create beautiful music unto the Lord that is very unlike the English songs I hear almost every Sunday.

I left the choice up to fate. It happened that I went to St. Patrick’s on the fourth Sunday of the month, which is when the African Mass is scheduled. The parish also offers a Tongan Mass once a month; until recently a Korean Mass was celebrated as well, but this summer the priest was recalled to Korea by his order.

Upon my arrival at the church, I found an empty parking lot. Fortunately, a kind parishioner directed me to the park down the street, where Mass was being celebrated at the beginning of the parish picnic. (I later learned that my guide was Tino Valles, the parish’s religious education coordinator.)

As soon as I got out of my car at the park, I heard voices raised in praise, with a rhythm that made me want to join in. The congregation was gathered in the park pavilion, a diverse group of Anglos, Africans, Tongans and Hispanics.

The parish’s current congregation is a continuation of its past; it was established in 1892 to care for Catholics on Salt Lake City’s west side, who were primarily Irish and Italian immigrants. Over the years, St. Patrick’s also has opened its doors to immigrants from Vietnam, Samoa and the Philippine Islands, as well as people from other nations.

Despite the congregation’s cultural variety, all the ethnic communities contribute to the parish, said Anthony Martinez, who in addition to other roles at the parish is the youth coordinator. Among the examples he gave was that the African choir sings at one of the English Masses once a month, and the Tongan community holds a yearly fundraiser that contributes heavily to the parish’s budget.

While I was at the parish picnic, I spoke not only with Mr. Martinez and Mr. Valles, but also with Chrispin Sangano, who directs the African choir. He told me that the primary difference between the monthly African Mass and a Mass celebrated in English is the music – because the Africans sing almost the entire Mass, it can last about two hours. Their hymns are in several languages, including English and Swahili, both of which I heard at the Mass celebrated before the parish picnic.

As we chatted, Mr. Sangano told me a little about his own history. He was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and speaks seven languages. When his mother was widowed, he and his younger brother were sent to live with an aunt and uncle. One night the family was attacked. The uncle was killed, the aunt badly wounded. Seeing his aunt lying in a pool of blood, Mr. Sangano thought she was dead. He and his brother escaped into the bush. Eventually, they made their way to a refugee camp in Uganda. There he learned that his aunt was still alive, and also was in Uganda. Their reunion was short-lived, for Mr. Sangano was able to immigrate to Utah. After more than a year, some of his family members were able to join him, but some remain in Africa.

Others in the St. Patrick community have similar stories, he said; sometime soon I hope to return to the parish to learn more about my brothers and sisters in Christ, who have come so far but worship so joyfully and generously share their faith and their music and their stories.


Saint Patrick Catholic Church is located at 1040 West 400 South in Salt Lake City. Weekend Masses in English are Saturday, 5 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 and 11 a.m. A Tongan Mass is celebrated at 1:30 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month; an African Mass is celebrated at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month.

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