St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church

In 1853, the Catholic parish of St. Bridget of Erin was organized in North St. Louis.  A church cornerstone was laid in 1859.  The church would serve the Irish community of the nearby Kerry Patch for the next several decades.

From the beginning, the church at 2401 Carr Street had a large but initially poor parish.  While the fortunes of the Irish settlers would improve, the church provided services to the nearby poor for the majority of its history.

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Historic St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church at Jefferson and Carr Street in St. Louis, MO – Demolished in 1916

St. Bridget’s of Erin also built two elementary schools in 1871, one for boys and one for girls.  Eventually, Kenrick Prep Seminary and High School would be located at one of the schools from 1927 – 1936.

In 1888, the parish and nearby St. Theresa’s grew so large that a third parish had to be created nearby.  The Rev. J.J. Harty would lead the new parish.

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St. Bridget of Erin before demolition seen from Carr Street – Courtesy of Google Earth

By the 1960s, the neighborhood around the parish changed.  Most of the original parishioners moved.  The parish under the leadership of Father John Shocklee began providing services to poor residents of the nearby Pruitt-Igoe Housing Complex.  Of the 300 students at St. Bridget’s school in the 1960s, 147 were non-Catholic students from the neighborhood.  Father John Shocklee would become Monsignor Shocklee and play a strong part in St. Louis’ civil rights movement.

By the turn of the Twenty-First Century, the parish was no longer viable even after merging with several parishes.  Many urban churches have lost most of their membership.  St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church wasn’t spared this fate.

In Spring 2003, Monsignor Shocklee passed away.  A few months later in June 2003, St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church held its last mass.  Purchased by the nearby charter school, the old church was demolished in 2016.

St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church suffered the same fate of many St. Louis commercial and residential buildings.  A city built to house around 850,000 residents is now home to less than 300,000 residents.  Despite the best effort of preservationists, many other buildings will suffer the same fate as St. Bridget of Erin Catholic Church.  What a shame.

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Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch archive

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