OUR CHURCH HISTORY
Over 180 Years of Faith, Family, and Community Service
The historic Old Irish Cemetery occupies a small, modest square of earth at the quiet, rural corner of McCabe and Silver Lake Road in Green Oak Township. Fewer than 50 tombstones survive, all of them bearing Irish names upon old stone tablets worn smooth and difficult to decipher by time: Morgan. Gaffney. Malone. McCabe. Corrigan.
The dates on some of these gravestones go as far back as the late 1700s. Several bear the deceased's origin: Edward Malone, a native of the County of Louth, Ireland. Others are marked by GAR medallions - honoring those who served with the Grand Army of the Republic in the Civil War. None offer birth dates, only detailed dates of death: Patrick Gaffney, Grandson, Died Nov. 24, 1868, 4 years, 6 months, 4 days old.
In 1838, the McNamee family donated the land for a church and cemetery for the tiny but vigorous Irish community. The log church built behind this cemetery has been gone nearly 150 years. But that church and this quaint cemetery mark the scene of the birth of what would become St. Patrick Catholic Church in Brighton: Livingston County's oldest faith community, along with that of St. Paul Episcopal Church, also in Brighton.
Our faith community began in 1831, over 180 years ago. That's older than Michigan and not much younger than America. To fully appreciate just how much history our faith community has witnessed, consider this:
Our first permanent priest, Rev. Patrick O'Kelley, was from Ireland. He worked with Irish Catholics building the Erie Canal and assisted one of Detroit's earliest and most famous priests, Fr. Gabriel Richard, at Detroit's earliest church, St. Anne's, a faith community dating back to when Cadillac established Detroit in 1701.
When Fr. O'Kelley came to the wilderness of Livingston, Washtenaw, and Jackson counties as a mission priest in 1831, he ministered to his different Catholic communities by walking, the same mode of travel used by our Lord Himself and His apostles. A horse and saddle were expensive conveniences unavailable to Fr. O'Kelley and most of his fellow mission priests.
Michigan was still a territory at that time, and this area was part of the Cincinnati Diocese until the Detroit Dioceses was established a year later in 1833.
In 1838, a crude log cabin structure was built for this early faith community in Green Oak. Fr. O' Kelley served this community for 19 years until 1857. A few years later, in 1862, the Catholic community in the Brighton area, which had grown out of the Green Oak faith community, had increased so much that a new church building was needed. Two years later, a man named Ira Case donated property in Brighton on Ann Arbor Road - known today as Rickett Road.