Exploring an Irish Catholic Church in Chicago: A Protestant’s Experience

Welcome to this captivating exploration of an Irish Catholic Church nestled in the heart of Chicago! In this blog post, I will be sharing my unique perspective as a Protestant while immersing myself in the rich traditions and spiritual ambiance of this renowned place of worship. Join me as we embark on a journey of discovery, where cultural diversity meets religious unity, and where understanding intertwines with appreciation. So, let us unravel the mysteries and embrace the awe-inspiring experience of delving into the world of an Irish Catholic Church in this vibrant city of Chicago.


When it comes to exploring different cultures and religious traditions, there’s nothing quite like stepping inside an old church. The sense of history, artistry, and spiritual devotion can create a truly unique experience. As a Protestant, stepping into an Irish Catholic church in downtown Chicago was an opportunity to learn about a different faith and appreciate the beauty of its traditions. In this article, we will delve into the experience of visiting Old St Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown Chicago, exploring its history, art, symbolism, and the intriguing concept of the communion of saints. So, let’s embark on this enlightening journey!

Exploring Old St Patrick’s Catholic Church

The Historical Significance

Old St Patrick’s Catholic Church holds a significant place in the history of Chicago. Built in the 1850s, the church stands as a testament to the city’s Irish Catholic community. It was a time when Irish immigrants faced discrimination and used their faith as a way to establish a strong sense of identity. As I walked up to the church, I couldn’t help but admire the spires that reached towards the sky, representing the faith and resilience of those who built the church.

Artistry and Design

One of the most captivating aspects of Old St Patrick’s Catholic Church is its breathtaking artistry and design. The church owes its artistic beauty, in part, to the contributions of Thomas O’Shaughnessy, a local artist. O’Shaughnessy’s skillful touch can be seen in the stained glass windows that adorn the church’s walls and the delicate stenciling that adds an elegant touch to the interior.

Celtic Art and Symbolism

As I entered the church, I was immediately struck by the presence of Celtic art and symbolism. The intricate designs, inspired by Irish heritage, create an atmosphere that is both aesthetically pleasing and spiritually significant. One particular motif that caught my attention was the labyrinth design in the font used for baptisms. This ancient symbol represents the journey of life and reminds us of the interconnectedness of all beings.

Holy Water and Baptismal Symbolism

At every entrance of the church, small fonts containing holy water are present. For Catholics, this is an important symbol of baptism and initiation into the faith. As a Protestant, I was intrigued by the emphasis on baptismal symbolism in Catholicism. It serves as a reminder of the shared belief in the importance of spiritual rebirth and the cleansing of sins.

Saints and Stained Glass Depiction

Walking through the church, I couldn’t help but notice the presence of statues of saints and the vibrant stained glass windows depicting Irish saints. Catholics hold a deep reverence for the saints, viewing them as companions and intercessors rather than divine beings. The statues and stained glass serve as visual reminders of the lives of these holy individuals and the inspiration they provide to the congregation.

The Communion of Saints

One of the most fascinating aspects of Catholicism, which was emphasized during my visit, is the communion of saints. This belief connects the living and the deceased in a spiritual bond. It was explained to me that the saints are seen as heavenly companions, offering intercession and support. This concept reminded me of the importance of community and the belief that we are all part of something greater than ourselves.


Exploring Old St Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown Chicago was truly an enriching experience. From its historical significance to its captivating artistry and symbolism, the church offers a glimpse into the deep faith and traditions of the Irish Catholic community. As a Protestant, I appreciated the opportunity to learn about a different religious tradition and found common ground in the shared belief in the importance of baptism and the connection between the living and the deceased. Visiting this Irish Catholic church not only opened my eyes to a different faith but also deepened my understanding and appreciation of the beauty found in various religious traditions. So, next time you have the chance, step inside an old church and allow yourself to be immersed in the history and spirituality it holds.

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