The history of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and School is a fruitful one, full of sacrifices, joy and peaceful celebration. It all started with Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley who was inspired by a movement of the Holy Spirit to bring the Eucharist to North Jacksonville. In 1958, it was evident that the Northern part of Duval County needed a Catholic Church. Catholics who lived here visited Holy Rosary and Our Lady of the Angels, or even took a long trip downtown to Immaculate Conception. The Archbishop decided that the north was where the growth would be in Jacksonville and purchased 39 acres of land to build a church. At the time, the far-seeing Archbishop’s plans were to build not only a church, but a school, social hall and eventually a Catholic high school. Archbishop Hurley needed a gregarious pastor to make his plans a reality. He turned to a priest just recently arrived from Ireland, Father John J. Lenihan.
It must have appeared to be quite a challenge to Father Lenihan. In 1959, there was no Interstate 95, and the closest main roads were U.S. Route 1, Lem Turner Road and Main Street. The property was nothing more than pine trees, bushes and vines. Father Lenihan grasped his duties quickly and took up residence in a house on Loyola Drive. He knew that his mission was awesome, and that he needed help – and quickly. For that, he turned to the Catholic women of the new parish. He asked them to form a group and survey the area for Catholic families. The women took off aggressively, literally going door-to-door in search of Catholics and informing them that a new parish was planned, and that a new church was to be erected. The response was fantastic. Catholics from all over North Duval County gathered together. Father Lenihan began celebrating Mass at the Civic Center at Ray Greene Park and, periodically, at the Ribault Lions Club. Two months later, Archbishop Hurley made it official. On January 13, 1959, the parish of St. Patrick’s was born; there was much work to be done.
The tireless new pastor completed his plans for a new church to be built. He gave the parish a wonderful Valentine by officially breaking ground on February 14, 1960. Three other priests were present with Father Lenihan for this historic occasion. Soon after, the building committee began to act. A dinner was held in the Civic Center to raise funds for the new church. Finally after months of planning and fund raising, the new church was dedicated.
The first Mass was said in the church on July 10, 1960. Although the parish was grateful to the Civic Center and the Ribault Lion’s Club for the use of their facilities, the parishioners were very happy to have a place they could call their own.
A school was built in 1964, and nuns came from Ireland to teach our children. Through the subsequent years, various pastors added buildings and completed renovations.
In 2011, Bishop Galeone appointed Father Liguori as pastor, and instructed him, because of changes in demographics, to sell the Broward Road property and re-build the campus 7 miles north on property purchased from the diocese. This property was located 3 miles east of Jacksonville International Airport, on an extension of the road now called Airport Center Drive East.
In 2012 an offer was made by a charter school for the Broward Rd. property, and we accepted. We broke ground on the new property in November, and commenced in building the school and parish hall. Meanwhile we set up 12 portable classrooms on the construction site for the school. Enrollment immediately increased. We had daily Mass in one of the portables, and we rented the church on Broward Rd. from the new owners on weekends for Masses. Our parish office was moved to the new rectory, and school office in the back of the rectory garage. We had things in storage everywhere!
The new school and parish hall was completed in January 2014. We began celebrating Masses in the parish hall and commenced on the building of the church. Meanwhile our school enrollment kept going up and up. We dedicated the new church on March 21, 2015. At this point our school enrollment was at 400 with a waiting list. After the completion of the church, we started to build a small church office, and finally moved the temporary office out of the rectory.