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St. Patrick's cathedral in Billings celebrates Catholic and Irish heritage

St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral.jpg
Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 19:49:50-04

St. Patrick's Day is more than celebrating Ireland.

Here in Billings, tradition runs deep.

The history of the St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral in downtown Billings goes back to September 1905, when ground broke for its present church.

Its name, coupled with the holiday, creates quite the opportunity to celebrate. The St. Patrick's Day parade traditionally goes down Third Avenue North and Second Avenue North and near the church.

The celebration honors the Patron St. Patrick, a slave who was kidnapped and found his way back home around 300 A.D., according to Father Leo McDowell.

"He's responsible for the conversion of the Irish to Christianity," McDowell said. "And that's why we honor him in the Catholic Church, for that element of that. His life, his dedication, his service to the people of Ireland."

The church celebrates because it is named after St. Patrick.

It will hold a special mass and the congregation will enjoy Irish stew after the service.

McDowell says all the saints can be celebrated and pass on similar lessons.

"We looked at it as a challenge to us of what can we do to spread the gospel and have that same sense of love for his people and help them see Christ that he had?" McDowell said. "And so any of the saints that we celebrate are meant to be role models for us."

McDowell says for many, celebrating their Irish heritage became important because they were mistreated.

"Part of this is developing a sense of Irish pride that they want to hold on to and keep that pride going," McDowell said about the early Irish immigrants. "And St. Patrick gave them that opportunity when they came to the United States."

St. Patrick and his lessons for Irish and Catholics became important around the US and in Montana.

"A lot of the priests that served here can go back and say, yeah, if St. Patrick hadn't gone to Ireland, it'd be a whole different story for the way America looks and the way our churches in America look," McDowell said.