St. Bridget's was originally a small brick church and was dedicated on November 5, 1854. It's source of heat was two wood burning stoves, and the altar was made up of wooden blocks, covered with red paper, and wooden candlesticks painted white. A simple linen sheet served as the altar cloth.
From these simple beginnings, as a small neighborhood Irish parish, membership grew as the city of Rochester did, and made it necessary to build a larger church, which was dedicated on April 12, 1875. This remained the home of St. Bridget's for the next one hundred and twenty-two years.
St. Bridget's, with its distinct Romanesque bell tower, has always been a landmark in Rochester history. At one time, the property housed a church, school, rectory, and convent, all in separate buildings. A hero of the Civil War, Colonel Patrick O'Rorke, who fell at the battle of Gettysburg, was a member of the parish. His wife was the church organist, and she joined the order of the Sacred Heart after his death. A fire caused damage to the church building in 1937, and various renovations were made to the church, beginning in 1961.
Even though membership declined over the years, from as many as 2,300 parishoners, St. Bridget's has continued to be a force in Rochester's inner city, despite being located in what has since become a predominantly commercial area. Where once the population was all Irish and Italian, today's members are truly multicultural, truly "one in the spirit".
The spring of 1997 saw the now much smaller parish faced with the difficult decision of whether to attempt an astronomical reconstruction to its home, or whether to purchase a newer and more structurally sound building that the diocese was going to close in June. After much deliberation and emotion, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to take over the former St. Theresa's church, located just over a mile from St. Bridget's.
September 7, 1997 saw the opening and blessing of the newest St. Bridget's Church, as another chapter starts to be written in the parish's rich history. Located not far from the old neighborhood, but now right in the middle of another important neighborhood, the parish is able to continue to serve Rochester's inner city, and is enjoying the potential of expanding outreach programs, as well as membership.
As the congregation sings, "We have come this far by faith... put your trust in God, you'll win."
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