Perhaps the most spectacular embellishment of St. Patrick’s was the installation of the bishop’s chair. According to tradition, early bishops preached and taught, not from a pulpit, but from a chair in the sanctuary of the church. The Latin word for chair is cathedra: thus “cathedral.” In the nineteenth and preceding centuries, the bishop’s chair took on the appearance of a royal throne. Few monarchs can claim a throne as glorious as that provided by Father McQuaid for the Bishop of Newark in St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral. McQuaid engaged John Jelliff for the project. Jelliff was Newark’s most prominent furniture, chair, and cabinet maker of the last half of the nineteenth century. His achievement is spectacular. The throne “is made of black walnut, gracefully carved, and extends upward of 20 feet, where it projects forward about six feet and culminates in pinnacle shape at the height of about 25 feet…Various devices of a religious and ornamental character, including a representation of two angels under the projection above, are ingeniously carved upon it.” Interestingly, what appears to be the throne is actually a great canopy. The chair itself is small, low-backed, and uncomfortable. The cost was about $1,000. Jelliff also designed the cover of the baptismal font and probably the credence table in the sanctuary. The font cover now serves as a canopy over the tabernacle in the chapel.
Not only the sons of St. Patrick’s, but also the pastor, heeded the call to arms. He volunteered to be an army chaplain but was forbidden by Bishop Bayley. Later in the war, he visited the front and ministered to dying soldiers at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Late in life Bishop McQuaid loved to tell his seminarians of how he made a convert through whiskey. A wounded Protestant soldier, through a long, weary, sleepless night, watched intently how McQuaid ministered small doses of whiskey to a fellow soldier in critical condition from his wounds. Later, this soldier told McQuaid that if it was his faith that taught him to care for his neighbor in such a manner, he also wished to be a Catholic.
Civil War did not prevent St. Patrick’s from continuing to develop. The great tower was given a voice. On December 7, 1862, Bishop Bayley solemnly consecrated a peal of four bells. The largest, named St. Patrick, weighed 3,000 pounds, followed by St. Mary at 1,536, St. James at 888, and little St. Bridget, only 375. Cast by A. Meneeley’s Sons of West Troy, NY, these bells had an aggregate weight exceeding three tons. At the time these bells were the largest in the city.
After the end of the Civil War in 1865, an already rich parish life continued to expand. Adult organizations included the Rosary Society, the Blessed Sacrament Society, two sodalities, three temperance societies, the Apostleship of Prayer and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. While some of these societies addressed strictly spiritual activities, others had a more practical and social service focus. Alcoholism, considered a personal failing in the nineteenth century, was especially prevalent among the poor. Temperance societies supported “drunkards” to the best of their ability. The St. Vincent de Paul Society organized the parish’s outreach to the poor, helping families of unemployed, widows and orphans.
St. Patrick’s opened a separate school for boys in 1866 with the arrival of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the Christian Brothers, under the direction of Brother Gustavus. On opening day 240 boys enrolled. In the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, many educators considered the separation of boys and girls as an ideal. Few Catholic parishes were able to maintain separate schools due to the increased costs. St. Patrick’s was one of these few. The Cathedral Schools educated over 1,200 students, and more than 2,500 were enrolled in Catechism class. Each year there were nearly 600 baptisms. St. Patrick’s was educating twice as many students and baptizing twice as many babies as ten years before. Yet due to the hardships of the post-Civil War years, it achieved these goals with about three-quarters of the income it received in the 1850’s.
In 1868 Father Bernard McQuaid, Pastor of St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral, President of Seton Hall College, Rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Vicar General of the Diocese of Newark, was raised to the episcopate as Bishop of Rochester, New York and consecrated by Archbishop McCloskey in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
McQuaid’s successor as pastor was almost turned away the first time he came to St. Patrick’s Rectory. One Saturday night, after confessions, George Hobart Doane, deacon in Grace Episcopal Church, dropped into St. Patrick's and told Matthew O'Brien, the sexton, that he wanted to see Bishop Bayley. Mr. O'Brien sent him to the rectory. At the rectory, Bishop Bayley had retired. It was after 11 p.m., and the visitor was asked to call at a more reasonable hour. Young Doane refused to leave and the Bishop finally received him. The two spent half the night talking. Influenced by the Oxford Movement, and the example of Bayley himself, Doane asked to be received into the Roman Catholic Church. On Sept. 22, 1855, Bayley wrote in his diary: "Today I baptized George Hobart Doane, son of the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey." Doane was ordained in St. Patrick's Cathedral on Sept. 13, 1857 by Bishop Bayley, himself a convert from the Episcopal Church.
After conversion, he was officially deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church by his father. Some years later, Father Doane was invited to preach in the Catholic church of Burlington, his hometown, and the episcopal see of his father. Bishop Doane remarked, “Well, I see the prodigal is coming home. Then we must kill the fatted calf.” The Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey sent ornaments from his home and flowers from his garden for the adornment of the altar in the local Catholic church. That evening, over a family dinner, father and son were reconciled. Doane was assigned to the pro-cathedral as assistant pastor under McQuaid, and during the Civil War, served as chaplain to the New Jersey Brigade in the midst of some of the harshest fighting. He was to remain as pastor of St. Patrick’s longer than anyone before or since, thirty-seven years.
Hard times continued as the pastorate shifted from Father McQuaid to Father Doane. Parish life was stable, societies prospered, and the schools remained full. St. Patrick’s Schools, like all parish schools, depended on the sisters and brothers who staffed them. Not only were they trained and competent to teach the required “Three ‘R’s”, they taught religion in the parish schools and in the Sunday school. As vowed religious, they only received a minimal stipend paid to their religious congregation. In 1871, the Sisters of Charity who conducted the Girls’ School and the Christian Brothers who conducted the Boys’ School, received a total of $3,400 for the entire year. Their sacrifices enabled the parochial school system to grow and thrive. It was in the parochial schools and Sunday schools that these dedicated women and men transmitted the faith to young Catholics.
In 1872, four years after Doane assumed the pastorate, James Roosevelt Bayley, founding bishop of Newark, was named Archbishop of Baltimore. It was not until the next year that the thirty-three year old Rt. Rev. Michael Augustine Corrigan was named as Bayley’s successor. St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral was the site of his episcopal consecration on May 4, 1873. This ceremony was enhanced by the “Cathedral Singers,” a choir established to provide music for the many episcopal ceremonies as well as for parish events. Like his predecessor, Doane faced additional responsibilities since his parish was also the seat of the bishop. The cathedral continued to be the site of ordinations to the priesthood, numerous pontifical ceremonies, weddings of prominent persons, including future United States Senator James Smith, Jr., and a wide range of other activities. The rectory often held receptions and dinners for archbishops, apostolic delegates, and other prominent ecclesiastical figures.
Pastoral needs were not neglected. The societies continued and flourished. The size of the parish can be judged by the figure of 270 confirmations in 1874. That same year the Forty Hours triduum brought over 2,500 to communion, a very significant figure because, at the time, frequent communion was rare. Most would not approach the altar rail without going to confession immediately before. For such a number of communions, we can be sure that an almost equal number of confessions were heard. “Missions” of several days, even of a week’s duration, were frequent. Prominent speakers, including Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, addressed separate groups of men and women. The missions encouraged repentance, confession and communion. Often they were an occasion for people to return to the practice of the faith and for couples married civilly to have their marriage solemnized in church. It was not unusual for more than one thousand men or women to attend, go to confession and receive communion. Each mission was followed a few month’s later by a “renewal.” At the renewal, the people were called to remember resolutions made at the mission. The next year the cycle of mission and renewal would begin again. Each year during Lent, special Lenten Conferences took place during Sunday Vesper services. The topics of these conferences varied but they were normally instructional. They provided an opportunity for adults to learn the Church’s teaching on the sacraments and other aspects of the faith.
The poor were a continuing concern. The parish followed Irish tradition and collected the “Orphan’s Shilling” on a regular basis. Special collections brought about $3,000 per year to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Christmas Midnight Mass was very popular and the pro-cathedral required an offering of $.25 per person. The proceeds, usually over $300, went to the poor as well. The $300 income tells us that more than 1,200 parishioners jammed the church for Midnight Mass. This income is quite extraordinary for the time. The financial “Panic of 1873” had set off a long economic depression. It was so bad that Bishop Corrigan commented that “in consequence of the hard times many of our churches have been robbed of their sacred vessels.” The resources of the parish were strained by the increasing needs of people out of work. Yet the generosity of the parishioners did not weaken.
1871, a new cross was placed on the spire, the old one having lasted just
over twenty years. Doane also
enriched the church with statues purchased from the studio of Franz Meyer
in Munich, one of the most prominent purveyors of quality church
furnishings. Among these is
the statue of the Sacred Heart. The inscription beneath records its solemn blessing by Bishop
Corrigan on December 8, 1873. The
dedication of the statue marked the consecration of the Diocese of Newark
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The
Irish Americans of St. Patrick’s demonstrated their devotion by placing
the statue on a pedestal decorated with shamrocks. Doane also purchased an enormous “Nativity Set” that was placed
before the altar of the Blessed Virgin for Christmas that year. Bishop Corrigan described “the Stable at Bethlehem” as
“occupying the entire chapel.”