Larkspur and Corte Madera are located on land that was once part of vast Mexican land grants: Larkspur is situated on what, was once part of Rancho Punta de Quentin, granted in 1846 to Juan Bautista Cooper, brother-in-law of General Mariano Vallejo. Neighboring to the south was Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio granted to John Reed in 1834.
The redwood forests growing here provided lumber for the developing city of San Francisco. The mills brought the earliest settlers, but it was not until the railroad was built in 1890 that the population began to grow.
San Franciscans enjoyed coming here in the summertime. By the early 1900's, this region became popular with vacationers from all over the Bay Area.
In 1887 the town site of Larkspur was laid out by developer O.W. Wright. In 1888 he advertised a 600 acre residential subdivision as "beautiful town sites on the west side of the North Pacific Railroad in a gentle rolling valley surrounded on the north by Mount Tamalpais." Mrs. Wright selected the street names. She also helped pick the town name of Larkspur. She mistook the abundantly growing lupine on the hillsides as larkspur.
One day James Costello met Father John Prendergast, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, on a ferry to San Francisco. Mr. Costello spoke of a need for a church in Larkspur and made a donation to start a fund. In 1895 the Catholic families and summer visitors held fundraisers to raise money for building a church. In 1896 Father Hugh Lagan, Pastor of St. Raphael's Church, and his assistant, Father John Cullen, celebrated Mass in the Larkspur School Hall using a piano as the altar.
Father Lagan acquired five lots in the center of town. Part of the land was the gift of Patrick King, who had owned the town land of Larkspur. The church was named St. Patrick's for him by Father Lagan.
In 1899, the first church was built as a mission of San Rafael. Constructed of redwood, it faced Cane Street on the corner of what is now known as Rice Lane. It was dedicated July 9, 1899 by Archbishop Patrick Riordan, D. D. of San Francisco.
The pews and altar railing came from old St. Raphael's Church. The windows were donated by Mrs. Jean Escalle, Mr. James Costello and Misses Mary and Belle Brown. Other parishioners donated statues, candelabra, paintings and vestments.
The church bell was donated in 1904 by Jean Escalle. She also had a bell tower built.
St. Patrick’s was established a parish June 5, 1915 by Archbishop Edward Hanna of San Francisco.
The first pastor was Father John Conlan. The parish included Larkspur and Corte Madera. Father Conlan built a rectory and arranged for the Sisters of the Holy Family from San Francisco to come and teach catechism to the children.
Father Denis Bailey became pastor July 7, 1921. He decided the site of St. Patrick’s was unsuitable for a parish church and so in January 1922 he purchased property on King Street from Magnolia to Locust Avenue. A house on the property was converted to a rectory. In March 1922 the original church building was moved by van from Cane Street to the corner of King Street and Locust Avenue. In May 1925 an additional lot was purchased on Locust Avenue next to the church property. The original church and rectory properties on Cane Street were sold. Father Christopher Crowley was appointed pastor on April 22, 1937. He found the church and rectory in need of repair. In September 1938 it was decided that it would be too costly to restore the church and so Archbishop John J. Mitty recommended that the parish plan for a new church. Father Crowley began raising funds for this purpose. Plans were drawn in February 1940.
The ground for the new church was broken Sunday, June 9,1940. The cornerstone was laid November 10, 1940, The church was dedicated Sunday, February 23, 1941. After the solemn blessing, a Solemn Mass Coram Pontifice was celebrated by Archbishop John J. Mitty of San Francisco.
The original church became the parish hall and served as such for 19 years. It was during Father Crowley's pastorate that the first assistant pastor was assigned. Father Peter Kelly was appointed June 7,1940 and he devoted himself to work among the youth of the parish.
St. Patrick's Parish Silver Jubilee was celebrated on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1940, in the old church. Three more lots were purchased in January 1946 for a possible future school.
In January 1947, Father Nial McCabe was appointed Pastor. During his pastorate, a new rectory was built in 1948. The Rosariam Institute, #175 of the Young Ladies Institute, was organized on January 22, 1947 with 45 charter members. The organization was dedicated to parochial work and parish activities. In August 1949 Father McCabe organized the St. Vincent de Paul Society to care for works of charity to the parishioners. Devotions to Our Lady of Fatima were started and an outdoor procession in honor of Our Lady was held on Mother's Day in the afternoon. Parishioners were joined by the Knights of Columbus and other groups for this annual event.
Father Thomas Farrell was appointed pastor on January 12, 1951. At this time the St. Patrick’s Men's Club was organized to coordinate fundraising for the parish. St. Patrick's Guild, composed of the ladies of the parish, organized in May 1952 to promote the spiritual, financial and social interests of the parish. The Guild became one of the most active parish organizations.
In these post-war years there was a noticeable increase in the population of the parish. New housing developments were attracting more people to the area. As the number of families increased, the need of a parish school became more apparent.
A new pastor came in 1954, Father Joseph Kenney. Father Kenney took up the matter of providing a Catholic education for the children. On February 20, 1958 Archbishop Mitty authorized Father Kenney to initiate a fundraising campaign for the construction of a school and convent. At this time the property at 127 King Street was purchased as a site for St. Patrick's Convent.
On January 29, 1959, Father James Healy was appointed pastor of St. Patrick's Church. Plans for a parish school and hall were approved on May 5, 1960. The new hall was completed on Magnolia Avenue by December 1960.
The old church buildings on King Street and Locust Avenue were demolished and replaced by the new school building by April 1961.
The Dominican Sisters from Adrian, Michigan came in September 1963. They resided in a temporary residence at 22 Locust Avenue. The school opened with 160 students in four grades. The convent was ready for occupancy in September 1964. The dedication of the school took place on April 25, 1964 when Archbishop McGucken blessed both the new school and the convent still under construction. After the dedication the Archbishop confirmed 117 children and adults. During this time adjacent properties were purchased to have additional parking and playground space.
Under the stewardship of Father Healy, St. Patrick's grew from the status of a local church which had long served a relatively small community and tourists from San Francisco to that of a vital, responsive parish which offered a full range of religious, educational and social services to a growing and ever-changing community.
Branch #161 of the Italian Catholic Federation began here in June, 1962. Its main purpose was to work in the apostolate and in charity programs.
From 1965 until Father Healy retired in 1973, there were several assistant pastors including Fathers Donald Griffin, James Halligan, Austin Healy, Michael Mitchell, Dominic Sarubbi and John K. Ring.
Father Francis Rielly came to St. Patrick’s in June 1973. The Sisters left St. Patrick’s in the Spring of 1977 and Thomas Kaminiski was hired as principal . The vacated convent was occupied by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, including lodging for two directors, storage, supplies and offices. Marin Services for Women leased the convent in November, 1980, making it an income property.
For a period of time in the late seventies, the enrollment of students declined. The first Parish Board of Education was established to address this crisis and to assist in developing new programs. Eventually a group of parents formed the St. Patrick's Community Organization to raise funds for the school and to upgrade the curriculum.
Miss Judy O'Rourke joined St. Patrick's School as principal in 1981. She helped the school to gain a reputation for excellence in education. The result has been increased enrollment over the years. In July of 1997, Mrs. Ann Kalayjian was hired as principal of the school.
During the time Father Rielly was pastor, the assistant pastors from 1973 through 1983 were Fathers Thomas Rielly, James Kelly, Denis McManus, John K. King, Joseph Prendergast, Jerome Leach and Edmund Shipp. Father Rielly retired in 1984.
Father John David Shanahan arrived at St. Patrick's Church on June 30, 1984, and was installed as pastor on September 16, 1984.
Responding to the needs of the post-conciliar church, the mid-eighties at St. Patrick's experienced an expansion of parish ministries; the baptismal and marriage preparation programs, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the development of liturgical ministries, religious programs for children and the Helping Hands ministry which provides care for the ill of the parish and support for their caregivers and families.
In 1984, a committee of seven women including Lorraine Urban, Barbara Beal, Maurine Streett, Rita Kincaide, Barbara Buscher, Mary Lou Kroeger and Laura Giovannoni investigated the possibility of opening a thrift shop to raise funds for St. Patrick's Church. After remodeling the property at 457 Magnolia Avenue, the St. Patrick's Thrift Shop opened in October of 1985. Lorraine Urban and Barbara Beal headed up the operation of the Thrift Shop for 27 years. In December of 2012 Barbara and Lorraine retired and the shop was closed for renovation. In February 2013 the shop reopened for business.
St. Patrick's developed a religious education program for public school children with the founding of the parish in 1915. The School of Religion has continued to thrive with the help of dedicated volunteer teachers and aides.
Additional organizations evolved to add strength and support to St. Patrick's mission of fostering a sense of community within the parish. The Parish Council’s ministry is to act in the spirit of the gospel and in the Catholic Christian tradition to continue to carry on the mission of the church. The Finance Committee reviews and consults on financial matters. The CYO Program gives the children of the community a chance to learn good sportsmanship while playing a variety of sports. Volunteers have made the program a continuing success.
In 1990, as an outgrowth of the RENEW program, the Social Justice Committee was formed at St. Patrick’s. This is an advocacy organization striving to aid those in our community to work for justice. Adult Education programs were also formed to plan opportunities for spiritual and educational growth for adults.
St. Patrick's celebrated its 75th anniversary on December 1st and 2nd of 1990. The Thrift Shop and individual parishioners provided the funds to refurbish the church and to install faceted glass windows designed and created by Cecil Brusey Studios.
Helping Hands, a group which reaches out to the elderly, is coordinated by Phyllis Rybensky and Terry Rosser.
Ann Kalayjian was hired as principal of St. Patrick's School in 1997. She has led the school through two accreditation processes . The school is held in high esteem in the archdiocese.
Reverend John D Shanahan, Ph. D., retired as of July 1, 2006. He was ordained in 1950 for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He had served in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese and served as Pastor of Star of the Sea Church in Sausalito and St. Elizabeth’s Church in San Francisco. He was the Pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Larkspur from June 30, 1984 through June 30, 2006.
Father John Shanahan, Pastor emeritus of Saint Patrick Church in Larkspur, died April 4, 2007, at Marin General Hospital . He was 81 years of age.
Father Paul Arnoult was appointed Parish Administrator as of July 1, 2006. On July 1, 2007, he was appointed Pastor of St. Patrick Parish.
On July 1, 2007, Father Augusto Villote was appointed Parochial Vicar to St. Patrick Parish. Father Villote was reassigned to Mission Dolores Parish in July of 2010.
Father Lawrence Vadakkan served as Administrator from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016.
St. Patrick Parish, over the years, has grown to become a parish serving more than 1000 families. More than 300 parishioners volunteer their time and talents to the continued success of St. Patrick's Parish.