St. Patrick’s Catholic Schools

Written By: nppladmin - Jun• 08•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on June 4, 2021.

Although this history story is about a month late, I am happy to bring you today’s North Platte History, which focuses on St Patrick’s Catholic schools in North Platte. Because there is such an extensive history, we have chosen to start with McDaid Elementary School history and will have another segment focusing on St. Patrick’s High School later this year.

Readers should know that our library researchers found conflicting information about the “true” date/year that our parochial school opened. We consulted with Bill McGahan and he agreed that the date below is what the Church recognizes as the official opening of the Catholic school in North Platte.

On Saturday, September 12, 1891, the North Platte Telegraph announced that St. Patrick’s Catholic Church opened the first parochial school in North Platte. The newspaper stated that it opened with one hundred and five students. When the school opened it was named “Nativity Convent School”. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Concordia, Kansas were sent here to run the school. The frame building of the Nativity School was sold to Mrs. Joseph Donegan and moved to B and Sycamore Street where it continues to exist as a private residence. <See photograph of a large house operating as a school, with nuns as teachers>

In 1902 the school closed. When it reopened in 1903, it was operated by the Dominican sisters until 1912. During this time, the school was called “St. Patrick’s Catholic School.”

Patrick McDaid was born September 18, 1881 to Michael McDaid (1856-1940) and Annie Doherty McDaid (1857-1931) IN Londonderry, Northern Ireland. He had eight sisters (Annie, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Isabella, Ellen, Margaret, and Martha) and two brothers (Michael and John). His brother Michael, also became a priest. He joined the Priesthood and studied in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland. During his priesthood, he served as a priest of the Omaha Diocese, and he worked with Father Flanagan to set up “Boy’s Town,” and devoted his life to the service of others. Father McDaid and Father Flanagan remained friends their entire life. Father Flanagan often brought Boys Town groups to North Platte to perform (and likely raise money for Boys Town). <see photograph of a young Father McDaid>

On October 10, 1910, Father Patrick McDaid arrived from Londonderry, Ireland and became the first resident priest for St. Patrick’s parish. When he arrived in North Platte there were about 65 families in the parish and 47 children in the Catholic school. His missions in 1910 included: Willow Island, Gothenburg, Brady, Maxwell, Gandy, Keystone, and Sutherland. One should remember that this was an era when travel was very difficult: roads were not well-developed and travel was by horse and buggy.

During Father McDaid’s time in North Platte, his legacy was to build a new school and a new rectory. He also arranged the purchase of a large residence to be used as a large Convent for the sisters. The entire block where St Patrick’s church currently sits, was paved. All debt had been retired; and he began a building fund for a new church before leaving the parish. It should be noted here that St. Patrick’s parish was under the direction of the Diocese of Grand Island as of March 8, 1912, with Bishop James A. Duffy presiding. Prior to Bishop Duffy, North Platte was a part of the Diocese of Omaha.

Bishop Duffy encouraged Father McDaid to erect a new parochial school. In 1913, Father McDaid went back to Ireland for a three week vacation. While there, he had the plans for a new three story brick school drawn up. The plans were given great publicity in Ireland for their architectural and educational triumphs. On this visit to Ireland, he also made a trip to Rome and was granted an audience with Pope Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, (1835-1914), Italian pope from 1903 to 1914).

The Holy Father was greatly interested in St. Patrick’s congregation, and asked many questions about the parish, providing His blessing to impart on the parish, upon McDaid’s return. Plans were developed for the new structure directly east of the church in the same block. The cost of the new brick building was $52,000. When the new three story school was erected in 1916, the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, Kentucky were placed in charge of the grade and high school. Enrollment had increased considerably and the faculty consisted of seven sisters.

Housing had not yet been arranged for the nuns, so the Reverend Anton Link offered them the hospitality of St. Patrick’s Academy in Sidney, Nebraska, which was spacious enough to accommodate them. The sisters returned to North Platte to take residence in Father McDaid’s parish house, which he vacated for them until the school quarters could be furnished. When completed, the third floor of the school building housed the dormitories, community room and chapel, while the kitchen, refectory, and laundry were in the basement. The school building opened after the celebration of Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit on September 17, 1917. The High School was accredited by the state of Nebraska in 1920. On April 22, 1918, Mass was celebrated on the third floor in the school chapel for the first time with Father McDaid as celebrant. Mr. and Mrs. William Jeffers and daughter Eileen, who were donors of the altar were in attendance. Bishop Duffy blessed and erected the Stations of the Cross. The building became known as the St. Patrick’s School building. <See photograph of the three-story brick building that many readers will remember>

Father McDaid served the parish for thirty seven years. He was a prominent and popular figure in North Platte. He revived the parochial school and pushed for the development of the brick school building, which eventually bore his name. After he resigned, he returned to his homeland of Ireland, making his home with relatives in Londonderry, Ireland. In 1960, Father McDaid did return to the North Platte parish for a visit and received a warm welcome from his former parishioners and friends. He was in poor health and after his return to Ireland, he died January 18, 1961. <See photograph of his headstone in Ireland>

The Catholic School was renamed to “McDaid Elementary School” in 1968, in honor of Father Patrick McDaid.

In 2013, this brick building was torn down to make room for a new Family Life Center and improvements to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. See article written before it was torn down: https://nptelegraph.com/…/article_e97adab2-02bc-5387…

The current McDaid Elementary School is located at 1002 East E Street and was built in 2000. <see color photograph of the current school>

Thank you for reading about our North Platte history!

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