Durango could be celebrating the holiday at St. Patricks Church if so many other mining communities had not beaten Durango to the honor, but it still wound up with a Celtic saint whose personality might have been a better fit.
St. Columba was a Wild West kind of monk, a renegade who got in a lot of trouble, said Rev. Jim Koenigsfeld, pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church, 1830 East Second Ave.
In sixth-century Ireland, St. Columba got into a dispute with another monk, St. Finian, for copying the Book of Psalms from St. Finians monastery without permission. When St. Columba refused to return his copy, an Irish king sided with St. Finian, declaring every cow deserves its calf, Koenigsfeld said. So every book deserves its copy.
Hostilities grew, resulting in a battle that left 3,000 dead. While St. Columba never participated in the fight, he took responsibility as part of his penance. St. Columba was exiled from Ireland.
St. Columba set off for Scotland, where he redeemed himself by founding a monastery on the island of Iona and converting more pagans than the dead from the battle.
He stayed true to his penance even when he was called back to Ireland to resolve a dispute. So St. Columba would not be accused of setting foot in Ireland, he tied some Scottish sod to the bottom of his sandals and blindfolded himself, Koenigsfeld said.
As a native Donegal, he is probably more popular than St. Patrick in northern Ireland, Koenigsfeld said. Some believe he was banished from the port of Belfast.
But St. Patrick was the first choice for naming Catholic churches in Colorado in the 1800s.
Every mining town on Gods earth was where the Irish were at, Koenigsfeld said.
Because the bishop did not want another St. Patricks Church, locals were given the choice between the Irish saints, St. Columba and St. Brigit.
As a mining community with more men than women, St. Columba prevailed over St. Brigit with two-thirds of the vote in 1881, Koenigsfeld said.
Thats how this parish got its name, Koenigsfeld said.
Instead of a big St. Patricks Day celebration, the parish celebrates St. Columba with a picnic on the Sunday closest to his feast day June 9.