IRISH-IN-CHICAGO-L ArchivesArchiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2008-01 > 1199609947
From: Nan Brennan <>
Subject: [IRISH-IN-CHICAGO] Rev Patrick McPolin mother b Co Down
Date: Sun, 6 Jan 2008 02:59:07 -0600
Notes: This Rev Patrick McPolin parents, Patrick and Mary (?
Margaret) McPolin were from Co Down.
His father Patrick was from Cabra.
Patrick Sr father was a street car conductor. He had at least two
brothers, John and Francis.
His father, Patrick McPolin was born 12 Jan 1892* and died in
Chicago in Feb of 1971.
His SSDI records gives 12 Jan 1892, his WWI draft reg gives 20 Feb
He was working in the stock yards for Armour & Co in 1917.
See post of obit : Frank McPolin Chicago 1969
There was another Patrick (Francis) McPolin registered for the draft
in Chicago. He was born in 1884.
He also worked for Armour and lived near the above Patrick McPolin.
This second Patrick McP was
living with his brother Owen McPolin in 1917. There is probably a
connection between these families.
x-Chicago priest recalls colorful life ; At 88, a former South Sider
who now resides in California talks of growing up a bootlegger's son,
mixing with mobsters and serving as police chaplain; [Chicago Final
Edition] Oct 24 2004
The old Irish Catholic priest from the South Side is in his twilight
years here, a former Chicago police chaplain who still carries a
twinkle in his blue eyes and a wee bit of the brogue that his
immigrant parents brought from the old sod.
At 88, he's spinning yarns again of the good old days in Chicago,
though he has been slowed a tad by his reliance on a wheelchair and
neck brace for a vertebra broken in a recent tumble.
His is a life lived full and, he promises, there is more to come.
Silver-haired and full of jest, Rev. Patrick McPolin grew up a
bootlegger's son near the stockyards, often smuggling 3 gallons of
whiskey in a copper-lined suitcase. His father, a streetcar conductor
and a partner in a speakeasy, distilled the moonshine in the family
It's a colorful if incongruent prologue to what he eventually became,
a Quigley Prep student who completed his training for the priesthood
here at the Claretian order's now-defunct seminary on the historic
Dominguez Rancho Adobe. The adobe, 11 miles south of downtown Los
Angeles, is a site whose history dates to the Spanish exploration. A
generation ago, McPolin helped restore the grounds and transform them
into a museum.
As a Chicago police chaplain for a total of 18 years during the
1940s, '50s and '60s, he calmed cops' tempers every time a gangster
gunned down one of their brethren. Of the 42 officers slain on his
watch, he personally gave last rites to 20 of them and then visited
He also remembers the horrific Our Lady of the Angels school fire of
1958, when he helped families identify the remains of 92 children. He
recalls how residue at the fire scene oiled his hands and stained the
paper on which he kept notes.
It's a much happier time now. After he left Chicago in 1965, he
returned here, where he had taken some of the final steps toward his
1943 ordination, and became an administrator for the Claretian order.
Since then, he has become known as an amateur historian, early
aviation enthusiast, and preservationist who knows how to raise funds
to restore a state and national landmark.
"Mobsters and gangsters, I knew them all," he says of his Chicago
days. "I was a tough kid when I was growing up. They didn't believe I
was a priest. They said I knew too much. I've lived an interesting
Never did his faith waver while he was a chaplain in what was then
'I was a priest'
"I never took a hot fin and I never played footsie with people in
prostitution. I wanted to be a priest and I was a priest. Our blessed
Lord mixed with sinners, and why would I change the rules when He was
the example," McPolin says.
Live among sinners he did: mobsters, pimps, gamblers, card sharps,
hustlers and, sadly, corrupt cops.
He moved easily between the worlds of law and lawlessness because he
knew how to keep confidences.
When he visited Taylor Street mob joints as part of his ministerial
travels and heard of plans to rob a bank, he turned a deaf ear. "They
never did talk openly about wiping somebody out, but you could sense
something was going," he said.
He was mum on the admissions by corrupt cops too.
Patrol officers collected payoffs for their bosses from mobsters
running bookie joints or prostitution rings, he said. The mob paid a
street cop as much as a $100 tip for making such a pickup, McPolin
said. He advised the fallen to take a day off to avoid such work.
"You need some penance," he would tell them.
When he wasn't working his four-channel police radio, he was
fulfilling his duties as Claretian priest.
The order, founded in Spain, is noted for its work with Mexicans and
other Spanish-speaking people in Chicago, Los Angeles and other U.S.
McPolin's blood may be Irish, but he says his soul is Mexican.
"I could walk into any restaurant and say, 'Quien es el dueno? Tengo
sed,'" he said.
Translation: Who's the owner? I'm thirsty.
"Not bad for an Irishman," he added.
His Chicago assignments included Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in
1943-45 and 1950-52; St. Francis of Assissi 1945-50 and 1956-58; St.
Jude Seminary in Momence, Ill., (where he was rector) 1952-56, and
Immaculate Heart of Mary Church 1958-63. He was police chaplain in
1943-52 and 1956-1965.
The parishes weren't far from the neighborhoods of his youth. He was
born near Emerald Avenue and 44th Place. Baptized in St. Gabriel
Church. His family then moved to 65th and Carpenter Streets. And then
to 84th and Morgan Streets.
A stroke three years ago has left him disoriented at times. He lives
in a Little Sisters of the Poor residence in San Pedro, near the Rancho.
But helping him negotiate the betrayals of aging is Betty Gemelli,
68, of Bellflower, Calif., a Taylor Street native who has been at the
priest's side since 1967.
A protective caretaker and assistant who keeps the priest from
overindulging, Gemelli met McPolin when she was 7 years old and
working at a print shop on Roosevelt Road.
After the priest's stroke, Gemelli started to write down McPolin's
fading memories and this year self-published a book about McPolin's
work at Dominguez Rancho Adobe, where he first arrived in 1939 and
became fascinated with early California history.
"Dominguez: The Legacy of Two Fathers" describes how McPolin devoted
his later years to restoring the lush grounds and how the Dominguez
family received a 1784 Spanish land grant, or rancho, of 118 square
miles, now incorporated into 13 cities.
The Dominguez family built the adobe in 1826 and gave the adobe and
17 acres to the Claretians in 1924. The seminary closed in 1974.
McPolin still remembers getting the calling at age 5, affirmed the
next year when his mother took him to her hometown in County Down,
Ireland, where the locals asked "the wee Yank" what he wanted to make
of his life.
A priest, he told them.
"Everything you learn is to be put to use helping people-- because
there's another life," he said. "That caught me: There's another life."