St. Patrick's is an off-shoot of St. Mary's Church, Champaign, which was established in 1856, the first Catholic parish in Champaign County. In May 1901, John L. Spalding, first bishop of the Peoria diocese, purchased a site at Main and Busey for the new parish and appointed Rev. John H. Cannon of Gibson City as its first pastor. Fr. Cannon's first Mass in Champaign County was on June 30, 1901, at St. Mary's. At that Mass he informed the Urbana residents that Mass would be at the new site the following Sunday. Many en route home that day went by to see the building site. The lot was high in weeds; they could not see how Mass could be celebrated in a building at this location in a week. But it was! On Sunday, July 7, just as Fr. Cannon had promised, Mass was celebrated in the new church. The building referred to as the temporary church was 48' x 60' and was built in 37 1/2 hours for a congregation of 40-45 families.
Plans for the new permanent brick church were let out and a contract was signed on July 17, 1901 by architect George P. Standuhar, who specialized in Roman Catholic churches. The general contractor was Nicholas Juhl. Fr. Cannon, a personable man and a gifted speaker with an ecumenical spirit, involved parishioners, and also men and women of the community and the University of Illinois. The laying of the cornerstone on October 27, 1901, was a big event, with many high dignitaries of the Church and community in attendance. In 1902 a rectory to serve not only as the priests' residence but also as a meeting center was built adjacent to the church. The new St. Patrick's Church was dedicated in a beautiful and impressive service on May 24. 1903. The church and rectory were built for a total of $56,000. In 1976 the church was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
The first fair was held in Fall 1901 and lasted for ten days, an enjoyable time for all. Spiritual, social, and fund-raising activities have continued to be an important part of parish life. Many of the present and active members of St. Patrick's parish are descendants of the first parishioners. The congregation has grown to include over 2,500 persons. On November 22, 1930, St. Patrick's became a corporation, and trustees Richard Kinder and George Pfeffer were appointed with the approval of the bishop.
A major renovation and redecoration of the church was finished on time for the 75th anniversary celebration on May 21, 1978. The Parish Center became a reality in the middle sixties, with a new wing added in the seventies. Three men from the parish have been ordained as priests and celebrated their first Masses here; the first was Paul Kinder, son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kinder. Sr. Theresa Elizabeth Marquardt, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John F. Marquardt, was the first of twelve women who have taken their vows. Parishioner Susan Nagele, M.D., daughter of Thomas and Lenore Nagele, is a member of the Maryknoll Lay Missionary program; she has served in Africa since 1985.
The first assistant pastor, Fr. Walter Breuning, was assigned in June 1954. Rodger Adams, a parishioner, attended the first deacon program in Peoria and became the first lay deacon in the parish on December 12, 1976, followed by William McClellan, in 1992 and Dan Murphy, in 1997. Since the parish did not have a school, St. Mary's parish provided parochial school education. In 1967, when that support could no longer be provided, St. Patrick's involved the laity in the formation of a religious education curriculum. Parents who prefer a parochial school education for their children receive assistance enabling them to enroll them in Holy Cross School in Champaign. Today the parish's religious education curriculum also provides programs for adult education focusing on Scripture, Vatican II documents, and Church history. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is offered for those wishing to embrace Catholicism.