Reverend Denis A. Tighe

Reverend Denis Aloysius Tighe

Reverend Denis Aloysius Tighe was the founder and first pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church.


  • Born on August 1, 1849 at Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland.
  • Came to the United States in 1866.
  • Ordained on July 18, 1874 by the Reverend Bishop Thomas Patrick Roger Foley at the Jesuit College.
  • 1875: appointed temporary pastor of the "new" St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
  • February 20, 1880: appointed pastor of the new Holy Angels parish.
  • Died on March 27, 1900 in Chicago, IL.


  • Attended St. John's College in County Mayo, Ireland for 3 years.
  • Attended Notre Dame University in Indiana, graduated in the Notre Dame class of 1869-1870.

Reverend Denis Aloysius Tighe was born in Ballymote, Ireland, in the county of Sligo, on Wednesday, August 1st, 1849. He studied for three years at St. John's College in County Mayo, Ireland before leaving for America. Reverend Tighe arrived in the United States in 1866, and he began his studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana the following year.

He arrived at Notre Dame on Wednesday, September 18th, 1867. His arrival was noted in the Notre Dame weekly paper, the Notre Dame Scholastic, published on Saturday, September 21st, 1867. You can view the listing on page 5 of Reference 2.

Reverend Tighe graduated from Notre dame in the Class of 1870. After graduation, Denis Tighe began to study theology, with the ultimate goal of becoming a Roman Catholic priest. Tighe achieved his goal in 1874. He was ordained by Reverend Thomas Patrick Roger Foley, the Coadjutor Bishop of Chicago, at the Jesuit College of Chicago, on Saturday, July 18th, 1874. Tighe was immediately assigned to Chicago's St. James parish, where he was assistant to Reverend Patrick William Riordan, the future Archbishop of San Francisco.

In 1873, the Reverend Patrick Michael Flannigan was assigned temporary pastor of Chicago's "new" Saint Patrick's Church. Several years earlier, this "new" St. Patrick had been set set up as a territorial Catholic parish. In 1875, Flannigan was sent to France on Catholic Church business, and the young Reverend Tighe was appointed the new pastor of St Patrick's. Reverend Tighe directed and supervised the purchase of land to build a permanent St. Patrick's Church building. This became the "new" St. Patrick's Church, as opposed to the "old" St. Patrick's Church, which is still an active Catholic church in Chicago to this day. On February 1st, 1880, Reverend Martin van de Lahr became the first appointed pastor of the "new" St. Patrick's Church, which was closed in 1968.

On Thursday, November 1st, 1877, Reverend Tighe was assigned to lead the parish of Hyde Park and South Chicago. This assignment laid the foundation for him to eventually take over the Holy Angels parish a few years later. In early 1880, steps were taken to organize a new Catholic church on the South Side of Chicago. This new church was started as a mission of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Hyde Park, Reverend Tighe's parish. On Friday, February 20th, 1880, the Reverend John McMullen, then the Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago, officially formed the Holy Angels parish, and appointed Reverend Tighe as its pastor.

On Sunday, February 22nd, 1980, Reverend Denis Tighe celebrated the first Holy Angels parish mass for about 20 Catholics at Grossman's Hall on 3730 S. Cottage Grove Avenue. The congregation worshiped at Grossman's Hall for a few months. Then the church rented a nearby Baptist church for four months until their new church was ready in the fall of 1880.

Reverend Tighe commissioned architect Gregory A. Vigeant, Sr. to create plans for the original Holy Angels Catholic Church building. On Friday, September 10th, 1880, Reverend Patrick Feehan was appointed Bishop of the Chicago Diocese. On the same day, Chicago's diocese was elevated to an archdiocese, and Bishop Feehan was elevated to Archbishop Feehan. The cornerstone of Holy Angels Catholic Church was laid on Monday, September 13th, 1880 (a second account that I found claims that the cornerstone was laid on Wednesday, September 8th, 1880).

Reverend Tighe had a sister named Elizabeth Tighe ("Lizzie" for short). Ms. Tighe created many paintings for the church. These paintings included copies of Raphael's Guardian Angel, the Crucified Savior, the Mater Dolorosa, and the Ecce Homo.The building of the new Catholic church progressed during the fall of 1880, and Archbishop Feehan dedicated the new church on December 5th, 1880, his first official act as the Archbishop of Chicago. This small church building served as the parish church until 1887, when a new building was built that served as both a church and a school. This new building was used only as a school after a much larger Holy Angels Catholic Church was built in 1897.

Around 1896, the Archdiocese of Chicago commissioned architect James J. Egan to design the new church building for the Holy Angels parish. The new church building would employ a Franco-Romanesque style of architecture, including Bedford cut stone, and stained-glass windows. The stained glass windows were manufactured by John Hardman Trading Co., Ltd. Archbishop Feehan dedicated the new Holy Angels Catholic Church on Sunday, September 26, 1897.

Note: This historical article is a work in progress, and it will continue to be updated in the future.


  1. Andreas, A.T. (1886, January). History of chicago: volume 3. Retrieved from
  2. University of Notre Dame. (1867, September 21). Notre dame scholastic. Retrieved from
  3. Archdiocese of Chicago. (1916, February 9). Commemorating the installation of the most reverend archbishop george w. mundelein, d. d. Retrieved from
  4. Raycroft, Benjamin J. (1920). The archdiocese of chicago : antecedents and developments (1920). Des Plaines, Ill. : St. Mary’s Training School Press, 1920. Retrieved from