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About Our Parish

Humble Beginnings

Laramie, Wyoming was settled in 1868 and legally founded in 1869. At that time the only priest in Wyoming Territory was Fr. William Kelly in Cheyenne. He came on the train to Laramie once a week, to celebrate Holy Mass and hear confessions. On July 12, 1869, he was joined by Bishop O'Gorman of Omaha, who administered the sacrament of Confirmation. Laramie had no catholic church or resident priest until 1872.

 

Laramie's first parish priest was a young man of French Canadian descent, Fr. Eugene Cusson. He obtained a donation of land from the Union Pacific Railroad, and proceeded to build a stone church for his new, mostly Irish parish, which he put under the patronage of St. Laurence O'Toole. In addition to his responsibilities in Laramie, Fr. Cusson traveled by rail to Rawlins and Evanston once a week. Twice a year, he traveled by stagecoach to South Pass, Atlantic City, and Camp Brown in today's Lander, WY.

 

The second parish priest, Fr. Hugh Cummiskey, was born at Tonawanda, Pennsylvania. Ordained on November 2, 1877, he was only 24 years old when he came to Laramie in late February, 1879. Bishop O'Gorman of Omaha told the very young priest that the Parish in Laramie had proven very troublesome, but would certainly improve with time. With that somewhat uncertain encouragement, Fr. Cummiskey would serve as Pastor in Laramie for the next 41 years.

 

Fr. Cummiskey was a big fellow. His very first night he spent in Laramie a couple of rowdies broke down his front door and attempted to enter his house. Since he was bigger than they were, and much more sober, they got very much the worst of the encounter. The next day the word in town was that one of them was going to shoot him if he didn't get out of Laramie. Fr. Cummiskey writes, "I provided myself with the means of self-defense and gave due notice of my intentions." The rowdies did not try to tangle with a now armed priest. It was the exactly the sort of priest Laramie needed in 1879.

 

As a priest he was sometimes required "to make long and disagreeable journeys to attend the dying". Early in his pastorate, Fr. Cummiskey had to travel six days through bitter winter weather with the temperature falling to 20 degrees below zero. His escort was one of the Younger Brothers who robbed trains with Jesse James. The man was a fugitive from justice, but Fr. Cummiskey recalled, "he was very gentlemanly and kind to me. In fact, I was glad to have him with me, for one night we were followed by several grizzly bears, and bears with an appetite too."

 

In January, 1921, Bishop McGovern assigned Fr. John T. Nicholson Pastor of St. Laurence O'Toole Parish in Laramie. He was born in  Ballyara, County Sligo, Ireland. By the time Father Nicholson arrived in Laramie, the city had 6,300 inhabitants, enough of them Catholic that the old frontier church no longer sufficed. Fr. Nicholson roused his 200 families for the task of building a new church, with a seating capacity of 400. The present church of St. Laurence O'Toole was built at a total cost of $80,000 and dedicated on June 6, 1926.

 

 

Looking to the Future

Our new Pastor, Fr. Dave Erickson, arrived in Laramie on July 1, 2015. Before his first year was complete, Fr. Erickson made the difficult decision to close our Parish school.

Our school was opened in 1951 and has served our Parish and the wider community of Laramie well for 64 years. While it was sad for many to see our school close her doors, most parishioners understood that the low enrollment and increasing costs of education made Fr. Erickson's decsion difficult but necessary.

With the school now closed, the center of the Parish ministries was vacated. Working with our Finance Council, Parish Council, the Stewardship Committee, and other Parish leaders we are excited to explore new opportunites to serve Our Lord and our neighbors of Laramie through our new ministries.

 

 

                         St. Laurence O' Toole

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