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How We Met: In the Cathedral

Catherine and Patrick Neligan connected circles



Mia Matheson

If Catherine and Patrick Neligan noticed each other while attending the wedding of his former roommate to her good friend from college, neither remembers. In fact, though they both lived in Manhattan and shared a wide circle of friends, they had never met.

Catherine chalks it up to timing. She was busy working as a national director of GRE Programs for Kaplan Education Centers in Manhattan. Patrick was with Goldman Sachs, working with the equity capital markets convertibles desk. 

It was a number of years before their paths crossed again. By then Catherine was 30 and Patrick 33. Both received an invitation to a birthday party in the Bahamas hosted by the same couple whose wedding they had attended years earlier. “On Thursday night of the long weekend, we caught one another’s eye,” says Catherine. But it wasn’t until Saturday night, without a word yet spoken between them, that Patrick pulled Catherine to the dance floor and literally swept her off her feet. “I was smitten with his life-of-the party personality, boundless energy, witty conversation, and bold dance moves,” says Catherine describing how he actually dropped her in the middle of a dip, although she insists it was charmingly done.

Once they returned to New York, Patrick began sending her “sweet notes.” An invitation to his East Village Halloween party led to a first kiss and began the inseparable months that followed. One year later, when Patrick was offered a two-year assignment in Hong Kong, he knew he could not leave the country without her.

So Patrick invited Catherine to dinner using the ruse that they were to meet his boss and wife. As they strolled down Fifth Avenue he suggested they make a quick stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral—“as he was wont to do, given his Irish heritage and affinity for incense,” she explains.

In the romantic glow of the warm altar lights and votive candles, Patrick led Catherine to a vestibule, got down on one knee, and opened a small baby blue box. Unbeknownst to both, a crowd of people had gathered at the back of the church and erupted into applause as the couple embraced and Catherine nodded yes.

At their romantic dinner later, Patrick explained that he had chosen to propose to her in the cathedral because it would stand the test of time and that one day they could bring their children back to stand in the same spot where their lives together had begun.     

Five weeks later, on March 4, 2000, they were married at The St. Regis Hotel surrounded by friends and family. After a week honeymooning in Thailand, they moved to Hong Kong where many Asian adventures awaited. Eleven years later, the Neligans moved to Ridgefield where Patrick grew up and where his parents Vera and Patrick Neligan lived for over 55 years. 

True to Patrick’s word, they drag their three “tolerant” children yearly to St. Patrick’s Cathedral around Christmas to relive their story. In spite of the eye-rolls, Patrick and Catherine contend that no-one ever tires of hearing how they met.

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