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St. Anthony of Padua celebrates 100 years

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St. Anthony Church. (CT Photo/Jeff Unroe)

By Eileen Connelly, OSU The Catholic Telegraph

In the century since St. Anthony of Padua Parish was founded, there have been many changes in the surrounding East Dayton neighborhood. What has remained constant is the parish’s reason for being — spreading the Gospel of Jesus, administering the sacraments and exercising charity and its commitment to the local community.

Members of the faith community came together for a special Mass on Sept. 14 that served as the culmination of the parish’s yearlong centennial celebration. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr presided. A highlight of the Mass was the unveiling and dedication of a new altar. It is a mixture of Botticino white marble, Verde Patricia green marble and Breccia Pernice red marble and purchased from Barsanti Marble, Mosaic and Bronze Co. in Pietrasanti, Italy, through Dayton Church Supply.

“It’s a fantastic altar, and really capped off a year of celebration,” said William Leibold, director of administration and parish member.

That year kicked off with an opening Mass on Sept. 30, 2012, and has included various special events, such as a wine tasting and Oktoberfest.

The parish first opened its doors in September 2013, six months after Dayton’s Great Flood, which caused the city’s population to shift to the hills east of the center of town. The first Mass at St. Anthony of Padua was celebrated on Dec. 21, 1913. The faith community grew rapidly in the 1920s, resulting in the need for a larger church, so the present day gymnasium was attached to the parish school to increase capacity. In December 1952, the cornerstone was laid for the current church building and the first Mass was celebrated there on June 13, 1954, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

The parish school opened in September of 1915, with eight classrooms housing 378 students. The Sisters of St. Francis from Oldenburg staffed the school, beginning a long tradition of sharing their faith with the neighborhood children. For the first 39 years, they lived on the top floor of the school. In December 1924, the current school was completed with the addition of more classrooms and an auditorium. Later, when the new convent was completed, the top floor of the school was converted from living space to classrooms. In 1950, the school kitchen was opened, originally operated by the Parish Rosary Altar Society. Today the school serves more than 190 students in the kindergarten through the eighth grade.

To further meet the educational needs of area children, the parish opened a comprehensive childcare center in 1982 to provide daycare, preschool programs and afterschool care. A partnership was formed in 2009 with the local YMCA to continue offering these programs at St. Anthony. The third building on parish grounds, the former convent, now houses the YCMA Early Learning Center and parish offices.

Leibold describes the parish as a “hub of creativity and faith,” and “anchor in the neighborhood,” where outreach efforts, such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, touch the lives of those in need.

In the welcome he offers on the parish’s website, Father Chris Coleman, pastor, says, “I believe that we have a lot to offer the community of East Dayton. Our little neighborhood community has changed a lot over the years since its founding. We have grown as a neighborhood and as a Catholic community dedicated to the service of Jesus Christ. There are many challenges that await us in the future and we will ultimately face them with the utmost courage and conviction. We take pride in the traditions that we have built, but are not afraid to try something new that has the potential to make us better.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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