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A Brief History of Saint Anthony Parish

The parish of St. Anthony was established in 1903 by Bishop Michael A. Tierney in response to a surge of Italian immigration in the Hill section of New Haven. Appointed founding pastor was Scalabrini Father Bartolomeo Marenchino, C.S. He came to St. Anthony in 1904 from St. Michael parish, where St. Anthony parishioners had worshiped before the new parish was founded. Some 600 to 700 families made up the new congregation. Mostly laborers, craftsmen and shopkeepers, they melded powerful memories of their heritage and visions of the future into the "love story of a dynamic Italian Catholic congregation." Among the pioneering parish trustees were Angelo Porto and Santo Compasso. Prominent New Haven Italians like Paul Russo and William F. Verdi also helped organize the launching of the parish. A house was purchased on Gold Street to serve as the first rectory.

At the corner of Gold Street and Washington Avenue, a beautiful church of Vernacular Renaissance design was dedicated by Bishop Tierney on March 5, 1905. It featured an unusually rounded nave as well as a bell donated by nationally known theater magnate S. Z. Poli of New Haven. A people of history and culture, parishioners donated dozens of imported statues with uniquely crafted crystal eyes to remind them of their familiar Italian saints. In 1918, a new rectory was constructed.

About 12,000 baptisms had taken place during Father Marenchino's tenure by the time his successor, Father Silvio Sartori, C.S., arrived in June 1925. The next parish project was construction of a school. On August 30, 1936, Bishop Maurice F. McAuliffe dedicated St. Anthony School on Gold Street, complete with medical clinic. The school, serving 300 pupils, was staffed by the Missionary Zealatrices of the Sacred Heart, who took up residence at St. Anthony's Home for Orphans. A Holy Name Society, St. Ann's Society, Blessed Sacrament Society, and Madonna Dolorata Society were organized by Father Sartori. He was succeeded in November 1950 by Father Guido Ferronoto, C.S., who labored especially to address the emerging needs of his American-born parishioners.

The parish golden jubilee was marked on April 25, 1954, with Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien presiding. These were peak years for the parish. In 1957 a new convent was blessed. The parish had purchased and renovated the Ukrainian Hall for this purpose. Since 1953 the sisters had been living in a house on Prince Street. Father Tarcisio Prevedello, C.S., became pastor in October 1957. He supplied needed cohesion in an era of adjustment. The Legion of Mary and Ladies' Guild were formed. The loving service of "Brother Nino" also made a great impression upon parish solidarity.

In October 1964, Father Attilio Bordignon, C.S., was appointed pastor and devoted his pastorate to exploring new paths for preserving parish aspirations.

Depressed times and an exodus of parishioners to the suburbs closed St. Anthony-School in 1971. With patient courage, the pastor and his new parish council eased St. Anthony in an unsettling era of civic and ecclesiastical change.

Father Vincent LoSavio, C.S., became pastor in the fall of 1973. The church was rededicated in 1975. Its basement  shrine to St. Anthony became a focal point for the revival of traditional piety, which sparked a cultural renaissance. Including a blessing of the sick, St. Anthony's feast became a day-long celebration. The pastor cultivated parish bonds and extended them to newly arriving immigrants as lovingly as he tended the luxuriant parish gardens.

In July 1978, Father Mario Bordignon, C.S., former curate, was named pastor. He enlarged upon Father LoSavio's enlivening agenda. St. Anthony's feast became a three-day festival. The 75th parish anniversary was marked on October 21, 1979, with Archbishop John F. Whealon presiding in a restored church. In June 1988 Father Carmelo Negro, OS., became pastor. He was succeeded on September 4, 1990, by Father Joseph Moffo, OS.

Nearly 400 families constitute the modern parish, still strongly characterized by a familial closeness. A number of associations continue to savor their heritage while tending to modern parish needs. These organizations include the Ladies' Guild, St. Anthony Society, and Friends of St. Anthony. The feast of the patron is still marked by three days of prayer and celebration. Father Moffo made extensive efforts to beautify the church. The parish organized a ministry to welcome recent immigrants from the Philippine Islands.

Fr. Joseph Moffo passed away in August of 2007 after a lengthy illness. He was followed in the direction of the parish by Rev. Philip Sharkey who served as temporary administrator until mid 2008. Rev. Ralph M. Colicchio, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Wooster Square, assumed responsibility of St. Anthony and served as pastor until the end of 2011.

On September 16, 2009, the nearby parish of Sacred Heart was closed because of the declined condition of the church and rectory buildings. By indication of Archbishop Henry Mansell, the parish community of Sacred Heart was transferred to St. Anthony where, to this day, both congregations share the space and the responsibilities of the one church campus.

On January 1, 2012, Fr. Francis Snell who joined Sacred Heart as administrator when the community moved to St. Anthony, was appointed pastor of both parishes. Fr. Snell served previously as administrator of the churches of Sacred Heart, St. Michael, St. Justin and St. Peter in Hartford.

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