History

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.

Sacred Heart Parish (Sagrado Corazón)

Sacred Heart parish, New Haven, was taken from the territory of St. John the Evangelist, whose pastor was Father Hugh Carmody. On October 24, 1874, he bought a former Congregational church on Columbus Avenue, a building that dated as a house of worship from 1852. The refurbished edifice first opened for Catholic Mass on December 20, 1874. Assisted by Patrick Maher, Father Carmody had hoisted a cross above the church tower just two days before the first Mass. On the day of the Mass, the altar of the new Catholic center of devotion was carefully adorned by the St. John Children of Mary led by Celia Carroll, Maria Hatch, and Catherine Donnelly. The last would eventually see four of her eight children enter religious life.

On February 14, 1875, Father Stephen P. Sheffrey was named first pastor of the newly created Sacred Heart parish, which at the time encompassed about 1,000 people. Serving as first trustees were Bernard P. Smith and Patrick Creegan. On February 21, 1875, Philip Thomas Leddy became the first infant to be baptized. Initially residing at the church, the pastor later rented a house at 195 Columbus Avenue.

The Scapular Society, the first parochial association, was organized in May 1875. By 1880, other groups followed, such as the Sacred Heart Temperance Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Land League. A debating society called the Institute was extremely active in discussing the heated issues of the time. Because of Father Sheffrey's illness, Father Thomas Coleman became administrator in 1879.

On November 1, 1881, Father John A. Mulcahy became second pastor. He substantially reduced debts, installed a permanent altar in the church, and purchased Columbus Avenue acreage for a future school and convent. In 1882 Father Mulcahy invited the Jesuits to preach the first parish mission.

Succeeding to the pastorate on January 1, 1886, was Father Michael McKeon. Under his "safe and able" direction, Sacred Heart advanced spiritually and materially. Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon blessed the cornerstone of an addition to the church in May 1888. He also presided at impressive consecration ceremonies on September 27, 1889, marking the liquidation of all church debt.

In 1890, Father McKeon built a rectory on land he purchased on Liberty Street. His next project was to build a school. As his first public act in New Haven, Bishop Michael A. Tierney blessed the cornerstone of Sacred Heart School on April 29, 1894. Dedicated on September 1, 1895, the new school opened to 675 pupils and was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy under the direction of Mother Bernard.

At first, a Columbus Avenue house served as a convent. After living for a time on the school's third floor, in 1897 the sisters occupied a new brick convent at 204 Columbus Avenue. Only two years later, a tragic convent fire claimed the life of Sister Mary Aloysius, who suffocated while trying to save other sisters who, unknown to the heroine, were already out of the building.

During the lengthy McKeon pastorate, plentiful activity enlivened the parish of nearly 5,000 people. Activities included the Holy Name Society, Catholic Club, Men's League of the Sacred Heart, Children of Mary, basketball, missions, novenas, and triduums. In 1917 parish boys erected a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes, carrying the stones themselves to the convent garden. Father McKeon was a familiar figure during this time, walking about the parish with a blackthorn stick or riding on his faithful horse, Nellie.

On August 24, 1922, Father William H. Redding was named fourth pastor following Father McKeon's death. The new pastor redecorated the church for the parish's golden jubilee in 1925. The "Playhouse Assembly" was formed to furnish entertainment for the entire parish. Beginning in November 1931, Father James McCormick administered the parish. After the pastor's death on December 14, the administrator remained until the pastoral appointment of Father Francis E. May early in 1932.

The fifth pastor oversaw repairs to the church after a fire in 1939. Bishop Maurice F. McAuliffe presided at the rededication of Sacred Heart on December 10, 1939. The prelate congratulated the determined congregation of mostly railroad employees and their families and called them a "fountainhead" of vocations, rich in faith rather than material goods. Also during this era, parish women accomplished prodigious feats of charity through membership in the Council of Catholic Women. In 1940, a vigorous parish study club called "Sacordia" was instituted to stir interest in religious discussions within Catholic homes. Stephen Ahern was elected first president.

Father William J. Collins was appointed pastor on June 2, 1946, and was succeeded shortly thereafter, on July 28, 1946, by Father John W. Walsh, who commenced monumental restoration of the parish plant. Appointed pastor on September 6, 1947, Father James E. Dargan completed the challenging task and later led the parish in its diamond jubilee on October 1, 1950, at which then Bishop Henry J. O'Brien officiated. Parishioners marveled during these years at their "one big family" of neighborly harmony and spiritual progress. In 1964 Sacred Heart marked the 75th anniversary of the formal consecration of the church.

In 1967, Father Edward B. Conlan became parish administrator. He was followed in 1971 by the pastoral team of Fathers Richard J. Neumann and Richard Embler. Father Neumann remained as sole administrator from early 1975 to September 1976, when Father Robert W. Ladish was named pastor. In March 1989, Father Lawrence Symolon became administrator.

In June Father James H. Smith was appointed pastor. Father Robert V. Newman, S.C., was named pastor in December 1990. That year the Sisters of Mercy left the parish and were succeeded by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart. For years the parish dedicated the convent building to the services of Columbus House, a homeless shelter and food pantry to which the parishioners were actively committed.

In the early years of the new millennium, the financial burdens of Sacred Heart increased dramatically. Sacred Heart/St. Peter School closed and was reopened in 2007 as St. Martin De Porres Academy, a project of the Nativity School system, recently received by the Archdiocese. Columbus House moved to a new locale leaving the convent building in virtual disuse. Fr. Robert Newman was relocated to South America by his congregation and the parish became the sole responsibility of Fr. James Richardson, S.C. who was ordained at Sacred Heart in1990 and served as parochial vicar.

The prohibitive costs of renovating and maintaining the large and aging campus of Sacred Heart on Columbus Avenue forced the church to close in September, 2009, and relocate to St. Anthony Parish, just a few blocks away on Washington Avenue. Fr. Francis Snell replaced Fr. Jim Richardson as administrator of the largely Hispanic parish community. Fr. Richardson was reassigned to Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford.

Since the move to St. Anthony, Sacred Heart has once again begun to flourish and grow, consisting now of a vibrant community of some 420 families. Fr. Snell is, at present, pastor of both Sacred Heart and St. Anthony parishes.

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