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St. Anthony’s Parish celebrates 100th year

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St. Anthony’s Parish on Commonwealth Avenue in Parkchester near the border of Van Nest and West Farms celebrated its 100-year anniversary, bringing together current parishioners and the school community together with those who have moved on away from the area.

The church is heavily supported by former parishioners who have left Parkchester but continue to contribute and maintain close ties to the spiritual home of their youth.   

Through their help, the church was able to raise $320,000 during the recent archdiocesan Centennial Campaign, enabling St. Anthony’s to install a new boiler and electrical system just in time to welcome old friends.

For the parish school, the recent historic celebration allowed current students to learn the history of the church from former parishioners who attended the school and have since moved on, representing all walks of life of a variety of different ages. 

“This milestone, it brought you back, but it made you look forward to the future,” said Frances Acosta, principal of the school.

She recalled a 1956 graduate who spoke to a graduate from this year regaling experiences from the past, and then hearing about the school today.

“It was like walking through a history book,” Acosta said.

A church largely populated by Italian immigrants at its inception in 1907, the church was founded as an Italian national parish, which maintained ties with Italy and fostered Italian culture in America.

Later, at the beginning of the Great Depression, the Stratton Flats development opened nearby which brought in a large group of Irish-Americans to the Parish. 

In the 1930s, a school was built to help educate the quickly growing Catholic population in the neighborhood.

In the late 1950s and 60s, a new convent, school annex, and rectory contributed to the growing community.  The 60s also saw the modernization of the church, ushered in by Second Vatican Council reforms, and the parish discontinued its Italian national status, fostering a more multicultural message.  Today, the religious community is largely Hispanic. 

Five current female students dressed up in the habits worn by nuns who taught at the school in the past and gave a tour to the alumni, which was a treat for both the young and the old. 

“The students came back to me and said how wonderful it was,” Acosta said.  “They said they would never see the building the same way again.”

As the alums spoke of fond memories, the graduating 8th graders were encouraged to remember their experiences, as they would now be part of the history of the hollowed halls of the St. Anthony’s community.

“Now you’re the future of the school,” Acosta said.  “You need to come back and keep connecting.”

Updated 5:29 pm, October 21, 2011
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