St. Anthony of Padua Parish
Founded in 1870
In 1868, when Ulysses S. Grant was President and William Augustus Atlee was mayor of Lancaster, the Harrisburg Diocese was formed. The first priest ordained by Bishop Jeremiah F. Shanahan was Reverend Anthony Kaul. Soon after his ordination in 1869, Father Kaul was assigned to St. Josephs parish in Lancaster. Until this time, St. Josephs church served the needs of the German Catholics in Lancaster, but by 1870, the population began settling more towards the eastern part of the city, and the German Catholics there petitioned the bishop for a parish of their own. Since the Bishop was attending a conference in Rome at the time, the acting administrator of the Harrisburg Diocese was Rev. Bernard Keenan, rector of St. Marys parish. This grand old man of Lancaster, - who had been a good friend of James Buchanan had noticed the zeal and energy of the new assistant at St. Josephs church and chose him to form the new parish in January of 1870. Anthony Kaul was then 24 years old.
Three men who were parishioners at St. Marys became the original donors to the building project. Bernard McGrann, a contractor and banker, Hilary Zaepfle, a brewer and former investor in the Fulton Opera House, and Michael Haberbush, a saddle and harness maker, each contributed $500.00 to the enterprise. These three men were given the privilege of naming the patron saint of the new parish and selected St. Anthony of Padua in honor of Father Anthony Kaul. The church was dedicated by Bishop Shanahan on May 17, 1875. The debt free church was consecrated on September 24, 1895.
Since Father Kaul was passionately devoted to the concept of Catholic education, he invited the Holy Cross Sisters of Notre Dame, Indiana, to come and take over the education of parish students. The process took several years to come to fruition, and in the meantime, part of the basement of the church had been divided into two classrooms with lay teachers to educate the boys and girls separately. In 1873, Father Kaul was visited by a delegation of Sisters from the Holy Cross order, Sister Mary Stanislaus (Father Kauls own sister, Elizabeth) and Mother Augusta, stewardess of the order . A commitment was made, and within a week, Sisters Gertrude and des Victoires were sent to join Sister Stanislaus as the first religious faculty of the new parish.
Sister Stanislaus was a musician, and her music conservatory across the street from the church formed the nucleus of an organization that grew into the formation of Sacred Heart Academy. Interest in the conservatory as a boarding school for girls grew, and in 1876, Father Kaul purchased the property across from the rectory to establish and build the new school. In 1877, the faculty and boarding students took possession of the new building and in 1901, the Holy Cross order purchased the building from Father Kaul. The school enjoyed an excellent reputation as both a music conservatory and an academic institution until structural damage caused its closing in 1958. It was torn down in 1963 and the property is now used as a parking lot.
Father Kaul was elevated to the rank of Monsignor in 1918 by Pope Benedict XV. He remained pastor of St. Anthony parish until his failing eyesight caused him to submit his resignation as pastor on February 12, 1934, and was named Pastor Emeritus. The beloved priest continued to say Mass with the help of his assistant, Father Louis Yeager, who became acting pastor until Msgr. Kauls death in 1935.
When Msgr. Kaul died, the Most Rev. George L Leech, auxiliary bishop of Harrisburg, was appointed pastor of St. Anthonys. He came to the parish on November 7 of 1935 but received news one week later that Bishop McDevitt had died, and Bishop Leech was slated to succeed him.
Since that time, the pastor who had been in office for 65 years, has been succeeded by the following diocesan priests:
Rev. Herman Gies, 1936-1945
Rev. Louis Yeager, 1945-1947
Rev. Paul A Gieringer, 1947-1952
Rev. Robert Hartnett, 1952-1963
Rev. Alphonse Marcincavage, 1963-1967
Major renovations were made to the church in 1949, when Father Paul Gieringer brought in the Carrera marble that adorns the interior until this day. Father Gieringer was an amateur architect and designed the artwork in the church himself.
In 1967, the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorist priests was asked by the Bishop of Harrisburg to take over the pastoral care of St. Anthony Parish. This was at a time when clear teaching and preaching were needed particularly to help the people make the transition to the post-Vatican II liturgies.
Redemptorist pastors were as follows:
Father Charles OLeary 1967-1970
Father Wallace Berrier (Administrator) 1970-1972
Father Joseph McManus 1972-1978
Father William Geiger 1978-1984
Father E. Patrick Lynch 1984-1990
Father Francis Collins 1990-1993
Father Charles McDonald 1993-1999
Father Patrick McGarrity 1999-2005
The exterior of the church was renovated during the administration of Father William Geiger, and Father Patrick Lynch completed the refurbishing of the interior of the church by 1988.
By 2005, the Redemptorist ministry at St. Anthony Church had come to an end. In that year, Rev. Daniel Mitzel and Rev. Lawrence Coakley were appointed by the Bishop to take over the pastoral care of the parish.
Father Mitzel was ordained to the priesthood of the Diocese of Harrisburg on May 16, 1981. His first assignment was to St. John Neumann, Lancaster. In 1984 he went to Holy Name of Jesus, Harrisburg. During the years 1990-1995, he served as pastor of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, Lebanon. In 1995 he was assigned to serve as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Harrisburg, a bi-lingual culturally diverse inner-city parish. He remained there until 2005.
Fr. Mitzel serves on the College of Consultors of our Diocese of Harrisburg. He is also a member of the Presbyteral Council and Priests Personnel Board of the Diocese of Harrisburg. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Charities.
St. Anthony parish has a proud tradition of meeting both the spiritual and cultural needs of its parishioners since its beginnings. The first language spoken in the parish was German. From 1919 to 1922, the lower church was used by the Italian community under the pastoral care of Rev. Michael OFlynn (whose Italian mother had taught him to be fluent in the language.) Beginning in 1961, Holy Mass was celebrated here in Spanish until 1982, when the Hispanic Catholic communities of St. Marys and St. Anthonys combined to form the Catholic community of San Juan Bautista. In 1986, the Vietnamese Catholic Community began to use the Lower Church for Sunday Mass. They continue to celebrate Mass in Vietnamese weekly under the pastoral care of Fr. Hoa Nguyen. They often attend daily Mass in English and frequently are in the Lower Church for devotions. During May and October, the Vietnamese Catholic community gathers every night to pray the Rosary and sing praise to our God.
The symbol for the parish, executed artistically by the late James Ruof, is a Circle of Hands. It represents all the people who belong to the parish on earth, linking hands with all those who went before them in Heaven, and the hands of God are guiding them all. There is always room in the ever-widening circle.
Dianne M. Danz , Parish Historian