About Our Parish

The community of St. Anthony’s was named a mission parish in the Diocese of Cleveland in 1887 by Bishop Richard Gilmour.  At this time there was not yet a church building so Mass was being celebrated in people’s homes and from what I understand even at times in a local saloon hall!  For obvious reasons the people petitioned the Diocese to purchase land which was approved in 1898.  An anonymous donor provided the lot for the new parish. The foundation for St. Anthony’s Church was laid in 1899.  The original church was pure Gothic style and seated 220 people.   The earliest migrant community of St. Anthony’s consisted of a variety of ethnic communities, including Irish and German.   However, for various reasons the Irish and German Catholics relocated, many to Painesville, and St. Anthony’s was then built by the Hungarian and Slovak Catholic community.  As the debt began to accumulate from the building of the Church, the Hungarian community agreed to assume responsibility for it and in return Bishop Horstmann promised to send them a Hungarian priest.  On January 5, 1903 St. Anthony’s received its first Hungarian pastor Fr. Anthony Hegyi (hedge-eye) and the parish was declared a Hungarian National Parish to meet the needs of the Catholic Hungarians, not only in Fairport Harbor but in the neighboring areas as well.   During those early years the community continued to grow and in 1926 the parish was able to build a school which was staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer.  Some time ago Fr. Peter and I went down to the diocesan archives to view the status animarum reports from over the years.  Interestingly, in 1926 when the school was built the initial attendance was 273 children in a parish of only 240 families.  Every family in the parish, it seems, had enrolled their students in the new school.   Unfortunately due to rising expenses and declining enrollment, St. Anthony’s School closed in 1986 with a debt of over $130,000 owed to the diocese – which we are still chipping away at repaying.   Today the school building is still being used for religious education serving approximately 200 students in grades K-8.  The Sisters retired in 1997 which left the convent building vacant.  Today the convent building is rented to Harbor Care which is an assisted living facility. 

Over time the original gothic style church building began to deteriorate and was eventually unable to be used.  It was torn down in the early 1940’s.  Prior to that time the parish had been worshipping in the church that was built within the school building, which is still in use today.  The church and school building has gone through many renovations over the years and is currently under some renovation today. 

St. Anthony’s remained a Hungarian National parish until 1947 when the Diocese declared it  a territorial parish which means every Catholic, Hungarian or otherwise, living with the territory outlined by the Diocese is considered a member of St. Anthony’s.  For many years the territorial boundaries were strictly enforced and in some ways the parish struggled financially because the territorial boundaries for St. Anthony’s are very limited affecting the viability of the parish.   Today, we still recognize territories but Catholics have the freedom to go to any parish they choose and they do - which is a good thing for St. Anthony’s because our current roster of almost 900 families largely consists of parishioners from outside of the Fairport Harbor territory. 

I (Fr. Peter Mihalic) have been a part of the parish staff at St. Anthony’s in a variety of ways for almost 20 years (which by Fairport Harbor standards is not long!) but certainly has been long enough for me to appreciate the rich Hungarian tradition from which our parish community emerged.    Over these 20 years I have also been privileged to witness ongoing transformation within the parish which has been life-giving in so many ways and has allowed for our parish to continue to grow and evolve in order to meet the needs of the Catholic community to which we serve.    

It is in hope that we continue to move forward here at St. Anthony’s in our planning for the future.   As a parish staff we know how important the history of our parish is to so many of our long-time parishioners.  Their families built St. Anthony’s and their lives have always been immersed within the life of the parish and this village.  And we thank them for that.  They are the cornerstone of our parish community in so many ways.   At the same time, many new families are joining us from all over the Lake County area and they too feel a sense of belonging to this community and rightfully so.   They are bringing with them something new which enriches our parish community.   As a parish community we have had to find ways to preserve the past while moving forward into the future.  In the Gospel of Mark we are told that “no one pours new wine into old wineskins for the old skins will break…”  There is always a temptation to try to put the new wine in the old skins because we don’t want to let go of what we have always used or always done.   The changes St. Anthony’s has undergone over the many years have not been without their challenges but have always proven to be fruitful.    

We give thanks to God for all we have experienced as the community of St. Anthony’s over the last 127 years here in the village of Fairport Harbor.  We are grateful for the opportunity to take a nostalgic look back during this bicentennial year.  We celebrate in so many ways the rich tradition in which we are rooted.  It has also been a great joy to be able to participate in the ecumenical community through prayers services and social outreach including the Good Samaritan fund and the food bank.  May this year serve as a renewal of our commitment to serve God and one another in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Anthony of Padua Parish welcomes you to join us this week in Sunday worship! For our Mass times as well as a calendar of all that is happening in the parish this week please click HERE and you will be transported to our parish calendar.
 

While a lot has changed in our parish since we were founded in 1887, some things never change - we are still and will always be a community of faith rooted in the Gospel working to share the Good News of Jesus with those we encounter. If you are not already a member of this community we look forward to encountering you soon! 

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