St. Anthony of Padua Parish
The first thirty families of Italian immigrants in Dunmore settled in the areas known as Bunker Hill and Sport Hill. In 1891 this Italian faith community was officially recognized as St. Anthony of Padua Parish. The first baptism in the new parish was that of Ann Morelli, daughter of Salvatore and Pasqualina Barbario Morelli, on November 20, 1891. For a few years, the parish gathered for Mass in a hall and was served by various priests from St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church in Dunmore.
However, the original group was soon augmented by others from the provinces of Avellino, Calabria, San Cataldo, Abruzzi, Perugia, and the cities of Naples and Calitro, so that by 1894 the number of families had grown to 250 and was steadily increasing. In that year, the construction of a parish church for the Italian community began, on land on Smith Street that was donated by the Spencer Coal Company.
The church was dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, and Rev. Domenico Landro was appointed its first official pastor. He served the parish from 1894 to 1900 and was succeeded by Rev. Giuseppe Angeletti, who oversaw the building of the rectory and became the first resident pastor. He was followed by Rev. Giuseppe De Monte, who remained at St. Anthony’s for two years, until 1906. Rev. Francis Valverde was appointed pastor in 1906 and remained at St. Anthony’s for 22 years, during which time the parish increased in size and devotion.
In 1928, Msgr. William A. Crotti became the fifth pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish. Msgr. Crotti had been the assistant pastor at St. Anthony’s from the time of his ordination in 1925, and, with the exception of 18 months as pastor of a Carbondale parish, his appointment and subsequent tenure at the parish until his retirement in 1973 meant that virtually his entire priestly career was dedicated to the service of St. Anthony’s Parish.
In 1940, the Sisters of the Maestre Pie Filippini Order founded a convent at St. Anthony’s, where they taught religion, music, Italian, dramatics, domestic arts, and academic subjects to elementary and high school children. The devotion of the Filippini Sisters enhanced the parish life in countless ways, and their presence in the parish continues to this day.
The parish grew steadily during this time, until by 1949 it numbered over 1,450 families and 5,000 individuals, and the six Sunday Masses were filled to capacity. Msgr. Crotti received permission from Bishop Hafey to build a new church with the stipulation that he also build a school, so the building was planned to house the school in the lower level of the church. Ground was broken on October 11, 1949 for the new edifice a few blocks from the original church. The school opened on September 6, 1950, with Kindergarten and grades 1 through 4. Each year a grade was added until a K-8 school was filled. The building was designed so that all classroom floors were above grade, yet with only 6 steps to the entrance of the church level. The new church was dedicated on Sunday, January 7, 1951 by Bishop Hafey, at a Mass which not only blessed the new structure but also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the pastor’s ordination to the priesthood.
Msgr. Crotti also oversaw the building of a new convent capable of housing 21 sisters. The presence of the Filippini Sisters was a great help in staffing not only the new St. Anthony’s Elementary School but also the new Dunmore Central Catholic High School, which Msgr. Crotti had been instrumental in establishing.
During Msgr. Crotti’s 45-year pastorate, in addition to the new school and church construction, St. Anthony’s parish societies were organized, a catechetical center was established, and a grotto replica of the grotto at Lourdes was erected on the rectory grounds.
Upon Rev. Crotti’s retirement, Rev. J. Anthony Tito was appointed to serve St. Anthony’s, and he remained from 1973 until his retirement in 1994. During this time, he renovated the church interior according to Vatican II standards, and also renovated the parish hall, which had been the former church.
Msgr. Anthony C. Marra began his 12-year pastorate at St. Anthony’s in 1994 and renovated the church interior, adding paintings to the ceiling of the nave depicting contemporary examples of faith and courage like Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John XXIII, and Bishop Oscar Romero. He also constructed a ramp at the front of the church to make the church more accessible to those with physical disabilities.
Upon Msgr. Marra’s June 2006 retirement, Rev. Alfred Vito became pastor of St. Anthony’s. At this time, the diocesan schools were restructured, and St. Anthony’s School closed. In September 2007, Rev. David Cappelloni was appointed pastor and began to guide the parish through the Diocesan Called to Holiness and Mission Pastoral Planning. Rev. Cappelloni made some capital improvements to the church and properties and, as pastor of both St. Anthony’s and St. Rocco’s, implemented collaborative efforts between the two parishes in all aspects of parish life, to prepare for the consolidation of the two parishes.
In its 116-year history, St. Anthony’s has been a bastion of the faith in Dunmore and an active force in the life of the community. 19 sons of the parish have responded to God’s call to become priests, and 10 women have entered the religious life, witnesses to the strong devotion to the faith nurtured in this parish.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish Archive
Photos from parish archive and Colangelo family collection.