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St. Anthony of Padua Church

History

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History

Photo by Michael Alexander

Parish History

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church has a rich history of faith, service, and Christian witness in the West End of Atlanta, GA spanning over the past 100 years. The idea of building a Catholic church in the West End was conceived in 1902 by Mrs. Esther LaRose Harris, wife of Joel Chandler Harris, the famous author of the Uncle Remus stories. Mrs. Harris and a group of her Catholic women friends met at her home (The Wren’s Nest) to discuss the lack of satisfactory transportation to a Catholic Church and schools to meet the needs of Catholic families in the West End community. As a result of their meeting, the women organized the Catholic Ladies Aid Society and were able to convince church leaders to establish a church in the West End.

The first Mass in the parish was celebrated on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1903, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Corley at 742 Laton Street, SW. The congregation consisted of a total of fifty-five men, women, and children, representing 24 families. The parish was formally dedicated on September 20, 1903 at a solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Benjamin Keily. Concelebrating were Father John Gunn, SM, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, and Father O.N. Jackson, St. Anthony’s first pastor. The parish soon began to outgrow the house it had purchased on a lot that straddled Gordon and Ashby Streets. In 1911, ground was broken and a cornerstone laid for the basement of the new St. Anthony Church. The present church building was dedicated on January 15, 1924.

The St. Anthony School, located at 651 Asbhy Street, opened in 1912 with two Sisters of Mercy teaching first and second grades. This facility was replaced in 1917 when a parishioner, Miss Hannah Kuhn, gave the parish a building located on the site of the present school building on Gordon Street (now Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard). That same year, the Sisters of St. Joseph began instructing the students. The parish school closed in the spring of 2001.

In 1932, West End parishioners began publishing the Chronicles of Atlanta Catholicism: St. Anthony’s Catholic News. This citywide publication continued until 1962 and its volumes are an invaluable source of Catholic history in Atlanta.

The church facility has undergone two major renovations in the last 90 years. In 1940, parishioners raised over $40,000 to replace the roof and refurbish the building. Then again, in 1994-96, the church underwent a major renovation of the roof, sanctuary, and parish hall.

A long line of dedicated priests, sisters, and laity including pastors: Harry Clark, James Conlin, Joseph Croke, Joseph Smith, James King, Donald Kiernan, Michael McKeever, Eusebius Beltran, John Adamski, Bruce Wilkinson, Hugh Marren, Thomas Meehan, Craig David, and Anthony Curran, and Timothy A. Gadziala have provided service and leadership for the parish over the past 100 years. Father Victor Galier is the current pastor.

St. Anthony was the third Catholic community to be established in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The parish is home to over 600 families and includes a wonderful mixture of both long established parish families and newer members. The community continues to celebrate and foster the tradition of faith and service demonstrated by all the people who have gone before and who have made our Church family a strong witness to Christian fellowship and outreach.

2 Comments

    • Reply

    Barry Donnelly


    Looking for St. Athony’s church west end Atlanta….
    great grandfather was one of the people who help build this church. built in the late 1800 or early 1900…His name was Capt. James J. Donnelly wifes name was Julia fisher Donnelly

      • Reply

      AdminStAnthony


      Thanks for looking us up!
      The current church was dedicated in the 1920s, but the parish was started in 1903. You should come visit some time!
      We are grateful for the sacrifices made by your family members to help start the parish.

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