On December 2, 1905, the St.
Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church Society was established. Their task was
to organize groups, trustee, and start the construction of their new church.
Some of the trustees included Rector, Messrs, Peter Elardo, and Joseph
Lazarony. Their purpose consisted of laying the foundation of the
church. The Society held a two-week bazaar to raise money for the
church. With some of the money they raised, they donated the first
organ to the church (Sardina, 1985). Nine months
later on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1906, Bishop Colton dedicated
the church in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. The Scalabrini Fathers
were assigned to this new parish, in recognition of their missionary work
(Sardina, 1985). “The new parish consisted of three hundred Sicilian
families, who were formally resided in the province of Palermo”(Censor,
3/28/06). These families of limited means managed to give all they
could to the church, raising $1,882 to aid in the necessities of the church.
The actual cost of building the church was approximately $13,000 to $15,000
(Censor, 1/30/07). The immigrants not only had enough money to support
themselves, but also their church.
Father Teofilo Glesa became the first
pastor of this Italian church in 1906-1911; he dedicated himself completely
to the welfare of his parishioners, and to the organization of church societies.
He also formed a parish band. This Imperial band would be invited
to play at parishioner parties. Of all the social activities and
organizations that the church had to offer, the band was one of its greatest
form of recreation (Sardina, 1985).
Father John Prosseda, became pastor of St. Anthony’s in1911, and remained there until 1915. He followed in Father Glesa’s footsteps and continued doing good works for the church. St. Anthony’s’ third pastor, Father Arnaldo Vanoli, succeeded Father Prosseda in 1915. He accomplished many good things for the church. He succeeded in reducing the church debt, which was approximately $10,600 (Censor, 1/30/07). He personally saw to it that improvements on the property of the church were completed. Vanoli aided in organizing the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), which guided and taught the young adults in the church community (Sardina, 1985).
During World War I, Father Vanoli
teamed up with the Red Cross to aid in the sufferings of the unfortunate.
Along with the Red Cross, he worked with the YMCA and the YWCA. Joining
him in his crusade were St. Lucy and the Joan of Arc women’s clubs.
Together they shoed garments to be distributed at the Red Cross (Censor,
6/13/17). His extraordinary efforts in giving back to the community
captured the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike and also his parishioners.
In 1920, he was awarded a larger Italian Catholic Church in New York City
in recognition of his outstanding efforts (Sardina, 1985).
There were several controversies that occurred
within the church. One occurrence happened when Father
Glesa of St. Anthony’s was accused of striking Antonio Mancuso with a mallet.
Macuso was upset because his name did not appear as a contributor for the
memorial window (Censor 3/30/10). Another controversy that had occurred
involved the cemetery. This issue concerned the burial of Italians
in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. The pastor of St. Anthony’s believed that
the land, where St. Joseph’s cemetery was located on, was unconsecrated.
Therefore until, the land was blessed no one could be buried there.
Finally after a few weeks, St. Anthony’s bought land and formed their own
cemetery. At this place all of the Italians would be buried properly on
consecrated grounds (Sardina, 1985).
St. Anthony’s parish was founded to meet the needs of the growing Italian population in Fredonia. These needs included soothing the Italian immigrants in the community. Their dedication and perseverance pushed them through the social barriers that had been holding them back. Though the immigrants were struggling, their financial contributions given to the church was a mortgage to the future of their community. St. Anthony’s Church still stands today, and consists mostly of Italian-Americans.