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St. Anthony - Reading PA

A brief parish history from the 1964 Jubilee Book

At the height of immigration in the city of Reading in a section called Millmont, a group of Poles wished to establish their own parish since St. Mary's was too distant away.

An occasion was on hand when the Slovaks left their church building in Millmont and built their own in the city proper. A Committee was organized which was composed of the following: John Jarrnuszka, Joseph Stajkowski, Valentine Kazmierczak and Louis Ziolkowski. They began to organize a new parish with the Rev. Peter Kucharski as their leader, who at that time was chaplain to the Bernardine Sisters. The parish was established in April, 1914 as St. Anthony of Padua with Rev. Peter Kucharski as first Pastor.

With the help of Monsignor Boreneman, the committee with its new pastor in April, 1914 bought the ground and the abandoned church from the Slovaks for the sum of $2,000.00. The Rev. Adalbert Malusecki, pastor of St. Mary's Church dedicated the ground and blessed the church.

Thanks to the zeal of the people and leadership of Father Kucharski, first pastor, the empty and denuded church was fitted out with all the necessities to conduct the proper services for the people at a cost of $1,530. This included a new church steeple with a bell and two class rooms in the basement for a school.

On September 12, 1916, Father Kucharski moved from the chaplancy of the Bernardine Sisters to his own parish rectory. After four years, in Oct., 1918, the pastorship of St. Anthony's was taken over by Rev. Michael Pachucki. It was during his time that a sacristy was added to the church.

On July l 0, 1921, Rev. Michael Pachucki was changed to another Pastorship and the third pastor of this parish was Rev. Michael Strzemplewicz who administered the parish needs for the next eighteen years. During Father Strzemplewicz's pastorship, a new electric pipe organ was purchased for $1200. Because his health was failing, he left the parish on September 15, 1939 and His Em. Cardinal Dougherty replaced him by sending Rev. John S. Dunajski, a young priest, as an Administrator. Death took a beloved pastor from its parishioners. On May 7, 1940, Father Dunajski was appointed as pastor, his first pastorship and the fourth in line at St. Anthony's Paris.

As an administrator and now, as pastor, he labors diligently for the glory of God and for the spiritual welfare of the parishioners. His first major project was the complete renovation and decoration of the church. Father Dunajski then added greatly to the value of the parish property by purchasing three parcrls of land totalling 140 front feet near the church and rectory.

Transcending these material efforts were the spiritual benefits of his parishioners derived from his priestly ministrations. The first Parish Mission was conducted on February 11,1940 by Rev. Joseph Czapla, C. M. The same year in June, a Triduum to St. Anthony, our patron saint was celebrated, and in September, the first Forty Hour Devotions began in the parish and they continue to do so around the clock from year to year. This first year also marked the organization of our parish, mixed voice choir under the direction of Carl Wojtowicz. This same choir, a few years later, under the capable leadership of our choir master and parish organist, Mr. Carl Kazmierczak, won the Nationality Day award of the Bicentenial of the City of Reading. The Holy Name Society was organized in 1940 and took the Regional Holy Name award that year. Belated by one year, on October 11, 1940, Father Dunajski with the help of his committee and parishioners observed the Silver Jubilee of the Parish. The year 1940 marks a milestone in the history of St. Anthony's, despite the hard Times of Depression.

As time passed, our diligent pastor undertook many other works of progress. Among them might be mentioned: the erection of a new, larger sacristy with water facilities and lavatories; remodeling of the church basement with new heating facilities for social gatherings and meeting purposes; erection of a new kitchen and garage to the rectory; the building of St. Anthony's Grotto; electrification of the Church exterior for outdoor processions; and complete permastoning of the church exterior. The children of the parish were not forgotten either, free transportation was provided to a Catholic School at st. Francis Orphanage at the Bernardine Sisters' Convent by purchasing a new Station Wagon. This free transportation is still provided for our parochial children with a third new wagon just bought in 1963.

In 1950, Group 100, Union of Polish Women was organized with a handful of 15 members. Today it is one of the most active Social Organizations in the parish with a membership of about 120 women dedicated to the welfare of its members and its parish church.

On the night of March 4, 1956, with our star in the ascendency, our first severe blow and setback occurred in the form of a fire at St. Anthony's. The sacristy was completely burned out and the church interior was extensively damaged by smoke. The unfortunate turn of events added greatly to the burdens already confronting our pastor. On May 27, 1956, our beloved Pastor observed his Silver Jubilee of his Priesthood in a church that was marked by devastation from fire. In less than a year the interior of the sacristy was replaced and the whole interior of rne church redecorated (Paintings put on canvas) and improvements and additions were made to the stature of the church as it appears today.

Another milestone in the history of the parish took place on April 7, 1957, ground W:JS broken for a new school and auditorium, meeting rooms, a kitchen and agarage. At last the dreams of tile pastor and the parishioners became realities. This project, the biggest that St. Anthony's had ever attempted was at a cost of $250,000.00 complete with the interior fitted out and utilities to accomodate 500 people seated to a banquet with all the necessities from chairs and tables to cups and saucers, all its own. On May 3, 1958, the new parish school was dedicated and blessed by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, the Most Rev. John J. O'Hara, C. S. C. The dedication was honored by a banquet attended by more than 400 people in the confines of its own auditorium for the first time. Each year, as an annual event, this auditorium is filled to capacity at the Annual Polka Ball sponsored by the Union of Polish Women, Group 100. The first school session opened in September with an enrollment of l34 children under the guidance of our good, neighboring Bernadine Sisters, with Sister Mary Octavian as the first principal. The enrollment for 1963-64 school year has reached 170 pupils.

In keeping with the reputation of Father Dunajski, our pastor as a diligent and able administrator, the school debt was paid off in four and a half years, (1963), thanks to the laborous efforts of its societies and parishoners. During the paying off period on the school debt, the parish managed and installed a new electric organ and chimes. In the fall of 1962 by the direction of His Excellency, Bishop Joseph McShea, our parish was called upon to help build the educational structure of the new formed Diocese of Allentown. St. Anthony'S quota was $35,000.00 and with diligent effort on the part of the committee and response of the people, the parish had pledged $43,170.00. During the High School building campaign the parish was Confronted with other problems of its own. The installation of the city, sanitary sewerage system was met at a cost of $11,370.19 for 421 feet of pipe. The renovations and addition to the rectory which was undertaken in September, 1962, cost the parish, another $20,100.00. Our school transportation station wagon was replaced by a new one in 1963 at a cost of $2,000.00. God bless us, we have met all our obligations, thanks to the cooperation and generosity of our people. Our school was helped tremendously, through the great efforts of our newly formed Mothers Club.

Time marches on. At the beckoning call of our pastor, Father John, a Golden Jubilee committee was formed to plan two grand events of the parish in 1964. The celebration of the 50th Anniversary of St. Anthony's Parish and number two, the 25th Anniversary of the Pastorship of Father Dunajski. The Golden and Silver Jubilee Dedication Book shows the results of this committee.

The Golden And Silver Jubilee Committee

CHAIRMAN - Stanley Lewandowski

VICE CHAIRMAN - Frank Levandowski

RECORDING SECRETARY - Helen Cieniewicz

CORRESPONDING SECRETARY - Joseph Kuzminski

TREASURER - William Jagielski

PROGRAM - Mary Nawoczenski, WaIter Nawoczenski

ENTERTAINMENT- Rose Pawelski, Julia Onopa

DECORATIONS- June Levandowski, Violet Boltz, Harold Moyer, Richard Dodson

BANQUET - Helen Anderson, Frances Steger, Verna Lewandowski, Helen Kerber, Mary Lou Kuzminski, Charles Karnzelski, Peter Onopa, Joseph Lubas, Theorore Jagielski

PUBLICITY - Eugene Wisniewski

HISTORIAN - Bruce Mizdlial

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Last Updated on August 7, 2014