The Light Shineth: The History of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Hackensack, New Jersey.
By Joseph Anastasi.
No place: no publisher, 1962.
These pages were written after I had retired from my post as Priest and Pastor of my beloved spiritual flock at St. Anthony’s Church in Hackensack in the Diocese of Newark. It had been my earnest desire to shepherd that flock to the end of my earthly life, but the Canons of the American Episcopal Church did not permit it. So, on the Feast of Christ-the-King, October 28, 1956, I celebrated my last High Mass as the Pastor of that congregation.
Since my retirement, many requests have been made to me to write a history of that church, especially since the second and third generations of that congregation know very little of the pioneer work and many sacrifices of their parents and grand-parents to make St. Anthony’s what it is today.
In writing these pages, I have tried to give as clear a picture as possible of St. Anthony’s Church from its beginning to the time of its Consecration. I have omitted names of faithful men and women whose life, devotion, dedication and hard work made possible whatever success that church may have had; for every member of St. Anthony’s did his or her best for the church that was so very near to their hearts and had the first place in their lives.
I want to express my sincere thanks to the present Pastor of St. Anthony’s the Reverend Harry Brooks Malcolm, and to Mr. Charles Birch, for their kindness in connection with the editing and publication of this little book.
J. A., Eastertide—1962
Dedicated to the faithful members, living and dead, of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Hackensack, New Jersey, to whose hearts and homes I was always made so welcome, and for whose loyalty and never-failing support I am still grateful.
The Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Hackensack, New Jersey, had its beginning in 1914 when it was organized according to the Laws of the State of New Jersey as: “The Independent National Roman Catholic Church of St. Anthony of Padua.”
There was in Hackensack at the time, an Italian colony of more than five thousand people in what was known as the First Ward. It was a “Little Italy” with Italian groceries, bakeries, and meat markets much as it is today. The only thing lacking was an Italian Church and a priest who could preach to the people in their own language and who was familiar with their religious traditions and customs. For their spiritual needs it was necessary for these people to attend the Roman Church of St. Mary some mile and one-half from the Italian settlement. Such an arrangement was unsatisfactory for many reasons. Most of the people living in this part of Hackensack were permanent residents and many of them had built or bought their own homes; and it was only natural for them to want their own Church and their own priest in the neighborhood. Accordingly, they petitioned the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark to send them an Italian priest to organize an Italian parish, but their request was not granted. Through the course of the years such a petition was repeated time and again, and each time it was met with the same denial by the Roman Hierarchy; St. Mary’s Church was good enough.
At the Italian Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Newark, New Jersey, there was an Assistant Pastor, the Reverend Antonio Giulio Lenza, who had friends in Hackensack whom he visited frequently. He was familiar with the desire of these people to have a church of their own, and of the repeated denial on the part of the Roman Bishop. Father Lenza was a man of some ability, a good preacher and not very happy in his post as an assistant. So he left Newark and established himself in Hackensack. Being an eloquent speaker, he persuaded the people to organize their own Italian parish in spite of the Bishop’s refusal, assuring them that such action would force the Bishop’s hand and, if necessary, the case could be presented to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington and to the Holy Father in Rome. The whole colony rallied to him; the parish was incorporated under the State Law, a large hall was rented and the Independent Roman Catholic Church of St. Anthony of Padua began to function just before Christmas of 1914. Some months later a large plot of land was purchased at the corner of Lodi and South Main Streets in Hackensack and the first stage of what was to be a beautiful new church was begun. That first stage consisted merely of a basement six feet underground and is now the parish hall.
As was to be expected, the Roman Bishop of Newark was not to take all of this with a smile. The adventurer priest was “ipso facto” suspended and another priest was dispatched to Hackensack to organize a bona fide Roman parish among the Italians of the First [5/6] Ward. A letter from the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, denouncing the suspended priest as an imposter, was freely circulated and all the Italians were urged to support the priest sent to them by the Bishop and to have nothing to do with Father Lenza.
In a few months a stucco church was built only a short block from St. Anthony’s and was dedicated with great pomp and ceremony to that great saint of the 13th century, Francis of Assisi. So the master and the disciple who had worked together so harmoniously in their earthly life became bitter rivals in Hackensack!
It came as no surprise that the bulk of the Italians supported the claim of the Roman Bishop and left St. Anthony’s in support of the newly-organized St. Francis’ R. C. Church. However, the independent Church of St. Anthony of Padua continued to function with the support of a group of people who had known the suspended priest in the Old Country and trusted him.
The hate and antagonism of the two churches was worse than words can describe. Friends of long standing became enemies; relatives were not on speaking terms, only because one belonged to St. Anthony’s and the other to St. Francis’. As time went on the Independent congregation became smaller and smaller, debts accumulated higher and higher, and payments on the mortgage could not be met. As a result of this financial chaos, it became necessary to close the church in September of 1924; the property was put in the hands of the Court and the pastor departed for parts unknown.
There remained, however, a small hard core among the people of St. Anthony’s who had fought hard and suffered much in those nine years for the Independent “Roman Catholic” St. Anthony’s and that place of worship had a very warm spot in their hearts and devotion. Some of them had to pass the closed church daily on their way to work and, each time they passed, they stopped to say a prayer that God might once again grant them the joyous privilege of worshipping Him before the Altar of their beloved St. Anthony’s Church.
It was a Saturday morning of Passion Week in 1925 when the telephone rang in my home in Newark. It was the Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese, Dr. Stearly, and he said to me: “Father, I have just had a call from Archdeacon Elmendorf of Hackensack. Evidently some of your countrymen in Hackensack need spiritual help. I hope that you can go and see them some time today and do what you can for them.” In less than an hour I was at the rectory of Christ Church in Hackensack and Archdeacon Elmendorf told me that a few hours ago a delegation from the “Independent” St. Anthony’s had called on him and asked him if he could provide religious services for them that Holy Week and Easter. The Archdeacon and I went to see Lawyer William De Lorenzo who had charge of the [6/7] foreclosure proceedings and had the keys to the church. Mr. De Lorenzo was most kind and helpful. He gladly offered us the use of the church buildings, saying: “If you can help those good people, I’ll cooperate with you as best I can.”
With the keys to the church in our possession, and accompanied by the delegation of three men who had called on the Archdeacon that morning, we went to the church that had been closed for several months. The men opened the doors and windows, rang the hell, and in a few minutes about forty men and women flocked in. It was a very touching sight to see those men and women, many with tears in their eyes, rushing before the statute of St. Anthony, go down on their knees with deep devotion, and light every vigil candle in the church.
In a little while they took their seats, some of them with rosary beads in hand. I opened the meeting with the “Pater Noster,” “Ave Maria,” “Salve Regina,” and a prayer (in Italian) for guidance. I explained to them that I was not an independent priest nor a Roman one, but a priest of the Episcopal Church, and my Bishop had consented as a friendly gesture to have me hold services for them (so far as my time would allow) during Holy Week and Easter. It was arranged to have a service at 9 o’clock on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day.
The next Day, Palm Sunday, I brought with me some palm branches from Christ Church, Newark, and we had the Blessing of the Palms, Low Mass, and a short sermon. My server at the Mass was a man in his seventies, quite conspicuous with his gray mustache, and a long smoking pipe in his pocket!
On Maundy Thursday, the side altar was beautifully decorated with flowers and candles as the Altar of Repose and after the Mass the people began the Watch before the Most Blessed Sacrament.
On Holy Saturday, the church was fully decorated for the joyful Feast of the Resurrection. Near the entrance of the church was a brand new washtub full of fresh, clear water, and as the people came for the service they brought with them some glass containers. I knew what they had in mind: they wanted to take home some of the blessed water. So I first blessed the New Fire, then the Paschal Candle, and last the water. This was followed by the First Mass of the Resurrection, as was the custom of the Roman Church in those days. After the Mass the people asked me if I would come and bless their homes. I told them that I would gladly do that, but as I was not familiar with the streets of Hackensack, I would need a guide. A very fine young man offered his services and with his help I spent the whole afternoon blessing homes. This young man proved to be a great help to me for many years and he is still a dear friend of mine and a loyal communicant of St. Anthony’s Church.
At every home we entered we could see in the faces of those good people the joy of having their homes blessed on Easter Eve once more. To show their feeling of welcome and appreciation, [7/8] they had ready on their dining tables Easter cookies and Italian “Anisetto,” “Marsala” and “Vermut” so that the priest might have some “refreshment.” I had to spend several minutes in each place to explain WHY I could not have “just a sip” at each home where I stopped! However, for the next thirty-two Holy Saturdays (as I had to start the house-blessing right after the morning Mass) I always stopped at noon at the home of one of our most devoted families for a glass of milk and some delicious cookies.
On Easter morning, upon entering the sacristy, I found a man and a young lady with the seventy-year-old server and the young man who had been my guide the day before, waiting for me. The man told me that he had played the organ, the young lady had sung the choir parts of the Mass at St. Anthony’s for many years, and they would be more than glad to do it that morning if I wanted to have a Sung Mass. I answered that it would be a great pleasure, and almost before I finished the sentence the young man offered his services as thurifer. The Sung Mass went off well, though it was the first time I had ever sung “Per omnia saecula saeculorum”—“Dominus vobiscum”—“Sursum corda”—etc., from the Latin Mass.
At the end of the Mass I told the people how much I admired their spirit of devotion, and wished them all well in the Name of the Lord. As I was taking off my vestments, two men came into the sacristy and said to me: “Father, the people in the church wish to say something to you.” With my cassock on I went in front of the sanctuary and one of the two men addressed me with these words: “Father, your coming to us this past week was an answer to our prayers of seven long months. Please, Father, do not abandon us. We want you and we need you. In the Name of God, do not leave us as sheep without a shepherd.”
Again I told them that I was not an “independent” priest, but an Episcopal priest under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Newark and I was under his orders. Then another man got up and said: “But, Father you are a Catholic priest; you speak our language. Can we see His Excellency, the Bishop, and beg him to send you to us?” Since I was due at our Garfield Mission for Mass at 11 o’clock, I excused myself, promising them that I would make a full report to the Bishop and get in touch with them later in the week.
The Diocese of Newark had never been unmindful of the spiritual needs of the foreign-born. The Bishop and the Board of Missions had set up a Foreign-Born Department under the direction of the Reverend William O. Leslie, Jr., a priest who had at heart and fully understood the missionary work of the Church among the foreign-born. In September 1923, I was called to the Diocese of Newark to be the General Missionary for the Italians, so the Bishop was keenly interested to know what had taken place in Hackensack during that Holy Week and Easter.
 The rector of Christ Church in Hackensack, along with Canon Leslie and myself, met with the Bishop on Easter Monday and I related in detail what had taken place at St. Anthony’s. While the situation was pathetic, it also presented problems which would not be easy to solve. To all intent and purpose these people were Roman Catholics, they knew next to nothing about the Episcopal Church, and we knew very little about them. The only records of any sort available was a Baptismal Register. The chaotic financial situation presented a serious problem. There was a first and second mortgage on the property with interest and principal in arrears. Then, just for good measure, there were sixteen promissory notes and many other bills due. The total indebtedness amounted to the monumental sum of $15,146.71.
After considering the situation from every angle, the Bishop decided as a gesture of good will to continue giving assistance to St. Anthony’s Church and its faithful congregation for a period of three months, after which time the whole matter was to be reconsidered.
It was imperative that the people attending St. Anthony’s should know the fundamental principles of the Episcopal Church, what it stood for, and the ways in which it differed from Romanism. For this specific purpose I asked the people to meet in the church for Devotions, Instructions and Benediction on the Tuesday and Friday evenings of each week. The response was good and the congregation showed keen interest in what was being taught. Other members of St. Anthony’s who had become indifferent began to attend these evening services as well as the Sunday Mass.
Before the three months’ period was over, the congregation petitioned the Bishop to be received into the Episcopal Church. Col. Leigh K. Lydecker, a faithful member of the Board of Missions of the Diocese and a Vestryman of Christ Church in Hackensack, got busy on the legal and financial problems. The sum of $9,000.00 was borrowed from the Peoples Trust Company of Hackensack and the Board of Missions of the Diocese made a gift of $1,000.00 and an additional loan of $2,000.00, all of which was used to pay up the first mortgage, the sixteen promissory notes and other bills. The congregation on their part assumed responsibility for the second mortgage and the loans from the Peoples Trust and from the Board of Missions.
On August 6, 1925, the Feast of the Transfiguration, St. Anthony of Padua Independent Roman Catholic Church became the Episcopal Church of St. Anthony of Padua. For those faithful and devoted people who had prayed so hard for so many months that their little church which they loved so much might remain as their place of worship, this was God’s answer to their prayer. That was a “gala” day for them.
And now a very interesting thing happened. On the Sunday following the Feast of the Transfiguration I noticed that a large picture of Pope Benedict XV which had been placed there by the [9/10] “independent” priest was no longer hanging in its usual place. Since previously we were simply lending a helping hand to this congregation in their time of need, we had not bothered about the picture. Then when I inquired of the janitor what had happened to the picture, he said: “Father, it does not belong here. Now we are Episcopalians, not Romans!”
The following September, Bishop Stearly came to St. Anthony’s and officially Received the congregation into the Diocese of Newark. He was accompanied by Canon Leslie; the rector of Christ Church, Archdeacon Elmendorf; the Reverend George Collard, curate of Christ Church; and the Reverend William White, priest- in-charge of All Saints’ Church in Bergenfield. A group of girls had been busy for several weeks learning a melodious Mass (Concone Convent Mass for soprano and alto), several boys had been trained as acolytes, and the Bishop pontificated in Cope and Miter and preached an eloquent sermon very appropriate for the occasion.
A Sunday School was established; a daily Mass was instituted with the wonderful help of Fathers Collard and White (I was still living in Newark and had duties at Christ Church in that city and at our Mission in Garfield); an Altar Guild and a Women’s Guild were organized; and the men were united together in “St. Philip’s Society.” So at the end of that year, 1925, St. Anthony’s became an organized Mission of the Diocese with the General Italian Missionary as vicar and Canon Leslie as treasurer. Canon Leslie kept that post at the expressed wishes of the congregation until his retirement in 1960.
St. Anthony’s ample property consisted of seven lots on the corner of Lodi and South Main Streets with an old frame house and the church. The church was a basement, 42'x72', six feet below the street level and was intended to be the “first stage” of a very imposing church building. It was furnished with a High Altar and two Side Altars, all “home-made” of common lumber. The High Altar was placed below a niche in the wall which contained a statue of St. Anthony kneeling in adoration and around the statue were several bouquets of artificial lilies. The Side Altar on the Gospel side had a statue of the Blessed Mother and the Altar on the Epistle side had a statue of St. Anthony holding the Infant Jesus. Hanging on the wall around that Altar were a number of members of the human anatomy (feet, legs, hands, etc.) done in wax and given as “thank offerings” by people who had been cured of a particular malady by the intercession of St. Anthony. As time went by, and the congregation learned more about the Faith, these wax replicas disappeared and thank offerings began to be made for useful articles to enrich and beautify the church.
In these days the church was heated by an old-fashioned “pot-belly” stove which gave some heat, but only to those who sat very near it. The congregation had to hear Mass with their coats on in order to keep from shivering. The children of the Church School fared no better; they, too, met in that cold church, bundled [10/11] up in heavy clothing, as we had no other place. In spite of all this and the hitter persecution inflicted by our Roman brethren down the street, the congregation of St. Anthony’s grew steadily.
The persecution by the neighboring church was in reality the doings of its clergy. Generally speaking, the people of that parish were friendly to us after they found out that we had love and respect for them; and that we were in Hackensack to shepherd our own flock and not to proselytize among those who had other religious affiliations. Our only interest was in our Lord’s “lost sheep.” While the bulk of the people of the other church took us at our word and had ample proof that we meant what we said, the clergy left nothing undone to “close the door” of St. Anthony’s Church.
In the days when St. Anthony’s was an “independent” church, the neighboring Roman Church had only one priest, the pastor. But when St. Anthony’s became a Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, the Pastor down the street was transferred elsewhere and two Capuchin Fathers and several nuns came to work there. The monks made it their business to point the finger of scorn at St. Anthony’s as a “Protestant” congregation and the nuns stopped our children as they came out of the public school to tell them that their souls were lost if they continued to go to that “Protestant Church.”
In Lent a “special preacher” would come to speak to the Roman flock and as might be expected he had a lot to say about Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, Edward VI, and the other heretics of the Church of England. However, we continued through all this to preach the Gospel and the Faith of the Church and many of our neighbors took notice of that and became more friendly towards us. The wife of one of the faithful members of St. Anthony’s, who was friendly to us and occasionally came to the Mass with her husband, although she was a member of the “other” church, finally got her fill of Roman propaganda on Henry VIII et alii and decided to follow her husband into St. Anthony’s fold. From 1925 to 1956 the neighboring Roman church had six changes of Pastors and assistants, but the work of St. Anthony’s went on just the same.
We had the problem of meeting our debts on the property on time, and in full, and in keeping the church going; but the faithful members of the congregation realized their obligations and payments were made as they came due. As an organized Mission Church, St. Anthony’s accepted every year its assigned Missionary quota and Diocesan Assessment and always paid them in full.
The major problem, however, was to make St. Anthony’s “a thorough Episcopal Church.” The weekday evening instructions on Tuesday and Fridays, which were well attended, gave the people a clearer idea of the Anglican Communion as a true Branch of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; that the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark was just as truly a Bishop of the Catholic Church as the one of the Roman Diocese; and their Pastor was just as truly a Catholic priest (“. . . possessed of full power to perform [11/12] every Act of sacerdotal Function among the people . . .”) as the Roman Pastor down the street. In other words, the people of St. Anthony’s were fully convinced of the Catholicity of the Episcopal Church and of the validity of her Sacraments.
In this “changing-over process” it was my belief that the Liturgy used at St. Anthony’s should be that of the Episcopal Church in the U. S. A. instead of the Latin Liturgy which we were then using. This was not an easy task and it took time, tact, patience and perseverance. It had to be done “a step at a time.”
We took the “first step” at the Midnight Mass in 1925. During the Christmas Novena I spoke to the congregation on the importance of knowing the Gospel—the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the Midnight Mass, after the Gospel was sung as usual (in Latin), I turned to the congregation and read the Gospel in Italian. I noticed that the congregation listened with deep reverence and devotion, and during the week many expressed their joy at hearing the Gospel in their own language. That first step was later followed by another: the reading of the liturgical Epistle in Italian. After another “rest period,” I introduced the Collect of the Day in Italian. So we had almost all of the “Mass of the Catechmens” in Italian.
During that same Christmas Novena I also spoke on the question of receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion and noted that it was customary in the Episcopal Church to receive the Blessed Sacrament in both kinds. I made it clear that those who received in one kind only (the Host) received the full grace of the Holy Sacrament, but the Episcopal Church, like the Eastern Orthodox, and in obedience to our Lord’s command, offers the Consecrated Wine to the faithful. At the Midnight Mass I said to the congregation: “Those who wish to receive in both kinds, please remain at the altar rail after you have received the Consecrated Wafer.” Everyone remained!
I utilized the following Summer by giving a course on the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church and I spent quite a bit of time on the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church, explaining the whys and the wherefore of every petition. That prayer really touched the congregation. They all wanted copies and my typewriter was busy for some time! So we took the “third step” and substituted the “Secreta” of the Latin Missal with the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church.
Later, after more instruction, we put in the Prayer of Consecration and the Prayer of Thanksgiving from the Prayer Book; so almost the whole of the Mass was in Italian and according to the usage of the Episcopal Church. I said “almost,” for it would have caused much pain and distress to change those very familiar phrases “Kyrie eleison,” “Dominus vobiscum,” “Gloria tibi Domine,” and “Sursum corda,” which they knew by heart and were part of their lives. We felt that those minor phrases could remain as they were so far as the first generation was concerned.
 Next, the children and the young people had to have care. Their language was the English language, so it was important that an English service (besides the Sunday School) he established. This we did. It began as a Low Mass with hymns, but soon became a Sung Mass with a children’s choir.
For many years St. Anthony’s had three Sunday Masses with practically three different congregations. The first was an Italian Low Mass with a short sermon in Italian. The second was a Sung Mass in English followed by Sunday School and instructions in the church. The third was a High Mass and sermon with an adult choir. The propers for this Mass were sung in Latin, but the rest of the Mass, as well as the sermon, were in Italian. It worked very well.
As time went by, the first generation diminished in number and their children, whose mother tongue was English, gradually became the adult congregation. Other English-speaking people who desired the type of services we had at St. Anthony’s became members of the parish; so in the late 1940s the High Mass on Sunday was changed to English. However, the daily Mass and the weekday evening devotions with Benediction remained in Italian—with the exception of the Thursday Mass which was in English. This was the schedule in force until November 1956, when I had to retire, having reached the canonical age of seventy-two.
The growth of the congregation combined with the work among children and young people, and the poor condition of the “basement church” demanded more facilities and a better and more comfortable place of worship. The Bishop and the Diocesan Board of Missions were in full accord with our needs, so early in 1928 a building committee was appointed by the Bishop. Throughout the Diocese friends of the Italian work gave generously toward the new building. The congregation subscribed to the very best of their ability and the Peoples Trust Company of Bergen County made a loan for the balance of the cost of the building which would be, in fact, the superstructure on the church basement which we were already using. When the building was completed in December of 1928 it gave us a beautiful church of brick, trimmed with limestone, and a parish hall for the educational and social needs of the parish.
The contract was only for the building, so the question of furnishing the church was up to the congregation. The pews we had were good; that much of the problem was solved. But it was not so with the rest of the furnishings. The Men’s Club assumed the responsibility for a beautiful new High Altar with a soaring reredos and a niche for a statue of our Lord. The Ladies’ Guild took upon themselves the responsibility for St. Anthony’s Altar and the Children of Mary assumed the responsibility for the Altar of our Lady. Both Altars were to match the High Altar in design with niches for the statues of St. Anthony and the Blessed Virgin which we had in the “basement church.” Then the question of Stations of the Cross was [13/14] raised. I mentioned one Sunday morning that each Station could he given as a memorial and before the end of that week all fourteen Stations had a donor!
It was November and the work on the new church was progressing satisfactorily. The contractor gave us the assurance that it would he completed in time to celebrate the Christmas Midnight Mass in the new church. At a meeting of the Ladies’ Guild that month, one of the ladies asked me: “Father, what has been done about carpet for' the sanctuary?” I had to reply that I had not given it a thought. Like a flash every pocketbook was opened and enough money was donated then and there for carpeting the sanctuary and the main aisle of the church.
That Christmas Eve was a most joyful one for the priest and people of St. Anthony’s Church. The church was beautifully decorated with greens and red flowers. The creche, which had been imported from Italy, as was the new Sanctuary Lamp, were all in place. The candles were lit and the Blessed Sacrament was moved from the temporary chapel in the house next door to the Tabernacle on the High Altar. The choir and clergy began the Solemn Liturgy with Matins of the Holy Nativity, and at the singing of the Invitatory, “Christus natus est; Venite adoremus,” not a single eye was dry!
On the Feast of the Circumcision 1929, the Bishop came to St. Anthony’s with a number of clergy for the solemn dedication of the church building.
All was “rosy.” The people were happy. The work was going on well in spite of the opposition of the local Roman clergy. The payments on the mortgage were being met regularly. Then the Depression came and many of the congregation were laid off their jobs. The income of St. Anthony’s suffered in consequence; yet, in spite of all this, we “kept our heads above water,” paid our Quota and Assessment to the Diocese, and paid the interest on the debt promptly even thought the church could not pay much on the principal.
The Second World War took place and sixty-eight boys of the congregation were called to serve our country. They were remembered at the daily Mass; special intercessions were offered at the Tuesday and Friday evening devotions. I was in touch with them and their chaplains regularly, and by the mercy of God and the intercession of St. Anthony, every one of them returned home without injury after serving their country with honor.
On June 29, 1949, I received the following letter from the Treasurer of the parish. Canon Leslie:
“Dear Father Anastasi:
It is indeed a pleasure to be able to send you a check which will enable you to go to the bank and tell them that we want to pay off the balance of St. Anthony’s mortgage.
It certainly is fine that it is possible to clear off this mortgage. I want to congratulate and thank you personally for your fine leadership and, through you, the people who have cooperated in this great accomplishment.
With best wishes, believe me.
W. O. Leslie, Jr.”
Now the people of St. Anthony’s were looking forward eagerly to the Consecration of their church. The men of the parish spent many, many hours painting the whole interior of the church, stairway and parish hall and varnishing every door, window, and all of the woodwork. The statues and the Stations of the Cross were re-decorated as all had to be at its best for the great event. Years before, a fund had been started to put a set of chimes in the church tower. That fund had grown enough to have installed a beautiful set of chimes in time for the Consecration of the church.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, in the Year of our Lord, 1949, the Right Reverend Benjamin Martin Washburn, D. D., [15/16] Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, accompanied by his Suffragan Bishop, Dr. Ludlow, the Reverend Canon Leslie, and several other priests, consecrated the church to the glory of God and in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. That was a day of great triumph for the people of St. Anthony’s, for it marked the end of the struggle which had begun in 1914 and the realization of a wish of thirty-five years—“a church of their own.”
Of course, many of those who had fought and worked so hard for the fulfillment of this dream did not see with their carnal eyes the solemn Consecration of their beloved St. Anthony’s Church, but they were there in spirit (“. . . so great a cloud of witnesses!”) that Thanksgiving morning when Bishop Washburn sprinkled the walls of the church with Holy Water, anointed the Altars with Chrisma, and the congregation and choir sang while the acolytes were preparing the High Altar for the Solemn Mass to follow:
“O God, our help in ages past
Our shelter from the stormy blast
Our hope for years to come.
And our eternal home.”
TE DEUM LAUDAMUS!