CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN The St. Anthony of Padua Parish choir sings during a Sept. 17 Mass that kicked off the celebration of the parish's 125th anniversary.
CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN The St. Anthony of Padua Parish choir sings during a Sept. 17 Mass that kicked off the celebration of the parish's 125th anniversary.

St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington kicked off the celebration of its 125th anniversary with a Sept. 17 Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

During a standing-room only Mass, the cardinal reminded current and former parishioners that the parish anniversary is “not just a celebration of this small part of God’s kingdom, but its connectedness to the faith.”

Cardinal Wuerl was the principal celebrant of the anniversary Mass. Concelebrants included Father Frederick Close, pastor of St. Anthony’s, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the nearby Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and about eight other priests.

Cardinal Wuerl said parishioners come together at the parish just as the first Christians did two millennia ago.

“They (the first Christians) came together to join in the life of the Church … to pray, to listen to Church teaching, to form a community and to celebrate the Eucharist,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Isn’t that what has gone on here in this parish for the last 125 years?”

St. Anthony Parish was established in 1892. A year earlier, in 1891, Antoinette Margot – a convert to the faith and a close associate of Clara Barton – built a house in which local Catholics could worship. She named the house “Theodoron” which means “God’s Gift.” 

The following year, Cardinal James Gibbons recognized the community as a parish and suggest the name of St. Anthony in honor of Antoinette Margot. The parish received its first pastor September of 1892 when Father Desire DeWulf was named to the post.

He oversaw construction of the parish’s first church – a wooden frame building – that was dedicated on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1896.

Father Close said that St. Anthony’s is the only archdiocesan parish “founded by a woman who is a convert to the faith.” He added that it was also fitting that the anniversary Mass was offered on “Catechetical Sunday,” the day the Church asks the faithful to contemplate their role in handing on the faith.

“What we are doing here is part of the New Evangelization,” he said, “and it is fitting that on this day we have our chief catechist with us.”

Father Close also noted that the visit was a homecoming for Cardinal Wuerl,@g who worshipped at St. Anthony’s while a Basselin Scholar studying at the Catholic University of America.

“This was my first parish experience all those years ago,” Cardinal Wuerl noted as he praised “125 years of fidelity of this portion of God’s family to God’s Word.”

Marla-Jo Bonuccelli has been a member of St. Anthony Parish for almost one-half of the parish’s existence.

“This parish is constantly changing. It is diverse. It is eclectic, and that mesh of cultures makes us stronger,” the 62-year-member of the parish said. “This is a great place to worship.”

That sentiment was echoed by Mary Sklencar, a 15-year member of the parish, who said that the different cultures “blend well at the parish – it feels like a community, it feels like a family.”

The parish will continue the celebration of this 125th anniversary with a Nov. 4 dinner dance. Call Deacon John Feeley at 202-526-8754 or the parish office 202- 526-8822 for information. Also, the parish has produced a 125th Anniversary Book that will be available throughout the anniversary year. Additional photos from the anniversary Mass can be found on our Catholic Standard Facebook page.