MERGER WAS 50 YEARS AGO • Renewal plan caused communion of parishes
Hartford Courant Editorial
October 30, 2008
Hartford celebrated a milestone that shouldn't pass unnoticed: the 50th anniversary of the merging of two historic downtown Catholic churches, St. Anthony and St. Patrick.
St. Patrick, on Church Street, dates from the mid-19th century, and was built to serve the growing community of Irish immigrants. St. Anthony, on Market Street on the old East Side, came along a few decades later to serve the growing Italian community.
These were churches with parochial schools, in the midst of residential neighborhoods. After World War II, the parishes began to shrink as the exodus to the suburbs began. St. Anthony's was in the path of the East Side urban renewal project. So the land was sold (one building from the St. Anthony complex, now the Catholic Book Store, remains), and in 1958, the two parishes became St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church, a merger, one wag put it, "of the Gaelic and the garlic. The arrival of Franciscan friars in 1990 reversed sagging attendance and made St. Patrick-St. Anthony a vibrant downtown church.
There is that to celebrate and more. There was a sometimes bitter enmity between the Irish and Italians in the early days, in Hartford and other cities, but that is long gone. If the Irish and Italians can get along, so can everyone else. Now, if more parishioners will just move downtown again, St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church will have come full circle.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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