St. Anthony Church, Youngstown, celebrates 125 years

In June 1898, Bishop Ignatius Horstmann, Bishop of Cleveland, authorized the establishment of St. Anthony Church to serve the Italian-speaking immigrants in Youngstown, as Youngstown was part of the Diocese of Cleveland at the time. These early Catholics first worshipped in the former St. Ann Church, which was rededicated under the patronage of St. Anthony of Padua.

“St. Anthony Church is located in the historic Brier Hill neighborhood and has a very notable and laudable history in the city of Youngstown. It has been a genuine church family, especially for the immigrants from Italy who settled in the Brier Hill district. It’s a wonderful witness to the Brier Hill area, especially under the leadership of our bishops,” said Monsignor Michael Cariglio, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Basilica & St. Anthony Parish.

Calling it a great tribute to the church to maintain a presence for 125 years, Monsignor Cariglio continued, “The present constituency of the church is hoping to do all they can to provide a dynamic future for their witness of the Catholic faith in that particular location of Youngstown. It’s a real plus for the Brier Hill area.” 

Church members marked that milestone anniversary as part of their annual St. Anthony Feast Day observance held every June 13. Monsignor Cariglio celebrated an evening Mass that day followed by a procession around the parking lot and an Italian foods festival.

Parishioner Ernie DiRenzo, a lifelong member of the church, said he remains a member because, “[St. Anthony’s] has sentimental value, history and tradition. Every time I go to Mass, I’m reminded of my parents and family members that used to go there and I can see them in the church. They’re there with you.” 

Since retiring in 2016, DiRenzo has been in charge of church pizza sales, which happen weekly on Fridays. “We maintain a lot of those long-time traditions—with the pizza every week, the Easter bread, a spaghetti dinner twice a year, Italian sausage during the feast day,” DiRenzo stated, and he hopes those traditions continue and grow. 

Rick Cappellino became a church member through marriage to his wife, Rosemary, 48 years ago. “The people are like an extended family,” said Cappellino, who’s been on parish council and the building committee, and has helped with spaghetti dinners.

“That all stems from my in-laws because they were so dedicated to the church. I picked up where they left off,” Cappellino said, “You belong to the church and you want to keep it going. That was instilled in us and that’s why you keep working for the church.” 

Although Erich Kist grew up a couple blocks from St. Anthony’s, he didn’t become a member until marrying his wife, Diane, in 1969.  “My wife’s family on her mother’s side, the Yane family, goes back to the original church in 1898,” Kist said of the family roots. “St. Anthony Church is a success story from day one,” he added.

Among his many volunteer efforts, Kist mowed the church property for 23 years. For Kist, “The church has always been a very stable place for spirituality and social gatherings. I don’t know where my spiritual life would be without St. Anthony Church.”

Looking to the future, Kist stated, “I learned so much from the older men and women of the parish about doing fundraisers, repairs. Now there’s really no one for me to pass on what I was taught. I’m hoping we can get some young members to pick up the slack.”

Initially, Catholics who worshipped in St. Ann Church renovated the 25-year-old building with beautiful new altars, Stations of the Cross and fresh paint.  A period of prosperity in the 1920s spawned growth in the church. Then, when the Great Depression of 1929 set in, the church became a source of solace for struggling families.

During the late 1940s and 1950s, federal funds to rebuild older metropolitan areas brought redevelopment to the neighborhood surrounding St. Anthony Church. As a result, St. Anthony Church was demolished to make room for a highway.

Planning for a larger church, rectory and school with a cafeteria and gymnasium-auditorium began in the mid-1950s. The present St. Anthony Church was completed in 1958. 

The new St. Anthony School opened in September 1959, with 230 students. The Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus staffed the school until its closing in June 1995, due to declining enrollment. In 2011, St. Joseph the Provider Catholic School relocated from Campbell to the St. Anthony Complex.

In 2012, St. Anthony of Padua Church merged with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (later elevated to a basilica) to form Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Basilica – St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Today, St. Anthony Church has 200 registered households.

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Mary Ellen Pelligrini

Mary Ellen Pelligrini

Mary Ellen has worked in the publishing industry for over 25 years, mainly in the Catholic press. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in family studies. She has contributed to Catholic publications, including St. Anthony Messenger, Liguorian and Our Sunday Visitor and has won two Catholic Press Association Awards. Her faith formation included 16 years of Catholic education, which instilled in her the importance of covering news and events from a Catholic perspective. She enjoys reporting on the ministries of priests, religious, the laity and parishes throughout the local diocese. She is a member of the Catholic Media Association and the Youngstown Press Club.
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