L'articolo racconta la storia della chiesa di San Francesco di Padova a Youngstown. La chiesa aprì le sue porte nel 1920. Fu aperta una scuola ma quando l’economia americana era in declino, il numero di studenti a scuola diminuì e nel 1995, hanno dovuto chiudere la scuola. Nel 2012, la chiesa si è collegata con Nostra Signora del Monte Carmelo. Anche se la chiesa e la scuola hanno subito molte difficoltà, la chiesa originale è rimasta un luogo centrale per Youngstown. La chiesa il 13 gennaio 2024 con una messa alle ore 16:00 celebrerà 125 anni dalla fondazione ed è ancora la chiesa più antica di tutta Youngstown.
St. Anthony of Padua in Brier Hill is the oldest Italian Parish in what is now the Youngstown Diocese, celebrating its 125th year with a formal celebration on January 13, 2024, (6 months prior to his feast day) with a 4:00 p.m. mass and dinner following at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In 1889, Bishop Ignatius Horstmann named the first Pastor Fr. Anthony Petillo, a Mercedarian, and in June of that year the old St. Ann’s church was purchased for the growing Italian Community in Youngstown and rededicated as St. Anthony of Padua. The Brier Hill neighborhood was rich in community and the larger church saw the need for the Italian community to have its own parish to call home. Italians focused on faith and family needed a place to grow.
During the early 1920’s the church did just that, it grew. The old St. Ann’s became what the Italians wanted and was made their own. But as the Great Depression set in, the church changed to a place of refuge for families in the community to come together and share with each other.
The current location of St. Anthony parish, school, rectory and at one time convent, was built in the late 1950’s. The people scraped together funds and built the church themselves. St. Anthony School, the pride of the neighborhood, opened in 1959 with 230 students. Over the years, St. Anthony School educated thousands of students with the help of the Oblate Sister of the Sacred Heart. Having the presence of the Oblate Sisters made the school stronger in religious education which was important to the immigrants. Over the years, St. Anthony was a fantastic school producing many winners in area competition at the YSU English Festival, Italian Festival as one of few grade schools, State Science Fairs and History Day. St. Anthony always tried to be a leader in education offering a Montessori program at one point and always utilizing innovative techniques in education.
Unfortunately, as the population of Youngstown declined, so did the enrollment and the school was forced to close in 1995. However, the Diocese of Youngstown wanting to keep some presence of a Catholic School in Youngstown moved St. Joseph the Provider into the school building in 2011 where it continues to operate.
This church has always persevered and found a way to continue and stay strong over the last 125 years. In 2012, it joined Our Lady of Mount Carmel under the direction of Monsignor Cariglio, but St. Anthony continues to build its history in its own way. Despite the ups and downs of the population, the economy, and the neighborhood, St. Anthony remains. The annual St. Anthony feast day each year is marked with prayer and honor to the beloved patron saint. The parish is also a place of honor each year for the annual Brier Hill Festival to celebrate coming home to the neighborhood and seeing old friends and family.
This piece would be incomplete without mention of the famous Brier Hill Pizza. For years, the pizza was served on Fridays. As students, we could purchase pizza fritta on Thursdays and pizza on Fridays for lunch. Often copied by others, never the same, it is a tradition that is wholly part of the neighborhood and this parish. The pizza represents the immigrants that brought it with them as a way to eat the Italian way – fresh bread with ingredients straight from the garden.
The parish was blessed with many fantastic pastors and leaders over the years. The longest serving pastor was Monsignor DeMarinis. He was pastor from 1973 until 2011. He was part of the development of the school programs and many of the upgrades to the parish over the years including the bell tower and organ and the garden that supplied the peppers and tomatoes for the wonderful weekly famous Brier Hill pizza. During this time frame Deacon Boccieri also helped with the prosperity in the parish as the Director of Youth Ministry, confirmation formation classes, and marriage preparation classes. While he ran these programs, there was an active high school youth ministry that brought vibrancy to the parish and a trip to visit the Pope in Denver for World Youth Day.
St. Anthony was a beacon of hope for many steel workers in the neighborhood. The Frieze of St. Joseph the Worker on the Covent looks down on the steel mill over Brier Hill as if it is looking over the Italian people of the area. It connects St. Anthony with those who helped build it with their hands, hearts and funds. The church and school were built to provide a Catholic education for the immigrants’ children who they wanted to be somewhat Americanized in hopes to have a better life, the reason they came to America.
St. Joseph the Worker was appropriate for these people who were hard workers and wanted their children to have a strong education with their values from the old world that included the importance of hard work, family and faith. These values continue today for those parishioners who still call St. Anthony home, whether in person or in their hearts. The love, family and community that we felt growing up here can never be matched. It is in our souls from our ancestors. Nothing can take away the love of our parish and the love of our patron, St. Anthony.
As we celebrate 125 years as the oldest Italian parish in the Diocese of Youngstown let’s not forget our strong history or those who helped build this church with their hearts, hands and funds and those who continue to fight to remember the heart and soul of this neighborhood and the Italian immigrants and their love of their beloved San Antonio.