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Parish History

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church
Established 1829
900 households

In May 1823, Boston's Bishop John Cheverus said Mass at the Connecticut State House on Main Street for a tiny band of Hartford Catholics, a sprinkling of French, German, and Irish immigrants. In 1827, New York's Vicar General, Father John Power, visited Hartford, followed by stops from Boston's Father Robert D. Woodley in 1828. Both clerics also called on the Irish canal workers north of the city at the Enfield Falls (Windsor Locks) project. Connecticut was under Boston jurisdiction, and on July 10, 1829, Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick arrived in Hartford to found a parish. The bishop purchased from the Episcopalians of Christ Church their vacated building for $900. The building was moved from the north corner of Main Street to a lot on Talcott Street. Father Bernard O'Cavanaugh was appointed the first resident pastor for Connecticut. On June 17, 1830, the new parish dedicated a renovated structure to the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, known as Holy Trinity. Before the church was ready for use, Mass was celebrated in a rented room and then in a Masonic Hall. The first parochial school in Connecticut opened on November 2, 1830, in the basement of the church. The small space also housed the offices of Connecticut's first Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Press. The parish was confirmed as the Mother Church of Connecticut in 1844 following the creation of the new Diocese of Hartford covering both Connecticut and Rhode Island a year earlier. In 1848 and 1852, Father John Brady, fourth pastor yet a true founding father of Connecticut Catholicism, purchased cemetery plots called Cathedral Cemetery, and a large tract called St. Patrick's Cemetery. A new brownstone church of Gothic style designed by Patrick Keely was dedicated by Bishop John Fitzpatrick of Boston on December 14, 1851. It was at this time under Father Brady that the name was changed to St. Patrick. In 1852, the first religious community of sisters in Connecticut, the Sisters of Mercy, were brought to Hartford to staff the parish school. Besides caring for orphan girls, in September 1852 the sisters opened St. Catherine's Academy, a private school for young women. Only two years later in May, a mysterious fire attributed to the emerging Hartford Know-Nothings destroyed Holy Trinity Church on Talcott Street, and with it the baptismal register dating from 1829. In 1855, Father James Hughes established St. James Orphanage for boys, a ministry originating with Father Brady. In 1865, a new three-story brick school was erected on Allyn Street. A year later, the services of the Christian Brothers were secured to monitor boys' education, ending the use of lay teachers since the founding of the parish school in 1830. In the early morning hours of January 24, 1875, St. Patrick's Church was destroyed by fire of suspicious origin. While a new church was begun, Mass was held at nearby Allyn Hall on the corner of Asylum and Trumbull Streets, the present site of the Hartford Civic Center. On January 23, 1876, the basement chapel of the new St. Patrick's Church, once again designed by Patrick Keely, was dedicated. The completed church was later dedicated that November. A spacious new parochial school was erected on Ann Street in 1897, now exclusively under the Sisters of Mercy since the departure of the Christian Brothers in 1885. The building would later be demolished in 1982. During the tenure of Father William Rogers, St. James Orphanage closed and the remaining orphans were sent to New Haven's St. Francis Orphan Asylum in 1916. Once again, in the early morning hours of December 30, 1956, a fire of suspicious origin totally gutted the old church. The suspected arson would this time direct the dying parish into a remarkable rebirth. In 1958, St. Anthony, an Italian parish located on Market about 350 Italians were living in Hartford. After the Civil War, these Italian Catholics were visited by Father Leo Rizzo da Saracena, O.F.M., of Winsted, who offered Mass in St. Patrick's basement. On January 5, 1895, Bishop Michael Tierney appointed Father Edward A. Flannery as pastor of the Hartford Italians. Father Denis Gleason had been renting a brownstone church on Market Street, built in 1854 by the Missionary Society of Christ Episcopal parish. On June 6, 1898, the renovated stone structure was dedicated by Bishop Tierney under the patronage of St. Anthony. Plans for a new church were discussed in 1920, and three lots on Talcott Street and one on Market Street were purchased. Construction was soon underway, and on October 31, 1921, St. Anthony's basement chapel on Talcott Street was dedicated by Bishop John J. Nilan. The old brownstone church on Market Street was refurbished as a parish hall known as Casa Maria. Father Andrew J. Kelly established the Catholic Lending Library in 1935. A parish school was founded in 1944, staffed by the Religious Teachers Filippini. In 1948, Father Alexis Riccio purchased the Warburton Chapel on Temple Street and renamed it Casa Andrea. But change soon shook St. Anthony. From 1953 to 1957, urban redevelopment reduced parish numbers as housing was eliminated. The parish plant itself was threatened by plans that included the construction of Constitution Plaza. Consultation with federal, state, and local authorities produced a compromise to save the parish, but the solution later proved unworkable. In 1957, Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien proposed a merger between St. Anthony's, a parish losing its church, and St. Patrick's, a parish losing its parishioners. St. Patrick School closed in the 1960s. In 1958, Archbishop O'Brien dedicated St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church but Father Riccio ably ensured its place as a precedent in Archdiocesan history. Casa Maria, the only building left of the original St. Anthony's parish plant, eventually housed archdiocesan offices, including the Catholic Library and Information Center and The Catholic Bookstore. In 1990, the parish passed to the care of the Franciscan Friars of New York City.
St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church
285 Church Street, Hartford CT 06103-1196
Telephone: 860-756-4034   Fax: 860-249-6487
Deanery: Hartford
Vicariate: Hartford