In the shadow of the majestic Our Lady of Victory Basilica resides St. Anthony Church in Lackawanna, a small parish that has ministered to a diverse neighborhood for generations. St. Anthony Parish celebrated their 100th anniversary with a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Malone on May 21.
St. Anthony Parish was established by Bishop Dennis Dougherty, the fifth bishop of Buffalo, to minister to the Italian community of Lackawanna in May 1917. The parish was merged with another nearby community, Queen of All Saints, in 1998. By this time, the parish was comprised of Italians, Hispanics and African-Americans. Another change came in 2008 when it became linked with Our Lady of Victory.
Bishop Malone commended the parish community for their perseverance over all the changes the past century has brought.
"Sometimes it's a challenge, but you've handled it beautifully, and you handled it with God's grace," the bishop said.
During his homily, Bishop Malone opened with a story about the Preakness Stakes, the annual horse race. He talked about how athletically gifted these racing horses must be raised to be, with help from trainers, veterinarians and others.
"(The horses) need help from beyond themselves to get better," Bishop Malone said. "There's a lesson here about us and the Holy Spirit. You and I are all born with wonderful, natural gifts that God gives us, but we need God knew that we need other assistance beyond ourselves. That's a simple way to understand the Holy Spirit."
Six Catholics also completed the Rite of Confirmation at Mass. Marco Antonio Baez, Robert Barksdale, Justin Doverspike, Dennis Lopez, Dantonio Torres and Mikayla Walters were confirmed by Bishop Malone, who encouraged the teens to not slow down in the formation of their Catholic faith.
"What a great joy as we mark the 100th anniversary of this parish that we have the opportunity to confirm young people who are not only the future of our Church, but the present," the bishop said. "This is a joyful moment, but it is also a very serious moment. Here's the message I want to leave you with: To the extent that you take this seriously, the work of Jesus Christ will be accomplished more effectively because of you. That's the point of confirmation. Today for you is the end of your beginning. Don't let it become the beginning of your end."
Deacon David Velasquez now serves as parish administrator of St. Anthony's, with Msgr. Paul J.E. Burkard of the basilica working as canonical pastor.
Following the anniversary Mass, a dinner and party was celebrated at Lucarelli's Banquet Center in Lackawanna.