In its heyday, Gardenville’s St. Anthony of Padua would have 6,000 people attend Masses on Sunday.
While those numbers have dropped, passion for the faith and the parish remain strong.
“There is a lot going on,” said Mary Clare Simon, a parishioner of 48 years along with her husband, Frank. “In some ways, we’re closer than we were in those up years.”
That will be evident Oct. 18, when the parish closes out a year of celebrations for its 125th anniversary with a Mass to be followed by a gala dinner and dance.
“I’m looking forward to a nice celebration,” said Deacon Joseph C. Krysiak, the parish’s current administrator. “I’ll enjoy being part of something where people are enjoying their heritage very much and giving praise to God for all the blessings he’s bestowed upon us.”
Simon helped organize the parish’s year of anniversary celebrations, which has included concerts and picnics.
Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who was once assigned to St. Anthony, will celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
“It means a lot for him to come back,” Simon said. “Whenever we see him, it’s like he never left.”
The $40 gala afterward will begin at 2 p.m. at Columbus Gardens on Klosterman Avenue, off Belair Road outside the Beltway.
Memorabilia will be on display at both the church hall and at the gala. A DVD and book are also being created.
Bishop W. Francis Malooly, formerly of Baltimore and currently the head of the Diocese of Wilmington, was also once assigned to St. Anthony.
St. Anthony was founded as a mission of St. Joseph parish in Fullerton. Germans who established a home in northeast Baltimore found a spiritual one at St. Anthony. The parish became so big that parishes like St. Dominic, Shrine of the Little Flower and St. Francis of Assisi were created to the west and south.
St. Anthony has had two church buildings, including the current one, which was dedicated in 1952. The parish once had a bustling school that merged with other area parish institutions to form Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, which operates on St. Anthony’s campus.
All five of Simon’s children attended St. Anthony’s former parish school.
These days, parishioners give their time and money to the Baltimore community, contributing to Meals on Wheels, Beans and Bread, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore and You Are Never Alone. The local community association and Alcoholics Anonymous have held meetings at the parish as well.
“They (parishioners) are very supportive, very active in all of our ministries,” Deacon Krysiak said.
Simon said she can’t wait to see old and new friends Oct. 18.
“Over the years,” she said with a laugh, “I’ve gotten quite attached to this place.”