Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

Today's feast day always has finds a soft spot in my heart, because St. Anthony is the patron of my home parish.

My hometown of Port Reading is a small town that I like to describe, when I was growing up, as having had "one traffic light and five pizza places." Planes fly overhead on their landing approach to Newark Airport. Railroad cars spend the night hooking up (but not in that way; get your mind out of the gutter) for their journeys. The main street running through town is (big shock) Port Reading Avenue, and that's where you find St. Anthony's Church.

I first knew it as the place my grandmother would take me when she was watching me and wanted to go to daily Mass. Eventually it became the place where I went for my Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings (as a little Jewish kid I can remember thinking that the water fountain in the basement dispensed holy water; I was afraid to drink it). Eventually the friendships I made with local kids meant that I'd spend more time at the church, but this time "behind the scenes", hanging out in the sacristy waiting for my friends to finish serving a wedding or a funeral so we could go play afterwards.

Somewhere along the way it also became a spiritual home. By the late 80's the church had become structurally unsafe, and a new church had to be built. In the meantime, St. Anthony's School had become the place where Masses were held and the Scouts continued to meet. My friend would have to go to Mass before we could go mall hopping around New Jersey, and so I started to go to Sunday Mass at the old school. Eventually I began to stop for Mass on my way into work, when I began my Town Hall career, which gave me a nice peaceful start to my day and led me to seek Baptism.

As a Catholic, I continued to attend Mass almost daily, both in the old school and then eventually in the new church which was dedicated in 1991. Slowly but steadily, my Pastor got me involved in parish activities (even taking me to a Diaconate ordination). This was when I began to consider Priesthood, and it all revolved around St. Anthony's. By then I was a "regular face" at parish activities, and the parishioners could not have been more supportive of my decision. While I was in Major Seminary, a new Pastor was named, who continued to be a great source of support and encouragement, taking me eventually through the ministries of Lector and Acolyte, and ordinations to the Diaconate and Priesthood. St. Anthony's has always been a special place for me, and today's feast day always fills me with memories from my home parish.

What about YOUR home parish? When you walk into the church where you attend Mass, do you have a litany of memories through the years? So many families today move from parish to parish.

1 comment:

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Great picture of the HESS landmark! My husband grew up in Carteret and we were married at St. Joe's there; his family still lives there so we see HESS quite often.

I live 2 hours from where I grew up, so I have a new "home parish" where we've attended for most of the past 17 years. That's where our family is making memories together.