HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 350 people filled the sanctuary for Mass when St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church recently celebrated two milestones: 20 years of the friars’ presence in Hartford and 10 years since the laying of the cornerstone of the Franciscan Center for Urban ministry. Some 200 stayed for a reception.
In support of the church and ministry center, where Thomas Gallagher, OFM, is pastor, friars traveled from New York City, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland to attend the celebration. They included Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of the parish from 1990 to 1999, Christopher Coccia, OFM,Michael Johnson, OFM, Michael Jones, OFM, Walter Liss, OFM,Gerald Paciello, OFM, Steven Pavignano, OFM, Frank Sevola, OFM, and John Ullrich, OFM.
The Oct. 9 event, planned by staff members, marked the 10th year since the cornerstone was laid for the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry adjacent to the church in downtown Hartford. Today, the center, renovated from a former convent, reaches thousands of people in need through innovative programs and partnerships.
In a message in the parish bulletin, Thomas, pastor since 2008, wrote: “I thank you for the many ways that you have shaped the friars who have been graced to serve here. Your kindness, challenge, insights, humor, and support are a great gift to us.”
He continued: “What is most remarkable to me, is that we have also realized that we have received more than we have given. In being touched by the experiences of so many of the ministerial opportunities, we realize the graciousness of God. I thank you for creating and sharing these moments of grace for all of us.”
Growing Needs, Expanding Ministry
In the past 20 years, the urban ministry has expanded to meet the community’s burgeoning needs. It reaches out to people with AIDS, offers retreats, provides sandwiches 365 days a year, partners with House of Bread to feed and care for people, supports St. Genevieve Parish in Haiti, helps St. Joseph College in gifts of students, collaborated with Mercy Housing and Shelter to develop Catherine’s Place, a home for women; and created a space for Christian-Muslim dialogue, especially among women.
Tom thanked the friars at the parish, including Andrew Giardino, OFM, Erick Lopez, OFM, and John Rudy, OFM, and remembered the contributions of friars previously based at the parish.
“Each friar has brought the uniqueness of his gift,” said Tom, who had been the Province’s novitiate director before moving to Hartford. “I thank you for the welcome and kindness that you have for each of us.”
The History of Urban Ministry
In 1990, according to Peace and Good in America by Joseph M. White, “A consensus had emerged on the ministerial planning committee in favor of ‘center city’ ministerial sites. The Province’s experience in New York and Boston indicated that such locations contained a higher concentration of the poor, marginalized, and alienated people whom the province wished to serve.”
That October, Holy Name Province assumed the pastoral care of St. Patrick-St. Anthony. The history of this process was described in the Spring 2007 issue of Church Street Life, the church newsletter.
The new concept was meant to promote partnership to care for people’s spiritual and corporal needs, according to the newsletter. This meant turning the convent adjacent to St. Patrick-St. Anthony into the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry. Today, the center is financially independent, serving as a place where people work together to ensure a better quality of life for those who might otherwise feel forsaken, the newsletter reported.
The Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, a certified non-profit agency, provides opportunities to promote a living community that improves the life, dignity, and rights of all people regardless of religious, social, or economic background, especially the alienated and the poor of the city of Hartford, according to its page on the church website.
St. Patrick-St. Anthony is Connecticut’s first Roman Catholic church, and today welcomes more than 1,400 households from at least 100 zip codes throughout the state.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Danbury, Conn., is a frequent contributor to this newsletter.