Commemorating St. Anthony of Padua

Johann Cuervo Around the Province

Hugh Macsherry and parishioners after the St. Anthony procession (Photo courtesy of Hugh)

Last week, ministries throughout Holy Name Province marked the feast of St. Anthony, the wonderworker of Padua, with parish festivals and processions, as well as the traditional blessing and distribution of bread and lilies.

In New York City, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street opened the June 13 feast day at 7 a.m. with Mass and the daylong distribution of St. Anthony’s bread to passersby. Twelve special liturgies were offered in English, Spanish, Filipino and Haitian Creole through the day. For the fourth year in a row, a precious relic of St. Anthony was brought from the basilica in Padua, Italy, to the church as part of the celebration.

“The feast of St. Anthony here at St. Francis is larger than the crowds that visit on Ash Wednesday,” said Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor. “We prepare with 100 cases of St. Anthony candles, 3,000 small containers of St. Anthony oil, 70,000 St. Anthony pieces of bread, 12 Masses rather than our usual eight, confessions all day, and hundreds of volunteers working throughout the day.”

Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan (Photo courtesy of Johann Cuervo)

“The stories that people tell about St. Anthony cover everything from recovery of lost objects, to healings, to jobs, to a profound sense that this saint is truly a friend who shows that he is still interested in people’s lives,” added Andrew. “I have never seen anything like this devotion and genuine love for this saint.”

On Saturday, June 10, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, N.J., invited the neighboring parish, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, to help carry the statue of St. Anthony in procession through the streets of East Camden to Cramer Hill as they did last year to celebrate the patron saint.

After the procession, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony’s, and Fr. Jaime Hostios of the Diocese of Camden concelebrated Mass, which was followed by the annual “Fiesta de San Antonio.”

“Families of the parishes provided foods from different ethnicities like Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadorian, Nicaraguan and Guatemalan. Children were able to jump in bounce houses and then cool off on a water slide,” said Hugh. “Some staff members of St. Anthony’s and I even sat in a dunk tank, to the delight of the parishioners.”

Hugh Macsherry helps carry St. Anthony’s statue and participates in games during the “Fiesta de San Antonio” (Photo courtesy of Hugh)

In northern New Jersey, the feast of St. Anthony was a grateful occasion for St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson. The parish celebrated the feast day with a Mass of thanksgiving, followed by the blessing and distribution of St. Anthony bread, medals and lilies.

In Boston, more than a dozen friars from St. Anthony Shrine, including a visiting friar from the Korean Province, distributed pieces of St. Anthony’s bread – donated by Piantedosi Bakery – both at the Shrine and on the busy Downtown Crossing neighborhood. Music for a special 5:15 p.m. feast day Mass, celebrated by James Sabak, OFM, was provided by the Arch Street Band. The band also played a mix of religious and secular music for the public throughout the day at the new Franklin Steps in the heart of Boston.

“People really respond to St. Anthony,” said Thomas Conway, OFM, executive director of the Shrine, who was interviewed on the Boston Herald Drive morning show on the feast. ”Although he died at only 36 years old, he left a long legacy.”

Thomas Conway, Juan Turcios and Barry Langley with a volunteer at the Shrine on the feast day and, at right, Tom Conway blessing pieces of bread (Photo courtesy of St. Anthony Shrine)

The custom of honoring St. Anthony and distributing bread goes back to the mid-13th century, when a child nearly drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua while it was still under construction. The child’s mother prayed to St. Anthony, promising that if her child’s life was saved, she would give to the poor an amount of wheat equal to the weight of her child. Her son was saved and her promise was kept. St. Anthony’s bread, then, is a promise of giving alms in return for a favor asked of God through the saint’s intercession.

More photos showing how Holy Name Province ministries commemorated the feast of St. Anthony can be found on the Facebook pages of many ministries, including St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden, and St. Anthony Shrine.

Johann Cuervo is the communications assistant for Holy Name Province.

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