By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — “This is everything we need,” said St. Anthony Parish Council President Bill Lucas during the March 28 dedication of a new, 7,200-square-foot addition to the historic church.
“It has classroom space, a place to gather, a kitchen so we can continue to serve McAnthony’s Window, and (it) houses our parish offices — all under one roof.”
The parish previously didn’t have a gathering space and had been renting rooms across the street in the Landmark building to house religious education classes, several parish activities and meetings, and even parish offices.
Building plans for a gathering space began about two years ago at the insistence of the pastor, Father Jack Gallagher. Work started last June when Harlan Sundholm took down the former rectory and a large tree at no cost. “That was his contribution,” said Dennis Flaherty, the parish’s now retired business manager.
The new hall includes eight classrooms, a gathering space that links to the church, restrooms, offices, a conference room, kitchen and McAnthony’s Window. That window serves a meal from 9-11 a.m., Monday through Friday to the less fortunate.
Leo Bressanelli, trustee for St. Anthony’s, recited the history of the second-oldest Catholic Church in Iowa — the oldest in the Diocese of Davenport. He joked that he had been chosen to emcee the event because he is Italian, just like the church’s founder and builder, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli.
The parish’s history of serving the needy goes back to the Great Depression when Msgr. James Bulger gave sandwiches and money. Father Ken Martin established the Care and Share program. Father James Conroy and Sister Ludmilla Benda, RSM, established McAnthony’s Window.
“We continue to care and share with one another today,” Bressanelli said.
Bishop Martin Amos blessed the new addition with hopes that the catechetical center would help everyone grow in God’s love. Then he jokingly asked the people in attendance to “part like the Red Sea” to clear a path so he could bless the center.
Fr. Gallagher, who will retire this summer, hopes the new center brings the St. Anthony parish community together in various ways. “I hope these two buildings (church and parish center) will be the center of our life in whatever we do. From the sacraments to sharing food and hospitality, others can come here who are in need. We build up the body of Christ.”
Flaherty noted that each pastor who has served at St. Anthony’s has added to or improved the parish.
Dedication day was Flaherty’s last as the parish’s business manager and he said it “has been a great ride.”
The $1.8 million project was designed by architectural firm SGGM; Russell Construction served as general contractor. Prior to that work, Ryan & Associates rerouted water from the rectory to keep the former school (original church) and garage connected to water service during construction. The garage is where McAnthony’s Window was located during the building project and the school is where meetings were held.
Taken from the old rectory and incorporated into the new hall were an interior wood vestibule door, which now opens to the conference room, a fireplace in the gathering space and a mantel and grate.
The addition’s stone exterior looks like the church’s façade to blend with its historical status, Flaherty said.
Mobile walls were pushed back for the dedication, but will be used to divide classrooms for religious education. A storage room will hold tables and chairs when the hall is used for other events.
A donated, closed-circuit television in the education area can be used for classes or, with the flip of a switch, broadcast Mass. “We now have overflow space for Mass,” Flaherty said.
The kitchen has the usual amenities and a large side-by-side refrigerator/freezer to hold sandwiches for McAnthony’s Window.
“This building is energy efficient,” said Flaherty during a tour prior to the dedication. Multiple thermostats throughout the building control temperatures to save money.
Michelle Russell, a member of the parish who served on the building committee, said the new parish center will bring the parish closer together.
Her family’s roots are deep in the parish and she has always felt connected to St. Anthony’s. Her dad, Bob Solis, and his five brothers all attended St. Anthony School. “When we grew up we heard all of his memories of St. Anthony’s.” Her maternal grandfather, Leo Lorence, was very involved in the parish, too. “All the baptisms, weddings and funerals have been here.”
When she moved back to the Quad-City area a few years ago, she heard talk about a new center. “It was exciting. I wanted to get involved because of my family’s connection with the parish.”
Russell wanted to make sure the building represented the tradition, integrity and history of being Iowa’s second-oldest church. “It’s a very special place.”
She has seen excitement grow in the parish since it was announced that a new parish hall — with classrooms — would be built.
“I’m proud of this new building as it really fits in the old and the new. There is a tradition of helping others and we continue to do that here at St. Anthony’s.”