St. Anthony's Church

History of St. Anthonys Parish

The areas constituting St. Anthonys parish were formerly a part of St. Patricks Parish. However it was difficult for the families residing beyond Frere Hall around the Cantonment railway station and all the way to Clifton to attend masses St. Patricks. It was still more inconvenient for the children to walk all that way and back.

A decision was therefore taken to cut off that part of St. Patricks parish situated beyond the Frere Hall and to erect it into a separate unit.

Thus, in early 1937 a plot of land with a large bungalow was acquired in a central locality on McNeil Road. The Bungalow belonged to Mr. J.S. DSouza. (Mr. J.S. DSouza owned a large furniture hiring firm on Elphinstone Street, Opp. present Moosajee and Sons. Mr. DSouza migrated to Canada in the early 1970s).

The First Church

The bungalow, acquired consisted of a drawing-room surrounded by four large rooms. The central room was converted into a mini church, two rooms on one side served as the parochial house while the two others would be utilized as a school.

On February 13, 1937 a relic of St. Anthony was solemnly brought in procession to his sanctuary and the first parish priest installed. He was Rev. Fr. Aquina van Liebergen O.F.M.

In early, 1937 the Catholics of the newly formed parish, formerly under the Archdiocese of Bombay and now a Missio Independenens entrusted to the Franciscan Fathers of the Dutch Province, consisted chiefly of Europeans and Anglo-Indians employed for the greater part in the railways and a large number of Goans, Madrassis and Punjabis who worked around the area.

Thus, the parish of St. Anthonys is multi-lingual. Masses are said in English, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil and Konkani though not necessarily every week but at special times of the Ecclesiastical year.

According to the Church records St. Anthonys is a growing parish. The parish has grown from strength to strength. In 1941 it had 829 parishioners while in 1945 it rose to 1,021. In 1983, the figure went up to 6,000 and today, it is estimated to be in the region of 8,000 owing largely to inter-parish migration mainly from the parishes of Christ the King and St. Patricks and the construction of many residential blocks within walking distances of the Church, inhabited solely by Catholic families.

Incidentally, St. Anthonys parish has the largest number of foreigners as its parishioners. The covered territory includes the posh area of Clifton and the Defence Housing Society (DHA).

The Apostolic Delegation of the Vatican was also housed in the parish in its Chancellery at old Clifton after the Holy See established diplomatic relations with Pakistan on July 17, 1950 in the precinct of the parish (Stella Maris).

According to the latest figures ( Feb. 2011) the parish comprises of about 1,250 English and about 1,600 Urdu speaking families making up a total of roughly 15,000 -18,000 parishioners.

Parish Statistics

In the first year of the erection of the parish there were 39 Baptism with the honour of being the first to be Baptised in the new parish going to Anthony Joseph Mahnga ( February 7, 1937). The first to be Confirmed by Msgr. Salesius Lemmens, O.F.M. the Ecclesiastical Superior of the Province was John Ligory Castro on August 1, 1937. In that year 11 children received this sacrament.

In 1937, only one marriage took place, that of Hector Rollins and Gladys Morris on November 7. And in the same year the first funeral was of Philomena Moses who passed away at the age of 1 year and 2 months on April 5, the first adult funeral was of Francina Gomes on June 21, 1937.

The only person from this parish to be conferred the sacrament of Holy Orders was Rev. Fr. Theophilus DSouza on January 9, 1972. However, St. Anthonys has offered seven to the religious life. They are Sr. Maria Monica, Sr. Cecelia Martin, Sr. Theresa Pinto, Sr. Ernestine Gomes, Sr. Julie Pacheco and Sr. Clarissa Mary. All joined the Daughters of the Cross. Also from this parish is Sr. Maqsooda of the Sisters of the Good Shepard.

The Present Church

On June 25, 1939 the first corner stone of the new (present) church was laid, but due to the war, it was impossible to execute the plans. It was decided, therefore, to postpone the construction till after the war.

In mid 1941 the old Mini-Church was painted and renovated just before the feast of Pentecost. At this celebration the new and beautiful antependium of the altar, the work of a generous lady artist was used for the first time. At that time, Rev. Fr. Valens Wienk O.F.M was the parish priest. Collection of funds for the new church carried on unabated and the new church dedicated to the great Franciscan Doctor St. Anthony of Padua was completed in the early 50s. The architect of this church built in traditional Gothic style was Bro. (later Fr.) Hilary Lardenoye O.F.M. It has a seating capacity of about 300. In the compound of the church is a beautiful grotto honoring our Lady.

In the 2004, the churchs seating capacity was expanded by building an extension on its left side. This plan was executed keeping the structures overall architectural appearance in mind.

Groups in the Parish

Over the years the following groups have functioned in the parish, Parish Council, Senior, Junior and Childrens Choirs (English and Urdu), Legion of Mary ( several presidia), Vincent de Paul Society, Youth group (English and Urdu), Lectors group (English and Urdu), Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers and Collectors, Family of Jesus and Mary, Familia group, Sunday school (English and Urdu) and Security group.

The parish also has chapters of the Catholic Womens Guild, Womens' Sodality and the Goinkars Own Academy.

Parish Priests

Below is a list of Parish Priests to date:

Rev. Fr. Aquina van Liebergen, O.F.M., Rev. Fr. Valens Weink, O.F.M., Fr. Gordon Weink O.F.M., Fr. Xavier Paes O.F.M., Fr. Erastus O.F.M., Fr. Michael Dcruz O.F.M., Fr. Cyprian Dias O.F.M., Fr. Joshua O.F.M.

Handing over of the parish from Franciscans to the Diocesan priest (July 1986)

Fr. Robert Dsilva, Fr. Melito Dias, Fr. Benny Travis, Fr. Edward Joseph,

Fr. Joseph DMello, Fr. Robert DSilva, Fr. Melito Dias.

Epilogue

The old St. Anthonys School, built along the wall of the compound was demolished and in its place, on the opposite side, am imposing three storied structure was constructed for the school which incorporated a hall to seat the over flow of parishioners from the church in 1990.

Every Tuesday, a large number of devotees from all over Karachi make the pilgrimage to the church to attend the special prayers to St. Anthony---the great wonderworker---for their petitions. So also, a large number of the faithful attend the Tridensina prayers which culminates in the Feast of the patron on June 13. The Novena to Our Lady of Valankani in September is also heavily attended by people from all over Karachi.

The Fete after the Patronal Feast draws large crowds and affords an opportunity to the parishioners not only to meet and greet friends but also raises funds for the many charitable undertakings of the parish.

The parish also caters to the needs of new communities and Masses are said by the priests of St. Anthonys in the newly constructed premises of the Presbytery House, ( in Civil Lines) Stella Maris ( old Clifton) and Shirin Jinnah Colony ( near the Boating basin).

The parish is also home to a number of religious communities such as the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (RJM), Sisters of the Good Shepard (RGS) and the Daughters of the Cross (FC).

Today, St. Anthonys parish is one of the most vibrant parishes of the Archdiocese of Karachi and is growing from strength to strength, not only in numbers but also in faith.

Michael Ali.

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