Below is a brief history of St Anthony's Church. At its
peak, in 1970, the parish had a population of almost 2,700 and
was one of the best equipped parishes in Belfast. During
"the troubles", however, the church and its people suffered many
attacks and setbacks, causing hundreds of parishioners to leave
the area. Although a very difficult and painful time for
all, the kindness and generosity of its neighbouring clergy and
friends from different religions was very heartening.
Today the parish is growing again and has a new multi-cultural
congregation, including members from Poland, Lithuania, China,
Africa and other countries.
'God's Spirit works in marvellous ways . . . . '
. . .
St Anthony's Church stands on the former grounds of Willowfield
House, owned by Jonathan Vint, a prominent Belfast businessman.
The house and eight acres of land were bought in 1906 by Most
Rev H Henry, who was at that time the Bishop of Down & Connor.
Plans to build a new church on these grounds were delayed by the
outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Further turmoil, associated with the establishment of the new
state of Northern Ireland, continued to delay the building plans.
It was decided to construct a small rectangular building to serve
as a Mass House until the Church could be built and this was later
used as the Parochial Hall. Finally on 15th June, 1936, the foundation
stone was laid by Bishop Daniel Mageean.
. . .
solemn opening of St Anthony's Church took place at 12 noon on
Sunday 16th October 1938 presided over by Cardinal MacRory, assisted
by Monsignor James Clenaghan and Monsignor Bernard Laverty. High
Mass was celebrated by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore and the
special sermon was given by Bishop MacNeely of Raphoe. Bishop
Mageean and Bishop Patrick Lyons of Kilmore were also present
in the sanctuary. St Anthony's remained a "Chapel of Ease" to
St Matthew's parish until 1955.
the second world war, in 1941, German bombers dropped incendiaries
in Hatton Drive and Roseberry Road. After noticing that
the stained glass windows had been shaken during this episode,
they were removed into storage in the convent for the duration
of the war. They were later reinstalled in the church.
. . .
this year St Anthony's became an independent parish. Fr.
Patrick Fullerton, curate in charge since 1938, became Parish
Priest and held that office until his death in 1972. In 1956,
Fr Patrick Courtney was appointed Curate and it was decided to
build a new parochial house for the two priests. This was completed
in December 1957.
Two intermediate schools were then planned for the Catholics of South
and East Belfast. St Anthony's Parish were asked to contribute
10% of the costs. St Monica's High School opened in 1959 and St
Augustine's in 1963.
. . .
Anthony's celebrated its Golden Jubilee in October,1988
with a Mass of Thanksgiving. Bishop Cahal Daly was assisted
by the parish priest and former priests who had served in the
parish. A much smaller parish by then, it was filled to overflowing
for this joyous occasion with many former parishioners returning
for the occasion.
. . .
October 1998, the parish celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. To mark the occasion,
a week of festivities took place.
These included a Parish Dinner Dance and an evening of verse recounting
the life of St Anthony, given by the pupils of St Anthony's schools.
The congregation welcomed their neighbours from other Christian
traditions, to celebrate with them the joy of the Christian faith
[photo kindly donated by Brendan O'Connor]
. . .
17th October the Parish celebrated 70 years with a Parish Mass.
The new Bishop of Down & Connor, Most Reverend Noel Treanor
was assisted by the Parish Priest, Fr Stephen McBrearty. Afterwards,
refreshments were served in the St Vincent's Centre where parishioners
were able to meet the new Bishop. The Choir produced a new CD
in honour of this celebration - "Jubilate Deo" and a
copy was presented to Bishop Noel.
(Taken from 'A History of the Parish' by Very Rev Ambrose Macauley,PP)
. . .
The 75th Anniversary of the Parish was celebrated with a Parish
Mass on the evening of 16th October. Bishop Noel Trainor and former
Parish Priests of St Anthony's, Monsignor Macauley and Rev John
Stewart concelebrated the mass with Fr Stephen. They were assisted
by Rev R Fullerton (nephew of the first Parish Priest of St Anthony's)
and Rev Krzysztof (representing the Polish Community). Music and
hymns were provided by the Church Choir, arranged and conducted
by the Parish Director of Music, Dr Skibinski.
The Parish community has been strenghened in recent years by new
members from countries all over the world, including Poland, Ghana,
Lithuania, Romania & China. They were warmly welcomed to the Parish
as were Clergy and neighbours from other Christian churches nearby.
Fr Stephen expressed his thanks to all the Parish faithful, both
past and present, for their generous support and dedication given
over the past 75 years. Afterwards light refreshments were served
and many parishioners met up with old friends and neighbours.
. . .
9th September, Bishop Noel Trainor made new clerical appointments
in the Diocese of Down & Connor which took effect on Thursday
25th September. One of these involved St Anthony's Church where
Fr Stephen McBrearty was appointed PP to Holywood and Fr Henry
McCann was appointed in his place as PP to St Anthony's. Parishioners
gathered in St Vincent's Centre on Tuesday 23rd September to say
farewell to Fr Stephen after 18 years as Parish Priest.