NewsParish Life

St. Anthony Parish hailed as ‘great jewel’


CELEBRATION: Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, center, recites the Eucharistic Prayer with, from left, Fathers Firmo Mantovani, David Sereno, Danilo Valdepenas and Giananronio Baggio during a Feb. 9 Mass marking the 75th anniversary of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Imperial. (Credit: Roman T. Flores)

Share this article:

By Roman T. Flores

IMPERIAL, Calif. — St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Imperial welcomed Cardinal Robert W. McElroy and a handful of its former pastors to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Cardinal McElroy celebrated the anniversary Mass on Feb. 9 with three former pastors — Fathers Giananronio Baggio, Firmo Mantovani and David Sereno — and the current pastor, Father Danilo Valdepenas.

“Every parish has its own origin story … and that’s what we’re celebrating today,” Cardinal McElroy told The Southern Cross, recalling the parish’s growth from a group of “just a few dozen” parishioners into “a much larger community of faith.”

He said, “It’s a testimony to the faith that has taken such root in Imperial County, in the City of Imperial, that all of these generations have come together forming a solid, faith-filled, caring, compassionate community around the table of the Lord.”

The cardinal praised the community for “taking God’s presence in their lives in an ever deeper way – in times of joy and celebration, achievement; in times of hardship and struggle — and all these things are etched into the life of the parish over these seven and a half decades.”

While the City of Imperial was established in 1904, Imperial’s Catholic families had to travel to churches in the cities of Brawley to the north or El Centro to the south until 1949, according to a history of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church provided by parish staff.

In May 1948, Father Francis Horvath visited the Catholic families of Imperial, according to the history. Seeing the need for the budding parish community, he began celebrating Mass at the Imperial County Fairgrounds, located within the City of Imperial.

Father Horvath “helped the people of Imperial organize to prepare to build a church of their own,” the history reads. He oversaw the purchase of the present property and guided the construction of a small, mission-style church within Imperial.

The original church was dedicated by the first bishop of San Diego, Bishop Charles F. Buddy, on Feb. 8, 1949. A year later, the community built a rectory at its present location, and Father Horvath became the first pastor of St. Anthony’s, serving in Imperial until April 1953.

After many years and other pastors, a finance and building committee was formed in 1990 to guide the building of a new church. Retired architect James Raymond offered to design and engineer the construction of the new church.

By this time, the parish had been under the pastoral care of Scalabrinian Fathers Firmo Mantovani and Father Ademar Barilli. A groundbreaking ceremony on the new church took place on May 23, 1993. The church was dedicated on March 6, 1994, by Bishop Robert H. Brom.

By the time the Scalabrinians concluded their time at St. Anthony Church, with Father Giantonio Baggio in 2007, the new church and catechetical center had been constructed.

“I think this parish is a great jewel in Imperial County, and I am delighted to be here to testify to that reality tonight,” Cardinal McElroy said at the dinner reception in the parish hall that followed the anniversary Mass.

Seventy-five years into the parish’s story, Father Valdepenas looked toward the future.

“We go forward hand-in-hand, we work as one, and we continue to grow together as one big Christian family, a community of faith,” said Father Valdepenas, pastor since August 2022. “I hope it’s going to be a continuous journey of togetherness as disciples of the Lord.”

Tags: , ,

Recent News

You May Also Like

As Catechetical Sunday approaches, catechists reflect on their ministry

Parish donations hit hard by pandemic, but situation improving

Catholic Charities expands food distribution