St. Anthony of Padua Mission Church in Newfoundland will host its final liturgy on Sunday, October 13 at 11:15 a.m. The Roman Catholic house of worship, which belongs to the parish with St. Rita's in Gouldsboro, is closing.
Father Alfred J. Vito, who has been pastor at both St. Rita's and St. Anthony's, said that the closure, while sad came as no surprise to their faithful parishioners. Discussion began about five years ago when the Diocese of Scranton asked parishes to evaluate their missions.
Nothing was really done at that time. The building, however, was deteriorating. Father Vito, who accepted this pastorate two years ago, said that the Parish Council and Finance Committee were in unanimous agreement to petition the Bishop to close the mission.
Improvements that were needed to keep up the facility were unrealistic financially, Father Vito said, reminding that St. Anthony's served a small community. The building was originally a theater-in-the-round designed for summer performances. Later it served as a library, and was eventually established as St. Anthony's. At first it was used as a summer church, and later went year-round.
The problems point back to the building not being constructed for year-round use, the pastor said.
Announcement of the closure was made on August 18. Father Vito said that the parishioners, while saddened, have told him this was expected. As a result, it went well, he said.
While acknowledging a closure of a church or mission is hard on parishioners, where so many memories have been made such as baptisms, first Communion and weddings, he said it was important to see something positive. This can also be an opportunity for spiritual growth in a parishioner's life.
"They can't be attached to a building," Pastor Vito said. "Their faith in God must be greater than a building." What is important, he added, is that the parishioner continue in their faith, find a new building and continue to worship.
There have been so many reported closings of Catholic churches, missions and schools in recent years, that the parishioners were prepared for the news, he suggested.
One the final Mass is over, the Altar and Blessed Sacrament will be taken to St. Rita's. At that point, he noted, the building ceases to be consecrated for sacred use. Other religious articles within the building will be removed for utilization by other mission churches or new Catholic churches, whether in the United States or even in Third World countries.
He said he presumes the Scranton Diocese would sell the property in Newfoundland.
Attendance at St. Anthony's has been relatively steady though may have decreased in recent years, he affirmed. On Sundays they typically have 150 to 175 people at Mass, and in the summer, about 25 to 50 more.
They are in the process of determining how many parishioners from St. Anthony's will continue with the parish and attend St. Rita's in Gouldsboro, nine miles away. There is an 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Rita's and they are adding a 9:45 a.m. Mass. As the need arises, he said they can add another.
Page 2 of 2 - Parishioners seeking another Catholic church within about 12 miles could consider, in addition to St. Rita in Gouldsboro, St. Mary Mission Church in Ledgedale; St. Bernadette Church in Canadensis; St. Veronica Church, Shiny Mountain Road, Lake Wallenpaupack; St. Ann Church, Tobyhanna; St. Thomas More Church, Lake Ariel; and St. Eulalia Church, Blue Shutters Road, Roaring Brook Township.