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St. Anthony to celebrate 125 years

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Another archdiocesan parish will join the four parishes featured in the June 19 issue of the Catholic Voice in celebrating a milestone anniversary this year.

St. Anthony Parish in Cedar Rapids will mark 125 years at an 11 a.m. Mass July 26 with Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss.

A dinner is planned after the Mass. St. Anthony prayer cards and parish history books also will be available.

A look at St. Anthony Parish:

Location: 510 W. Main St., Cedar Rapids

Registered families: 169

Current pastor: Msgr. Ralph J. Steffensmeier

Previous pastors: Father Gentil Vermuelen, Father Otto Buehler, Father Francis Price, Father Ralph M. O'Donnell, Father Michael Printy, Msgr. Robert Nienaber, Father John Starostka and Father Urban Schmitt

History: The earliest area Catholics were three pioneers who settled in the Timber Creek area in 1884. They enlisted the services of Father Boniface, OFM, of Platte Center, who celebrated Mass in their homes twice a year.

Father Julius DeVos of Spalding began serving the area in 1886, and in 1888 a church was constructed. The parish continued to be ministered from Spalding until 1902 when a rectory was built in Cedar Rapids.

At that time, Father Gentil Vermuelen, a native of Belgium, became the first resident pastor. He served the parish 51 years, and it was under his guidance that the parishioners remodeled the original church, built a grade school and high school, and erected the church still in use today.

The school, built in 1911, was staffed by the Sisters of St. Dominic from St. Catherine, Ky. In 1918, a new church was dedicated, while the old church was remodeled three years later for use as a high school, which operated for only a few years.

The Depression of the 1930s took its toll on the parish as many families moved from the community. Crop failures and a difficult economy in the 1960s led to the grade school closing in 1970.

Throughout the early 1960s, the interior of the church was redecorated, and major work was done on the stained glass windows in 1972.

Extensive work was done on the church in 1993, including a new roof and tuck pointing. In 1994 and 1995, windows were repaired, and statues were restored and painted.

In 2000, both St. Anthony Church and School became registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

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