History

In 1925 approximately 90 families decided to move from Holyoke and Chicopee to the Willimansett section of Chicopee. They discussed the possibility of starting their own parish and being able to celebrate mass in their native language, polish. Many of these families came from either Mater Dolorosa Parish in Holyoke and St Stanislaus in Chicopee. Rev. Stephen Musielak was appointed to the task. He immediately went to work enrolling new members and soliciting funds. Through the generous cooperation of Rev. L.A. Simard, provisions were made to conduct services in the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Willimansett.

The group of people petitioned Bishop Thomas O’Leary to allow them to form a new parish. Bishop O’Leary consented and asked the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the St. Anthony of Padua Province to find a suitable location for the new church. Fourteen acres were purchased between Senecal Street (now St. Anthony Street) and Enright Street (now Celestine Street) for $9,500 from the Leo Senecal estate. Shortly thereafter, plans for a building were drawn up and St. Anthony of Padua was begun as a parish. The first mass was of the newly organized parish was held on August 9, 1925. The following year, the first parish building was constructed. Built with the intention of opening a parish school, the original structure was, essentially, a school building. But economic times were hard and the school never came into being. Parishioners decided to convert the second floor of the structure into their place of worship.

The first mass in the new building was celebrated by Fr. Celestine Rozewicz on Palm Sunday, April 10 1927. The cornerstone of the new church-school building was blessed on May 29, 1927 by his Excellency the Most Rev. Thomas M. O’Leary. The success of the parish only grew in leaps and bounds.

In 1968 under the urgency of his Excellency Christopher J. Weldon to Fr. Raphael Wisniewski the consideration of a new parish building was brought forward. After a vote, the Parish Council decided in favor of the new Parish. For the next year, work on the church was continuous. At 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, July 7 1971 Father Raphael, in solemn procession, transferred the Blessed Sacrament from the old church into the new church for the first mass. The old church building soon became the newly renovated social center.

More renovations were to come with the guidance of Fr. Placid Kaczorek, an extremely motivated pastor who brought much energy to our parish. Rooms in the social center were renovated into classrooms and CCD classes were moved from Chapin School to our Social Center under the direction of the newly appointed DRE Edward Potyrala. In 1997 we were blessed with the arrival of Fr. Benedict Fagone who has guided our parish for over 14 years. It was through his spiritual guidance when he was approached by Fr. James Ahern, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Holyoke, to begin a new era for St. Anthony of Padua Parish by welcoming the Spanish Catholics of the Chicopee area and by starting mass on a monthly basis which turned into, with growth, to a weekly Saturday 6:00 pm mass. St. Anthony of Padua welcomed our brethren with open arms.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell requested all parishes to look within themselves. In 2009 Pastoral Planning was underway. On August 29th 2009 it was announced by His Excellency Bishop Timothy McDonnell that the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Mary of the Assumption in the Willimansett section of Chicopee were to be merged with St. Anthony of Padua forming the new territorial parish for the Willimansett Section of Chicopee. Since that time our parish has seen a growth in spiritual and social activities. Ensuring the future of St. Anthony’s for generations to come.

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