On September 6, 2015, St. Anthony’s celebrated its 100th Anniversary, and 25th of the Brazilian Community at Saint Anthony’s. The Scalabrini Fathers, also known as Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, were already established at Sacred Heart Church, North End of Boston (1890) when they started taking care of the Italian Immigrants in Somerville. Reverend Nazareno Properzi came to Somerville in 1914, two months after his ordination in Italy.
After getting to know the people, he rented a store on June 6, 1915, he said his first Mass. People’s response was overwhelming, and the storefront chapel overflowed with congregants. Two months later the Italian Community moved to a larger building on School Street, with space for an office and a residence. Up to this point Fr. Properzi walked from Sacred Heart in the North End to Somerville every weekend for Mass.
In June 1916, Fr. Properzi purchased an empty lot on Vine Street, (today named Reverendo Nazareno Properzi Way). By February 1917, the basement church and a parochial residence to the rear of the church were completed on this side. On February 11, 1917, Fr. Properzi and the Italian Community celebrated their first Mass in the lower church. It rained so much that Fr. Properzi recalled that half of the church was inundated. “The choir could swim”.
In 1921, the lot beside the church was purchased doubling the size of the church. This acquisition made available a large house for the use of the parish. After remolded, it provided a large meeting room and the office while the upper floor became the residence for the pastor.
“On December 21, 1960, Fr. Properzi did not awaken. He was found in his room, pen still in hand, interrupted in his composition of a Christmas carol for violin which he intended to play that afternoon at the school’s Christmas assembly”.
Fr. John Bocciarelli who was assigned to the parish in 1953, and was named pastor on January 5, 1961. Fr. John was well acquainted with the late pastor’s unfinished pastoral program. Fr. Francis Fiorentin who also bought an old building and renovated it as a center and for bingo games to help to defray parish expenses.
During the ’60s six Masses were celebrated each Sunday to accommodate the great crowds; however, by the late 70’s the first signs of reduced attendance and lowering incomes manifested themselves.
In 1989, Fr. Francis ended his eleven years as a pastor and was replaced by Fr. Vincent Monaco. The original Italian population served at St. Anthony’s was dwindling rapidly as people moved to other cities for jobs. During this time of movement, a Catholic Brazilian population started to quickly grow in the Somerville area. On the feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, October 14, 1990, the first Portuguese Mass was celebrated at St. Anthony’s by Fr. Robert Bouffier. SM. Since then, the Brazilian Community has become larger and stronger bringing new hope and vision for the St. Anthony Parish.
Fr. Properzi’s vision and initiatives are still alive at St. Anthony Parish. It is a Parish founded by Italians, sustained by the Brazilian community, welcoming new immigrants, and living in hope and faith to serve the needs of people today. On September 29, a new Scalabrini Assistant and Cultural Center will be opened at St. Anthony. Its purpose is to serve the Immigrants and promote American and Brazilian Cultures in the community.
Today, both Americans and Brazilians joyfully celebrate another milestone of St. Anthony’s, our centennial celebration - 100th Anniversary - and the Silver Jubilee of the Brazilian Community. Congratulation to all!