History of St. Anthony Parish
From 1905 to 1949
On December 3, 1905, a meeting of the Catholics of Renton was held in Library Hall for the purpose of forming plans to build a Catholic Church. A treasurer, secretary, and a board of trustees of 7 men were elected. Elected were: Treasurer, Thomas O'Brien; Secretary, Mrs. Knolf; and Board of Trustees, John J. Monaghan, chairman, James Donnelly, Mike Mihalcik, Dan Hogan, William Pierce, John Sedlacek, and William Moll. It was decided, subject to the satisfaction of the Board of Trustees, that they would purchase two building lots and would begin to collect money the first Sunday after Dec. 15, 1905. (The above information was taken from a ledger book at Renton Historical Museum. The book was found in a desk purchased by a Mr. Lyonais of St. Anthony, and was donated to the museum).
The first bazaar in Renton drew a large crowd; and $4,000.00 was made. When the parishioners had made enough money, they bought land from Erasmus Smithers, who also donated one lot. Approval to build the church was given by Bishop O'Dea. One Sunday in 1906, a group of men (Mr. James Donnelly, John Sedlacek, Dan Hogan, and John Monaghan) broke ground for the new church. The original church, which stood until the present one was built in 1954, faced Morris Avenue South and was built at a total cost of $3,000.00. It was a wood frame structure building and seated 300 persons.
The construction work finished, Fr. Victor officially retired, leaving the parish without a regular pastor. In 1907, Fr. John Power came from the White River Valley parish to the Renton parish to serve for two years.
Records show the first marriage of a Catholic and a non-Catholic at St. Anthony's was officiated by Fr. John Power on Dec. 25, 1907: Nels Wiberg and Anna Bassen. The first marriage of two Catholics in our Church was officiated by Fr. Power on Jan. 1, 1908: Edward Bassen and Mary Sedlacek.
According to memoirs of pioneers, with no actual dates or records, the first burial at St. Anthony's Church was James Donnelly, one of the founding fathers of the parish.
Fr. M. J. O'Callaghan was assigned to Renton in 1908. Purchasing a lot adjacent to the church, he had a permanent rectory built at a cost of $4,000.00. Fr. O'Callaghan instructed and Bishop O'Dea confirmed the first confirmation class in the church in 1909. A set of stained glass windows in the old building commemorated the event.
With the transfer of Fr. O'Callaghan to West Seattle in 1910, Fr. Joseph Camerman was assigned to Renton. His growing parish, proud of its new church and parish house, enthusiastically began a building campaign to put up a parish hall. This original hall was also a wood frame structure facing Morris Avenue. For the time being, the construction of the hall completed the parish facility. The church, parish house, and parish hall all stood on the ground that is presently occupied by the church alone.
Fr. Matthew Sampson succeeded Fr. Cammerman in 1911. It was during Fr. Sampson's first Mass in Renton that the warning signal was given to head to the hills for safety as the Cedar River dam had burst, and the Cedar River was overflowing. This was quite a dramatic reception for a new pastor. He remained as pastor until 1913 and was succeeded by Fr. N. J. O'Rafferty.
The onset of the First World War was turbulent for both the country and the small parish of St. Anthony. Five different priests served the parish from 1911 to 1919:
1911 - Fr. Matthew Sampson
1913 - Fr. N. J. O'Rafferty
1915 - Fr. Ailbe Heelan
1918 - Fr. Thomas Deere
1919 - Fr. F. B. Klein
Two of these Priests, Fr. Ailbe Heelan and Fr. Thomas Deere, died of influenza three months apart.
Fr. Ailbe Heelan succeeded Fr. O'Rafferty in 1915. It was while administering the Sacraments to victims of the dreadful influenza epidemic of 1918 that Fr. Heelan contracted the disease and died.
October 1918, Fr. Thomas Deere was appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy created by Fr. Heelan's death. However, he too contracted influenza administering the Sacraments to the dying and died. This second vacancy in 1918 was filled temporarily by Fr. F. B. Klein.
The year 1919 marked a dramatic change in the history of our parish. To that time, St. Anthony's had been served by more than 10 priests in a little more than 20 years. However, in the next 54 years of our parish's life and growth there were only two pastors (Fr. William Carey and Fr. Thomas Lane).
In 1919, Fr. William Carey began what was to be a long career as pastor of our growing parish. He served until forced by ill health to retire in 1948. He lived in retirement in Ireland until called by God to eternal life on January 6, 1973.
The 29 years of Fr. Carey's pastorate spanned a time of change for the city of Renton and for the parish. It was during the Second World War that Renton was in transition from the small town it had been during the early part of the century, to the small industrial city that it is today. In the decade of the forties, the population had nearly quadrupled; and there were new needs to be met in the growing area, especially in the facilities of our parish community.
Fr. Carey began to chip away at the debt that had accumulated through the building years of the parish. When the parish was seeing its way out of debt, he began to work toward establishing a parish grade school. Prior to the construction of the school, catechism had been taught by the young ladies of the parish and later, religious sisters from the White River Valley Parish and from St. Edward's Parish in Seattle. In 1925, nine lots were purchased and the Sisters of Charity of Halifax were asked to take charge of the school. Six sisters arrived five months after the groundbreaking in April of 1927. The original six-room school (still standing though incorporated into the present structure by two further additions) was dedicated by Bishop Edward O'Dea on September 4, 1927, and opened for its first students on September 6, 1927. One hundred and two students were enrolled for that school year, ranging from grades one through seven. The most recent building project at the school was the addition of portable classrooms erected in 1993-94 on the school playground. A first convent was built on a site now occupied by an addition to the grade school. The old convent was enlarged once in 1947 in preparation for the enlargement of the school. The convent was finally torn down in 1957 to make place for a new wing of the School. In this year, a new convent was built, which is today the Parish Ministry Center.