A Brief History of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish Family
The people of Rocky Point were in need of a church in their area, and with Messrs. George Archibald and Joseph Bongiovanni as their spokesmen they made a request to Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy of Brooklyn, that a new parish be established. This was done in July of 1948 to serve Rocky Point, parts of Ridge and Middle Island, thus separating them from the Parish of St. John in Wading River.
The Rev. Vincent Margiotta was vacationing with his brother Michael, in the Patchogue area in the Summer of 1948, and it was from there that he was called by Archbishop Molloy to be Administrator of the new parish on July 21,1948. Father Margiotta arrived in Rocky Point accompanied by Father Tortora who drove him from Patchogue. He made inquiries on his arrival and was directed to the home of Mr. Joseph Bongiovanni. There he faced the stern facts that there was NO LAND, NO CHURCH, NO RECTORY, and NO MONEY! However, a Fund Raising Committee was quickly formed and Mr. Bongiovanni was named its Chairman. The initial Building Fund Campaign was set in motion by the committee who solicited donations every Saturday night from the patrons of the six Bars and Grills then established in Rocky Point. Perhaps the conviviality of their surroundings helped to open both their hearts and wallets, as their donations were very generous, the Fund Drive realized the sum of $3,700.
Things were beginning to take shape now, and a name for the Parish was selected and sent to the Archbishop for approval. This was granted and the Parish was named and the Church in due course was dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. During the formative period, Fr. Margiotta was pleased to accept the hospitality of the homes of Mr. Joseph Bongiovanni and later that of Mr. Anthony Spasaro.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first celebrated on Sunday, July 25, 1948 in De Bari's Pavilion. The Rev. Dominic Scalfani offered his services for two Masses said on that day. The Pavilion was crowded and continued to be so all through the summer. Mass continued to be said in this building until the end of 1951 Christmas Eve, when the first Mass was said in the new Church Building (now the Parish Hall). Also at that time, the Vincentian Fathers from St. John's University were exceedingly kind to help out every Sunday. All were pleased when Fr. Margiotta was appointed Pastor to our Parish of St. Anthony's.
The new Church was built on ten acres of land bought from R.C.A. Communications for $14,000.00 in 1949, cleared the same year and the building [Church/Auditorium] was built at the cost of $135,500.00. Mr. George Beatty was the architect and Mr. Joseph Bongiovanni, the contractor. A private home was leased as a Rectory and served as such until January 4, 1954 on which date the new Rectory on Church property was ready for occupancy at a cost of $65,000.00 with George Beatty architect and Lynn & Gaias contractors.
Before the Church was built, daily Mass was celebrated in Infant Jesus Church, Port Jefferson thanks to the kindness of the Montfort Fathers. First Friday Masses were celebrated at the homes of Joseph Bongiovanni and Anthony Spasaro. The First Baptism took place on August 6, 1948 at Wading River (subsequent Baptisms took place at Infant Jesus). As mentioned above, the First Mass took place on Christmas Eve 1951. The First Confirmation class, confirmed by Bishop Raymond A. Kearney, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, took place on November 12, 1950: 5 Boys, 6 Girls, 2 Converts.
The Rev. John Mullen was the first assistant assigned to Rocky Point, in the summer of 1950. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Maetta in September of 1950.
In May of 1957 the new Diocese of Rockville Centre was created with the Most Rev. Walter P. Kellenberg as its first Bishop. On July 17, 1958, Bishop Kellenberg gave permission for the Parish to obtain the services of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. They would be required to carry out Census Work, Parish Visitations, Catechetical Work, and start a Kindergarten. On September 5, 1958 we were advised by Mother General Monica Francis, S.A., that three Franciscan Sisters would be arriving in June of 1959.
On September 17, 1959, the long awaited arrival of the Sisters took place. They occupied the old Lutz Homestead on Hazel Road and Sister Anne David was the Superior. Their stay here was short as they moved on October 1, 1959 to a house rented from A F Morace on Queens and Uranus Roads. The Sisters started the School of Religion on October 19, 1959, and on November 4, 1959 the Kindergarten was in operation. Shortly thereafter, the Sisters began taking the Census and this was completed in August of 1961. The Parish acquired another acre of land from R.C.A. for the sum of $1,400, and in June of 1961 the foundations for the Convent were laid. The building was completed in November of 1961 and blessed and occupied on Sunday November 22, 1961.
In January of 1959, the Parish said goodbye to Rev. John Maetta and welcomed Rev. Carmine Prinzo. Fr. Prinzo departed in January of 1960 and was succeeded by Rev. Anthony Savastano, but this too was a short stay and Fr. Savastano was followed by Rev. Eligio Della Rosa.
In October of 1962 , the Holy See named Fr. Margiotta to be a member of the Papal Household with the title of Monsignor. Investiture took place in St. Agnes Cathedral on January 27, 1963 by Bishop Kellenberg.
January 1963 witnessed the burning of the Mortgage. In January of 1965, Fr. Della Rosa was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Belifore, who left the parish in 1968 and was followed by Rev. Joseph Catanzaro. On June 20, 1969 , a very sad day for St. Anthony's, Msgr. Magiotta was transferred to Glen Cove as the Pastor of St. Rocco's Church .
On June 20, 1969, Rev. Francis Mistretta was appointed as the Second Pastor of St. Anthony's, and he immediately started plans for the New Church. While plans for the new church were being made, the members of the P. Vincent Landis Lodge helped out by letting St. Anthony's use their facilities for C.C.D. classes (this was for a period of 2 years). The Groundbreaking Ceremonies for the New Church took place on July 1, 1973, and the New Church was dedicated on April 13, 1975. The Church was built and the Auditorium was improved and the grounds were made more beautiful. Fr. Mistretta also refurbished the Rectory, and he organized the Bingo Game which was played every Friday night and manned by 4 teams of devoted parishioners. However, on February 27, 1976 Fr. Mistretta was called home to the Lord as he passed away.
On March 17, 1976, Rev. Charles Mockevicius was appointed as the Third Pastor of St. Anthony's, and he was installed on May 23,1976. Fr. Charles established a perpetual Novena in honor of St. Anthony and they were held every Tuesday evening at 7: 30 PM. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was reactivated. Portraits of the Founding Pastor (Msgr. Margiotta ) and Fr. Mistretta were placed in the Church, and Chimes were installed in memory of the late Fr. Mistretta. Youth Dances were held in the summer of '76, and were chaperoned by the very enthusiastic cooperative and dedicated Youth Council. Under Fr. Charles a very active and successful C.Y.O. Program was established and runs very well to this day. AA Meetings were conducted in the Auditorium, and the Folk Group was reorganized under Sister Mary Clement. During the period of Fr. Charles’ administration the Church Property was developed for a playing field and dedicated to Msgr. Margiotta, which has been done and is used with great delight all Fall and Spring.
Some of the other assistant priests during the time of Fr. Mistretta and Fr. Charles were: Rev. Edward Shanahan; Rev. Thomas Clarkin; Rev. James Bergin; Rev. Pablo Rodriquez; Rev. John King.
Fr. Charles left St. Anthony's in May of 1979 and was succeed by Rev. Francis X. Gaeta, who arrived with Rev. Gregory J. Cappuccino (5/31/79 to 6/17/87) and this team brought new life to the Parish. The Sisters of the Atonement left the Parish and the Parish Religious Education Program was soon taken over by Sister Phylis O'Dowd of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville. Soon after St. Anthony's Bread was founded (now Parish Outreach) and has had several directors, including Sister Elizabeth Stringer, O.P.. Our current Director is Susan Paulson. The Parish Thrift Shop was established and is staffed entirely by Parish Volunteers. In years to come, there was the establishment of St. Anthony's Small Friars Nursery School, now under the direction of Charlene Davis and her dedicated teachers.
In 1989, Rev. Joseph C. Coschignano became the Fifth Pastor of St. Anthony's. Father Joe has done a wonderful job of keeping the Parish Spirit alive, and during Fr. Joe's years, St. Anthony's saw the completion of the New Parish Center (named in Honor of Msgr. Margiotta). We have also seen the rebuilding of the Shrine Dedicated to St. Anthony, fixing of the Parish Walkways, and the Parish Memorial Walk. During his Pastorate, there was also the successful negotiation (between the Parish, Civil Leaders and. Representatives of the State of New York) for the building, of the Route 25A By‑Pass. And now we have all of the great plans to celebrate our Golden Anniversary. So far we have had: An Opening Mass, Celebrated by Bishop Emil Wcela, Vicar General of The Diocese, and Vicar for Eastern Vicariate this past January. We have had a Women's Retreat and then a Men's Retreat conducted by the Montfort Preaching Team. A Grand Celebration of St. Patrick's Day with a full effort for a good showing in the Annual Parade. A wonderful Parish Picnic in July with food, fun and games. Our 50th Anniversary Dance was celebrated on September 18, 1998. On October 4, 1998, a Closing Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. John R. Mc Gann, the Second Bishop of Rockville Centre.
Associate Pastors in the time of Fr. Gaeta and Fr. Coschignano: Fr. Gregory J. Cappuccino; Fr. Kevin W. Gruber; Fr. John Derasmo; Fr. George Murphy, S.J.; Fr. Julian Cassar; Fr. Michael T. Maffeo, and our Weekend Assistants Fr. Frederic Harrer and Fr. Robert Hyatt.
On September 1, 2000, Fr. Pat Callan was appointed the Administrator of Saint Anthony’s Parish. Followed by Fr. Richard Hoerning on June 26, 2002 and Fr. William Breslawski on June 26, 2014. Most recently, on August 30, 2020, Fr. Lennard Sabio was appointed the Eighth Pastor of our Parish.
This brief history was compiled from the memories of the people of St. Anthony's, and from previous histories written throughout the years of Faith, Family and Love of St. Anthony's.