From Scratch: The rebuilding of St. Anthony's

The CCFM (Conference for Catholic Facility Management) Summer 2019 Newsletter features the moving story of returning a beloved sacred space to the community of Schenactady New York’s St. Anthony’s Church.

Schenectady is a small city with no shortage of economic hardship, and like much of America, waning Mass attendance. When a fire ravaged St. Anthony’s Church in 2014, there was a real possibility the church would not re-open. The dedicated parishioners wouldn’t hear of it. The physical presence of St. Anthony’s on Seward Place, and the community created by those who worshiped there, was integral to the fabric of Schenectady.

Fortuitously, the church’s kitchen was not damaged by the fire. Volunteers converged upon that untouched space and got to work baking traditional cookies for the annual Festa fundraiser. As they baked undeterred, clean up from the fire began in the rest of the church. Proceeds from the cookie sales didn’t cover the full cost of rebuilding, but the parishioners’ tenacity was a clear indication to local and diocesan leadership that the church building matters very much in the spiritual life of a community.

Catholic Prudential asked EverGreene to prepare budgets for the conservation and restoration of salvageable artwork and decoration and to replicate murals lost in the fire. Together with these formidable parishioners and community partners, EverGreene was able to create smart implementation strategies that maximized the church’s budget while still honoring the beauty of the former space with the highest quality craftsmanship and beautiful aesthetics.

The highlight of the new liturgical artistry included two murals. The murals of Saints Anthony and Juan Diego were created to honor the church’s Italian roots, as well as, the predominantly Hispanic community it now serves. At the dedication of the new space–a service that was multilingual (English, Spanish, and Italian)–parishioners were able to admire a a restored space that supported the architecture, liturgy, and the diverse community of parishioners.