Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica
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|St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica|
|Location||700 Jefferson St.
|Affiliation||Roman Catholic Church|
|Leadership||Diocese of Beaumont
Bishop: Most Rev. Curtis J. Guillory
Rector: Rev. Msgr. Jeremiah J. McGrath
Although St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica was built as the first Catholic Church of Beaumont, Texas in 1903, its roots reach back into the nineteenth century. Early history notes that priests riding on horseback or traveling by buggy braved the inclement weather, mud and mosquitoes to minister to the Catholics living in the small community that had grown up around the sawmill and port of Beaumont, Texas. After the railroad came through Southeast, Texas, these missionary priests often used it for travel to Beaumont. The historical records of these itinerant missionary priests reach back to 1853. Saint Anthony’s baptismal register testifies to the first baptism recorded in Beaumont on June 6, 1875. In 1879, Rev. Vital Quinon encouraged the Catholic community in Beaumont to build St. Louis Church at the corner of Bowie and Orleans. This was the first Catholic Church in Beaumont and was a wooden frame structure that could accommodate about three hundred people.
In 1894, St. Louis Church was moved to the square block of property bounded by Forsythe, Jefferson, Wall and Archie. The Catholic history of Beaumont slowly developed until January 10, 1901, the date when the Lucas Oil Gusher burst forth. The economy grew and Beaumont’s population swelled; the small wooden church building could no longer hold the great number of people who lined up to celebrate Mass each Sunday. Rev. William Lee came to the parish in May 1897. In 1901 he drew up plans for a new brick church, the present building. The cornerstone was laid June 1903, but the structure was not completed until 1907. On January 27, 1907 Most Reverend Nicholas Gallagher, Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston dedicated Saint Anthony Church.
The church building has undergone many changes through the leadership of several Bishops and pastors. The first major interior restoration took place under Bishop Christopher Byrne, of the Diocese of Galveston and Monsignor E. A. Kelly in 1937. Stained-glass windows were installed throughout the church and symbolic oil paintings were added behind the altar. With the inception of the Diocese of Beaumont in 1966, St. Anthony Church was elevated to the rank of a Cathedral by Pope Paul VI and Bishop Vincent Harris was installed as the first Bishop of Beaumont. In 1972 Bishop Warren Boudreaux, second Bishop of Beaumont, and Monsignor M. F. Enderle began the second major renovation of this sacred site in conformity with renewal of the Sacred Liturgy following the Second Vatican Council. A sacrificial altar was introduced facing the people, an appropriate bishop’s chair became a permanent fixture in the sanctuary, the art in the sanctuary and throughout the Cathedral was renewed, the pews were refinished, kneelers replaced, carpeting installed, and new acoustical and lighting systems added. Extensive landscaping to the grounds was introduced, the exterior was renewed, the copper dome restored and a 2,500-pipe Wicks organ installed. Bishop Bernard Ganter, third Bishop of Beaumont and Monsignor Bennie Patillo undertook the building of a new Cathedral center and Chapel-Office Complex that was dedicated in 1991. In 1998, Bishop Joseph A. Galante, fourth Bishop of Beaumont, and Monsignor Jeremiah J. McGrath began extensive repairs of the Cathedral. At the beginning of the third millennium, Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, S.V.D., fifth Bishop of Beaumont and Monsignor McGrath began a major liturgical renovation of the Cathedral. On October 17, 2004 Bishop Guillory re-dedicated and consecrated historic Saint Anthony Cathedral.
On July 11, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the liturgical glory and historical significance of Saint Anthony Cathedral by proclaiming it a Minor Basilica. Following a year long Diocesan Jubilee Year celebrating the centenary of Saint Anthony Cathedral, the Papal Decree, Papal Ombrellino (Basilica Umbrella) and Papal Tintinnabulum (Basilica Bell) were solemnly installed on October 21, 2007.
Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica’s Papal Ombrellino (Basilica Bell) was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on May 23, 2007. This half-opened umbrella is constructed of precious red and golden Belgium silk damask. The heraldic shields of The Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, S.V.D., the Diocese of Beaumont and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Anthony are embroidered on the Papal Ombrellino’s flaps. Referred to by a wide variety of names, such as Ombrellino and basilica pavilion, umbrellas (fully opened) were once used during Papal Processions through the streets of Rome to protect the Pope from the weather. Today the Ombrellino is used as a symbol of a basilica’s distinct bond to the Papacy. The Ombrellino stand half-opened in basilicas throughout the world as a way of symbolically anticipating the arrival of the Pope at a basilica, his "home away from home."
The Cathedral Basilica’s Papal Tintinnabulum, was also blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28, 2006 and was blessed a second time by the Pontiff on May 23, 2007. This elaborate bell, cast in Padua, Italy, is housed within a beautiful hand-carved gold gilded wooden Italian stanchion (post) that is decorated with the Papal Keys and Tridendum (Papal Crown), common symbols of the Pope and his pastoral ministry. Also decorating this bell stanchion are three lilies that symbolize St. Anthony’s purity, the Gospel Book and flame symbolizing the eloquent preaching of St. Anthony, and four wheat stalks symbolizing the charity of St. Anthony, who fed the poor.
The clergy and faithful of Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica have continually reached out beyond the confines of the Catholic community to engage in interfaith collaboration in meeting the spiritual, educational, charitable and cultural needs of those who live in America’s Southwest. The historic legacy of the Cathedral Basilica was recognized by the City of Beaumont in 1975 as a heritage site and in 1981 the State of Texas name it a treasured historical site.
Today this sacred landmark and spiritual center stands by the Neches River in Southeast Texas as a testimony to the faith endurance and sacrificial stewardship of early settlers and dynamic Catholic community of this region in the United States.
- Castaneda, Carlos Eduado, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas 1519 - 1957, 7 vols [Austin, Texas: Von Boeckmann-Jones Company, 1936 - 1958]
- Cody, John M., History and Symbolism of Saint Anthony Church [Beamont, Texas: Saint Anthony Parish, 1943]
- Giles, Robert C.; researched by Mary Ann Acosta, and Kenny J. Cluse, Changing Time; The Story of the Diocese of Galveston - Houston in Commemoration of its Founding [Houston, Texas: Most Reverend John L. Morkovski, S.T.D. 1977]
- Caperol, Edythe G., History of Saint Anthony's Cathedral and Parish, Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record and Lamar University, Vol. XV [Beaumont, Texas, 1979]
- Vanderholt,James F.; Martinez, Carolyn B.; and Gilman, Karen A., The Diocese of Beaumont: The Catholic Story of Southeast Texas [Beaumont, Texas: The Diocese of Beaumont, 1991]
- Landregan, Steve, Catholic Texans; Our Family Album [Strasbourg,France: Editions du Signe, and Dallas, Texas: The Diocese of Dallas, 2003]