St. Anthony of Padua parish was officially established on
May 29th, 1910. In what is now the Diocese of San Diego, previously a part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The first mention of the celebration of Mass in National City was on February 27 1887 in Dranga Hall by Fr. Uback of the Mission San Diego.
Fr. Henry Eummelen was the next priest to celebrate Mass regularly. National City's founder, Frank Kimball wrote in his memoirs:
"Gave for the Altar Cloth for the Catholic Church, 68c.
All the money I had."
After Fr. Eummelen's service at St. Anthony, Mass was celebrated by a priest attached to Our Lady of the Angels parish. The laity were very involved in maintaining the church property and in supporting the priest who came to celebrate Mass on Sundays. In 1913, the pastoral care of the parish was transferred from to St. Rose of Lima parish in Chula Vista.
The first resident priest to serve was Fr. Jose Rosendo Nunez, who rented a house on McKinley Avenue and served from June 1928,
until November 1929. For a time, the parish was again without a resident. In 1935, a fire destroyed the tower of the church building. Augustinian priests from San Diego served the parish until 17 October 1937; they were followed by priests from St. Mary's, National City founded in 1928, as a daughter parish of St. Anthony. In 1944, Fr. James Fitzgerald was named first Pastor of St. Anthony. During his term, Fr. Fitzgerald bought three lots at the corner of West 18th Street and Harding Avenue; and purchased a house to be used as the Rectory and had it moved from corner of Main and 32nd Street in San Diego (Shelltown) to its present location. He served as a Pastor from 1944 until the 261h of April 1948.
Fr. Joseph R. Campo served the parish from 1 May 1948 until the 14th of June 1952. From July 1952, until August 1954, Fr. Richard Lynch served as a pastor. On March 19, 1956, Fr. Joseph Rossell began his long service as Pastor.
Fr. Rossell's time as Pastor was characterized by an active parish life with regular liturgical celebrations and devotions, as well as by a sense of spiritual stability. Much of the current character of the parish is directly owed to the leadership given by Fr. Rossell. In addition to assuring the spiritual and .pastoral development of the parish, Fr. Rossell also saw to the expansion of the church building itself.
In 1956, the first confessionals were constructed in the church; in 1958, the parking lot was black-topped; the shrine Crucifix was constructed in 1959; in 1962, the interior of the church was remodeled; in 1963, construction of the Parish Hall was begun, the enlargement of the church itself was begun, including the addition of a new shrine to our holy patron, St. Anthony, a new altar, sacristy, and the addition of a new organ, donated by Loretta C. Butz, the parish organist. A shrine of the Santo Niño de Atocha was also installed in a side chapel of the church. The beautiful Carrara marble statue of our Lady of Grace was placed in an outdoor shrine area in 1966. In 1971, two new side altars were placed in the church and adorned with statues and religious art brought by Fr. Rossell from his native Barcelona, Spain. Fr. Rossell served the parish until he was forced to retire as Pastor, after having suffered a serious stroke in 1972.
Fr. Omaña succeeded Fr. Rossell as pastor in 1972. During his decade as Pastor, Fr. Omaña promotes parish suppers and parish entertainment events with performances by well known Mexican celebrities, including Pedro Vergara, Cantinflas, Miguel Aceves, las Hermanitas Landin and Hernández, Alvarito, Vicente Fernandez and his accompanist.
Fr. Omaña also had a great interest in promoting schools and training programs for young people in Mexico. He retired in 1982 and lived in an apartment, which he had built by enclosing the balcony of the Parish Hall, until his death in December 1994.
Fr. Vincent E. Lorenz was appointed as Pastor in 1982 and served the parish until his retirement in November 1992. During his year as Pastor, Fr. Lorenz greatly promoted the liturgical life of the Parish. The Forty Hours devotion was a particularly important interest of Fr. Lorenz, as the Guadalupanas Association. Fr. Lorenz also promoted increase in attendance at the parish weekday Masses and began a successful Youth Group for teenagers. While Fr. Lorenz was Pastor the inside church was thoroughly cleaned and painted and ceiling fans were installed. Fr. Lorenz also saw to it that statues of the saints were cleaned and painted. He also installed a set of chimes with the organ and repaired the ramp for the disabled in the chapel of the Santo Niño de Atocha.
Fr. José María Larrañaga succeeded Fr. Lorenz as Pastor at the end of 1992 and served the parish until his bishop recalled him to his diocese in Spain in 1995. His short pastorate saw a remarkable amount of work done on the parish buildings. The outside of the church was re-plastered and painted; a new roof replaced the leaky old one; and perhaps most importantly, the second floor of the parish hall was built, largely with volunteer help and donations of materials. On June 10 and 11, 1995, the annual St. Anthony bazaar (Kermess) was held to great success. The following day, 12tn of June a second disastrous fire struck the church building, burning it into the ground, as stunned parishioners watched in horror. The next day 13th of June the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the Parish Hall, packed with tearful parishioners, the TV media, and reporters. Through our grief, we were buoyed up by our hope to rebuild our church.
Upon Fr. Larrañaga's return to Spain, Fr. William T. Lawson arrived as Pastor on the 1st of September in 1995. Ironically, Fr. Lawson had received his letter of appointment as Pastor on June 13, the very day of the Fire, which destroyed the church, and he watched the TV coverage of the disaster with sense of disbelief. Upon arriving in the parish, the first question, which Fr. Lawson and the community needed to resolve, was whether the parish would continue and be re-built, or whether the parish would be combined with St. Mary's parish and a new church would be built to accommodate both parishes. During this period. parishioners converted the parish hall in to an acceptable chapel for celebrating Mass by installing chairs and kneelers, arranging shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony, and by converting the back half .of the stage into a sacristy, all which served the parish need quiet adequately for the time being Fr. Lawson was helped greatly in the pastoral ministry at St. Anthony by Fr. Peter Borda and Fr. William Dugan, who assisted with celebrating Mass and hearing Confessions.
After a year of demographic research and fund-raising, the Bishop of San Diego Robert Brom, gave permission to begin the process of re-building the church. With help from the diocese, a Contractor (T.B. Penick and Sons, Inc.) and an architect (Scott Thomas of Zagrodnick and Thomas Inc.) were secured to begin the reconstruction process. Following a series of meeting with parishioners, the design of the new church in California Mission style, with seating capacity of 350 (almost three times more than the old church), was accepted. Bishop Gilbert Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego, blessed the site of the new church on the 17th of January 1998; the construction began in February 1998, and the first Mass in the new Church was celebrated on all Saints Day, November 1st, 1998. The new church was formally consecrated by the Bishop of San Diego, the Most Rev. Robert Brom, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12th day of December 1998. The tears of sorrow at the loss of the old church were replaced by tears of joy to have a new church in which to worship God for many years to come.
The new church reflects the beauty of our Catholic Faith, especially as it is expressed through elements of .Hispanic/ Latino culture. The interior walls are decorated with colors and designs in Spanish mission style (by the local artist, Anne Reilly). Ms. Reilly also designed and executed the unique Stations of the Cross. The Altar Crucifix, the shrine of the Holy Family, and the shrine of St. Anthony were all had carved from mahogany by Antonio Galvan, an artist from Tijuana, Mexico and polychrome by Ms. Reilly. The wrought iron screens were made by Salvador Soto. Stained glass windows were designed by the Judson Studios of Los Angeles. All but four glass windows were installed by the end of 1999. The new church was rebuild in Jess than five years by the work of so many parishioners, parish groups and individuals who helped raise money through many fundraising events.
In the last ten years our parish has experienced much joy, loss and growth. Our beloved Pastor Father Lawson passed away after many years of service to us. Since then our parish has been blessed by the shepherding of several priests. Fr. Mike Ortiz, Fr Emmet Farrell, Fr. Higinio Garcia and Fr. José Edmundo Zarate-Suarez (July 2007- present). Each of the priests has been a witness to the growth and commitment of this Faith community.
One hundred and plus years of gathering around the altar and service have passed at St. Anthony of Padua. God grant that by His grace and through the intercession of our Holy Patron, there may be one hundred more.
1928 - Rev. José Rosendo Nuñez
1944- Rev. James Fitzgerald
1948- Rev. Joseph R. Campo
1952- Rev. Richard P. Lynch
1956- Rev. Joseph Rossell
1972- Rev. Robert Omaña
1982- Rev. Vincent E. Lorenz
1992- Rev. Jose Maria Larrañaga
1995- Rev. William T. Lawson
2000- Rev. Mike Ortiz
2003- Rev. Emmet Farrell
2006- Rev. Higinio Garcia
2007- Very Rev. Edmundo Zarate- Suarez