Catholics in St. Anthony, Idaho, 1909

I was leafing this morning through Orbis Books’ documentary history The Frontiers and Catholic Identities, when my eye was caught by a reference to St. Anthony, Idaho, the little town where I spent my elementary school years. (My parents moved us out of St. Anthony at the right time to leave me with happy Lake Wobegonish childhood memories of the place rather than hellish hicktown junior high memories. Sorry, St. Anthony–you are what you are.) The historical document having to do with St. Anthony was part of Father Alvah W. Doran’s account of a 1909 missionary tour he made on the coincidentally named St. Anthony Chapel Car. Here’s what he had to say about his stop in the town of St. Anthony:

We could not omit this town, however much work our shortness of time compelled us to leave undone this trip in Idaho. The honor of the Chapel Car’s patron saint constrained us to preach his religion to a community as ignorant of it as they were of how their town received its good name. There are a handful of the very best kind of Catholics here, and the foundations have been dug for a church. We trust that our work will raise it above ground-level soon. St. Anthony, pray for them! […] At this place the opera-house had been lately burned but the Mormons granted the use of their meeting-house. Thursday evening the Mormon choir had a rehearsal, and then remained to sing at our services. (The Frontiers and Catholic Identities, pp. 125-126)

I would guess that the church whose construction he refers to is the same little Catholic church that was standing in St. Anthony when I lived there–and which is still standing there: Mary Immaculate. Here are some photos from the church’s website.

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CIMG1457_op_642x481

The last time I visited St. Anthony, over a decade ago, the church had installed a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe out front–a sign of the times. I knew already (from a Mexican immigrant family I met while volunteering as a medical interpreter at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City) that St. Anthony had experienced an upsurge of Latino residents.

I can’t imagine that the Mormon church I attended while living in St. Anthony is the same one Fr. Doran preached at in 1909, though I wonder if it might have stood on the same site.

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