St. Anthony has been located at the corner of Sixth and Russell streets on Charleston’s west side since 1908, when it was established as a “national” parish catering primarily to people of Polish descent who worked at the Kelly Ax factory on Patrick Street and was first named St. Ladislaus. A decade later, many of the Polish people had moved away and the church was established as a “territorial” parish. In 1920 St. Anthony of Padua became the patron saint of the parish.
In 1922 St. Anthony School was built and opened, with nuns arriving to teach in the school the following year. The parish and school continued to grow in the following decades, highlighted by the 35 year tenure of Father Cuthbert Schoeppner, who served as the parish priest from 1935-1969. The present church was built and dedicated in 1955 and the rectory across the street in 1966.
The school continued in operation with lay teachers until the last of the Stella Franciscan nuns left in 1976. The parish built a new gymnasium / kitchen cafeteria addition to the school in 1981. However enrollment in the school began to decline in the 1990s and the school was closed in 2011. The original building was torn down, while the more recent addition serves as a Parish Center.
From the beginning until June 2015, this parish was served by the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. These friars trace their origins back to St. Francis of Assissi (1182-1226) and were established as a separate branch within the Franciscan Order in 1525. Later the Capuchins were given responsibility for doing the work of the Church first in Virginia and later in West Virgina, where the friars were asked to provide pastoral leadership first at Sacred Heart Church, east of the Elk River in Charleston in 1901 and then west of the Elk River at the newly formed St. Ladislaus parish in 1908.
Many of these friars were immigrants from Bavaria in Germany and brought with them not only the traditional Franciscan values but also an interest in education and Catholic schools. Since the friars returned the administration of Sacred Heart to diocesan clergy in 1980, St. Anthony has been the center of Capuchin Franciscan life in Southern West Virginia.
Given this Franciscan background, it is appropriate that many of the church’s stained glass windows present Franciscan saints. The windows were designed by Father Cuthbert and manufactured by Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios. In the choir loft is a massive stained glass window in honor of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the most popular of Franciscan saints and the patron of this parish.
The nave windows have basic linear structure that is consistent with the modernized Romanesque architecture of the building. On one side are windows presenting St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. Each of these saints in his or her own way reminds us of traditional Franciscan values. On the other side are windows presenting images with special relevance to the time when the parish was being established: St. Ladislaus (a reminder that this parish was once under his patronage), St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902 – The saint of chastity), Our Lady of Fatima (1917) and St. Pius X, the reigning pope when this parish was formed.
In June 2015, the remaining Capuchin friars at St. Anthony were recalled to the Province of St. Augustine in Pittsburgh, PA. The care and leadership of St. Anthony was returned to diocesan clergy at this time. Currently, Father Tijo George from Kerala, India is the administrator of St. Anthony.