June 18, 2024

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History of St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Beaumont, Texas

Amanda Vessel, “The Making of a Landmark: St. Anthony’s Cathedral, Beaumont, Texas,” Touchstone, vol. XIX (2000), 48-58.

This article explores the history and symbolic and cultural significance of St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Beaumont, Texas. Amanda Vessel asserts that this Catholic Church has special meanings for their parishioners. St. Anthony’s physical appearance is very symbolic. The floor plan is shaped like a cross and the statues and other works of art represent many tenets of the Catholic faith.

Before 1897, and the coming of Father William Lee, the Catholic Church in Beaumont, St. Louis, was very small and Spartan. In 1901, the discovery of oil led to an influx of people and oil-related businesses. As a result, St. Louis became too small to accommodate the increasing Catholic population, and Father Lee proposed building a new church. This church was built according to Father Lee’s design, and it was dedicated in January 1907, in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. Next Father Lee started a new grammar school and the former school was moved to be a convent for the nuns who taught at the schools. Father Lee did not live to see the completion of the grammar school in September 1918; he died in July of that year and was buried in St. Anthony’s at the foot of the altar.

Father E. A. Kelly, Father Lee’s successor, arrived in Beaumont while the city was still experiencing the economic prosperity from the oil boom. He decided to build a new convent for the nuns at a cost of $25,000. More building projects included a brick rectory in 1922, a high school in 1926, and an outdoor recreation area in 1928. In 1937, Father Kelly began restoring and decorating the interior of St. Anthony’s. Father Kelly added oil paintings and stained glass windows at a cost of $32,000. In 1953, a new grammar school was constructed to accommodate an increasing student enrollment. This school cost $400,000 and is still in use today.

Monsignor Kelly retired from his position as pastor of St. Anthony’s in August 1954, and he passed away six months later. His successor, Reverend George Black, constructed a new high school and a new convent in 1961. In 1972, Father Marvin Enderle began restoration of the church’s interior, and he added a parking lot for the church in 1979. In 1995, under Father Beenie Patillo, St. Anthony’s had developed a parish center.

The evolution of St. Anthony’s from a Spartan church to the beautiful structure that is an historical landmark in Beaumont involved many different pastors and generations of the Catholic parishioners. St. Anthony’s is more than a place of worship; the church is involved in numerous aspects of its parishioners’ lives. Thus, St. Anthony’s is very important to the Catholics in Beaumont.