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Cross is erected at site of early Catholic church

Msgr. Francis B. Pellingrino and Father Edward Metzger erect a cross and bless the sige whe the first Saint Anthony or Padua Catholic Church stood in Helper. The original church was constructed in 1914.

Intermountain Catholic

Local residents accessing the Mountain View Cemetery in Helper on Cemetery Road are noticing a cross erected just off the road in recent days," said Lois Giordano, a member of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in Helper.

She said they ask if there has been an accidental fatality in past years or if is it the burial site of a prominent citizen from years gone by.

Giordano tells them, "Actually the cross denotes the site of the first Catholic Church in Helper - St Anthony of Padua. The original church was constructed there in 1914. The pastor of the parish at that time was Msgr. Alfredo F. Giovannoni.

Giordano said the church burned down in 1934 and the new Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church was erected in Helper on Main Street in 1939. It was believed that the fire was an arson, but nothing was proven. The only evidence of its once existence is the concrete and rock foundation at the site.

"It is upon the concrete foundation that the present cross was erected," said Giordano. "The project for the cross was presented by Msgr. Francis Pellegrino to the Helper Beautification Committee. The committee solicited funds and made arrangements for the cross to be constructed and erected.

Msgr. Pellegrino, now retired and a resident of Carmichael, California, is a native of Helper. He served as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua from 1978 to 1985, for seven years .

"In June of this year on one of his annual visits to Helper, he and Father Edward Metzger, who has been pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua since 2003, were happy to accept the request to bless the cross," said Giordano.

Giordano said the cross was designed and constructed by Jeramiah Garcia and painted by Kirk Mascaro.

Saint Anthony of Padua in Helper, Carbon County was a mission of Price from 1917 to 1944.

Coal was discovered in the Scofield Winter Quarters area in 1877, according to "Salt of the Earth" by Bernice Maher Mooney, author. The narrow gauge railroad of Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad Company was completed through Castle Gate in Price Canyon in 1883. During the decade of the 1880s, Catholic families moved into the area and Bishop Lawrence J. Scanlan sent priests to celebrate Mass in their homes.

In 1908 in Helper, Father James Collins, not to be confused with the priest of the same name who served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Salt Lake City from 1930 to 1957, served Carbon County and organized catechism classes. The first class to make its First Holy Communion in Helper did so on May 30, 1909.

In 1910, Father Anthony Petillo was appointed to serve Helper and the surrounding areas. Saint Anthony Altar Society was organized with Mrs. Phillip McGuire as the first president.

In 1914, Joseph Barboglio headed a drive to raise funds for a church. On ground donated by Helper Real Estate and Investment Company, a rustic brick church of English gothic architecture was completed and named Saint Anthony of Padua. Stations served by Helper were Gold Mountain, Price, Scofield, and Sunnyside in Carbon County, and Thistle and Provo in Utah County.

In 1917, Helper was declared a mission of Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price and remained so until 1944. Msgr. Alfred F. Giovannoni became the first pastor in 1917 until 1930, and remains legendary.

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