Saint Anthony School History
In 1893 and 1894, the first Catholic Church in Loyal was built under Father Daniels, who was also the pastor of Hewitt. He commuted back and forth by way of the railroad. This church had a capacity of 225 and was built at the extremely low price of $1500. This cost was made possible due to the generous donation of land, lumber and the "high altar” by Balthasar Christman. The first Catholic church of Loyal was called St. Balthasar Church. Mass was celebrated in Loyal every second Sunday until 1902 when a pastor, Father G. Burkard was appointed for the 72 families of Loyal. In 1902 and 1903, Fr. Burkard supervised the building of a rectory. He was succeeded by Fr. August Douvan in 1906. In August of 1908, Father Joseph Stenz arrived and remained for 22 years. He saw a need for a parochial school and had it built in 1909. The school was opened in January or February 0f 1910 with 100 pupils taught for the balance of the school year by two lay teachers, Eleanor Atteln and Marvel Devlin. In the fall of 1910, two sisters came to Loyal from St. Rose Convent in LaCrosse; Sister Ambrose and Sister M. Engratis. In 1912, there were four sisters.
Fr. Stenz saw St. Balthasar School grow from a two room school to a three room grade school with a one room high school. Gladys Ryan remembers how the children carried wood up to the sisters’ quarters on the top floor at recess and were rewarded with cookies from the sisters. She said the children would slide down the hill from St. Balthasar’s School across Main Street and down to where North Side Elevator is now. There were so few cars that safety was not an issue. The children were not allowed to step on the lawn, so the girls played on the church steps and the boys played in two vacant barns, located south of where the convent now stands. The barns belonged to the Christman brothers, who were uncles to Richard Andraska. She said there was a farmer across the street where the elevator is now and he had a big bull staked out by the fence.
In September of 1930, Bishop McGavick sent Father Anthony Aurit was pastor of this 170 family parish. The two year high school was discontinued and St. Balthasar Grade School opened with 116 pupils.
On April 13, 1931, ground was broken for a new church to be built on the site of the old one. While the church was being built, services were held in a chapel in the school basement where the weekday services were held since 1919 after remodeling the school basement getting rid of the bowling alley.
On June 14, 1931, the Very Rev. John Kaiser, dean of the district, conducted the ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone. On November 1st, All Saints Day in 1931, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church with a seating capacity of 500.
The new church was dedicated on May 2, 1932 by Bishop McGavick and was given the new name of St. Anthony of Padua. Balthasar, Melchior, and Casper were names given to the Three Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on that first Epiphany. However, there is no historical or biblical proof that those were the names of the Three Wise Men. So, Bishop McGavick changed the name of our church and school to St. Anthony of Padua.
St. Anthony of Padua was a poor Portuguese friar (religious brother) who attended a meeting with St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in 1221. At that time, of course, he was unknown, but through his goodness, God gave him an unusual ability to preach. Because of his sanctity, he became known as “the eldest son of St. Francis.”
For nine years he turned men’s hearts to God by his work in France, Italy and Sicily. He worked many miracles, but one is especially famous. One night, when St. Anthony was staying with a friend in the city of Padua, Italy, his host saw brilliant rays streaming under the door of this room. Looking through the key hole, the host saw a little child of great beauty standing on an open book on the table. It was the Christ Child clinging with both arms around St. Anthony’s neck.
Our patron saint died suddenly in 1231. Children ran through the streets of Padua shouting, “Our father, the saint Anthony, is dead.” Anthony was canonized in Rome the following year. We celebrate his feast day on June 13th. St. Anthony is commonly referred to today as the “finder of lost articles”. Our church and many other churches have a statue of St. Anthony holding the Christ Child.
Between 1938 and 1950, Father Zinthefer lead the way to obtaining various parcels of land to provide parking space and a much expanded playground area for the school.
In 1952, all four rooms of the school on the first floor were crowded to absolute capacity and it became necessary to remodel the building to make four large rooms. The sisters were moved to a newly constructed convent just west of the school building.
In 1963, an additional school building was built by Father Norbert E. King just north of the original school. Today, that building has three classrooms, the library and the multi-purposes room. These two buildings are connected by “the breezeway”.
Father Roman F. Kaiser was the pastor for St. Anthony Church and spiritual director from 1990 to 2008. His presence in school was a motivating factor and his spiritual insights are still alive in the minds and hearts of all.
Descendants of Mr. Christman are still active members of our school and parish. Balthasar Christman’s daughters are grandmothers to Clemens, Richard, Lawrence Esselman, Mary Ann Beaver and Joan Knack. Charles Esselman and Richard Andraska are both deceased. Great, great-grandchildren of Balthasar Christman attending St. Anthony School now include Katlyn Lindner, Cassie Esselman and Jennifer and Matthew Szymanski. St. Anthony School welcomes everyone to come join our education family.