The Chapel My Grandfather Built
By Roberta J. Vincent
“Life Is Not Measured By The Breaths We Take … But By The Moments That Take Your Breath Away” For me, it is the story of the blessing, destruction and rebirth of St. Anthony Chapel, the chapel that my grandfather built.
Nestled between lofty hills in the easterly section of Norwich, St. Anthony Chapel was erected. It was the pious ambition of Joseph Candido Delgado, my grandfather, who during his youth wanted to become a priest.
My grandfather had a day dream one day, saw the Chapel and built
it according to that image. With his own money and manual labor, he
erected the Chapel. Because of his devotion to Saint Anthony, he
dedicated the edifice to this great Saint of Padua, Italy. The
inscription over the door of the Chapel says (in Portuguese), “A Chapel
to St. Anthony, baptized 4th day of July 1926”.
The interior of the Chapel was 16 ft. long, 9 feet wide. Statues
of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Anne and St.
Therese surround the altar. A barber, my grandfather cut down a barber
pole, painted over the red stripes in white and used it as a base to
hold the crucifix, which stands at the front of the Chapel. Tiny
framed drawings hung along the wall depicting the 14 Stations of the
Cross. The statues and other icons were given by friends as gifts.
When my grandfather died in 1967, the funeral train drove by Talman
Street, past the house and St. Anthony Chapel. Since 1926 and until
the day of his death, the Chapel was never locked. Sadly, in the
years between 1926 and 1976, the Chapel had fallen is disrepair.
Through fund raising efforts, the Santiago Society and its members
completed the restoration of the Chapel. On July 30, 1977, the Chapel
was blessed by the Most Reverend Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Norwich,
along with Reverend Thomas Bride and neighboring priests.
On August 6, 2003, St. Anthony Chapel was listed on the State
Register of Historic Places by the Connecticut Historical Commission.
The Chapel, which had fulfilled my grandfather’s dream, has become a
symbol of the arrival, establishment and settlement of the Cape
Verdeans in the City of Norwich and a source of pride for the man who
left such a priceless legacy.
On October 29, 2004, my heart broke as I watched St. Anthony Chapel
being razed. Thankfully, the Chapel’s measurements were captured by the
late Architect Richard Sharpe and materials were saved and stored by
Norwich Public Works. Norwich City Officials, residents and members
of the Cape Verdean community were committed to finding a new home in
order to reconstitute the Chapel.
When the Chapel was razed, a wood carving was found underneath, which appears to be a headstone which my Grandfather carved in memory of my Grandmother:
Mrs. Geraldine Delgado
Today, this sits in the Chapel.
A Non-Profit, 501©3, Exempt Organization, “A Capela do Santo
Antonio, Inc.”, was incorporated to allow the Organization to apply for
Grants and accept personal donations. While I led the effort to raise
funds to rebuild the Chapel, Project Manager Alfred H. Gonsalves, who
referred to the work as “A Labor of Love” started building a replica at
his home. As pieces of the structure were delivered to St. Mary’s
Church grounds, fellow Cape Verdeans and other skilled laborers
completed the Chapel.
In 2010, the Chapel Organization awarded its first Scholarship to an NFA graduating Senior. Throughout the year, several events are held to raise monies for the Scholarship Fund as well as keeping the Chapel open. For instance, on Saturday May 21, the Chapel Organization will pay Tribute to the Legendary Blues and Jazz Pianist Tommy Simmons Jr. at the Norwich Arts Center's, Donald L. Oat Theater, and on Saturday June 18, the Feast of St. Anthony will be celebrated at St. Mary's Church 70 Central Avenue in Norwich at the 04:00 p.m. vigil Mass. The Cape Verdean Choir from St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury, MA will take part in the celebration; the Bread of St. Anthony will be distributed to all and lilies will be placed with the Statue signifying St. Anthony's purity.
Our mission is to perpetuate the understanding of the Cape Verdean Culture as it relates to the Eastern CT Community and to share the “Dream“ of a Cape Verdean immigrant; St. Anthony Chapel. And every day that I see the Chapel, I think of my grandfather, a man with a dream, and how I became a part of his dream by my working to keep this wonderful Chapel ‘alive’.
As profiled on GRACE magazine website, www.graceforwomen.com