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
Born Sept. 24, 1884
Died June 18, 1934
Memory of a good wife

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.         
A replica of the Chapel was built on the grounds of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Norwich.  A rededication service was held on Saturday April 29, 2006, with Most Reverend Daniel P. Reilly officiating.  Choir Members from St. Patrick’s Church in Roxbury joined in the celebration.  A gathering of family, parishioners and friends took place in the Parish Hall.  In a heartfelt speech to attendees, I stated that I had experienced the passion, persistence and perseverance which my grandfather must have felt when he built the original Chapel.   The first Feast of St. Anthony was held on Saturday June 9, 2007 and is celebrated each June.

Because of my dedication to keeping my grandfather’s dream alive, I was inducted into the Cape Verdean Heritage Hall of Fame, in Rhode Island on April 5, 2008, along with my grandfather, Joseph Candido Delgado, for our contribution to the history, prominence and heritage of the Cape Verdean Community.   As I accepted this recognition, I expressed, “There could be no greater honor bestowed upon me than to be inducted into the C.V. Heritage Hall of Fame along with my Grandfather, Joseph Candido Delgado.”

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’.
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