Our Story

Socializing after mass. Smiles at the sharing table.

Sunday mornings are a joy-filled time for building friendships.
The St Anthony Community, alive today, is optimistically looking to the future.
Come and see how we celebrate our unity in the body of Christ!

Once upon a time . . .

The story of St Anthony’s Seminary, originally founded to train Franciscan priests, goes back to the 1880’s. Our present community had its origins in the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s. In response to the Council, the Franciscan seminary decided to engage the wider Santa Barbara community, opening its doors to them on Sunday for mass. Because of problems in some parishes, groups of Catholic people sought a new place to worship and celebrate the Eucharist, where they could live out the call for reform by Vatican II. They were welcomed by the Franciscan community and began to worship regularly on Sundays with the seminarians in the chapel. St Anthony’s was first established as a school for theological studies in a cloistered environment. Following the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960s, the seminary shifted to the education of high school students who were considering a calling to the Franciscan way of life.

Even after the high school seminary closed in 1987, the chapel remained open to the faithful of Santa Barbara for Sunday mass and the major feast days. When the property was sold to San Roque School in 2004, the Franciscan priests at the Old Mission continued to minister to the community. Fr. Leo Spreitsma OFM served the St Anthony Community, as it is now called, until his retirement in May 2010 for health reasons. This produced a turning point for us, as the Franciscans at the Old Mission could no longer provide a priest to celebrate the Eucharist with us.

Rather than disband, the members of the community chose to continue to worship on Sundays under the leadership of married priests who are members of St Anthony’s. We knew that this would put us in conflict with the official Catholic Church, but it also gave us the freedom to become a new model of Church. St Anthony’s is living its future as an independent “intentional eucharistic community,” seeking to live the Way of Jesus. Fr Leo supported the decision of the community and gave his blessing to our married priests on his final Sunday with us.

And today . . .

St Anthony’s is an inclusive Catholic community where all are welcomed, despite some having called us “apostates” and “rebels.” We exercise Eucharistic hospitality, inviting all believers to share in the liturgy of God’s word, the breaking and sharing of the bread, and the service of others. The members declare it is the Spirit of God who has nurtured and led this independent, intentional faith community from its beginnings, in orthodoxy, to its inclusive services where all are invited to participate in the liturgy led by married priests. We define ourselves as “pilgrim people,” a phrase used by Vatican II to remind Christians everywhere that we are to love all and to serve all following the Way of Jesus. Vatican II quoted the words of scripture, ‘You are the People of God,’ to remind all Catholics that they are the Church. The Church is not just the Pope, bishops and priests, but it is all of us. We are all the People of God and see ourselves as embracing and following the Way of Jesus.

Our focus is on “orthopraxy,” doing what Jesus taught. Creed and dogmatic statement are important, but we will be judged based on how we live, not what we say. We work to live by the values of the Gospels and apply those values to the daily journey of life. The closing benediction of each Sunday’s service sends us forth into the community – local and global – to love and to serve as the Spirit of God leads each of us. Several members go once a week to help with meal preparation at Casa Esperanza and once a month the whole community provides a meal for Transition House. In addition to individual volunteer efforts, the community provides financial assistance to a wide range of charitable needs.

We see our community to be in unity with the whole Church, rooted in the teaching of Jesus and following the Catholic Church from the viewpoint of the Vatican II documents. We recognize that ministry belongs to all baptized persons, not just a clerical caste. Our community recognizes the competencies of all Christian believers to carry out the witness to Jesus. This results in a new spirituality that sees us as adults, able to make sound decisions. Focusing on Eucharistic hospitality and an ecumenical outlook furthers and deepens our understanding of God and our relationship to one another. We say of ourselves: “We are a pilgrim people, a people on the journey, a people seeking truth. As the people of God, we are to be witnesses of Christ who is salt, leaven, and light.”