St. Anthony’s chapel was part of a Franciscan seminary founded in 1880.  Our present community had its origins in the new inclusivity sparked by Vatican II. In that spirit, the Franciscans decided to open their doors to the wider Santa Barbara community for Sunday Mass. At the time, many Catholics were seeking a community where they could live out the Vatican II’s call for reform, and St. Anthony’s was just such a place. 

After Vatican II, the seminary evolved into a high school for young men considering a call to the Franciscan way of life.  Even though 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 until he retired, for health reasons, in 2010.  This was 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 under the leadership of two married Catholic priests who were members of St. Anthony’s. This decision was not taken lightly; we knew it 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 express the love of Jesus in all that we do. Fr. Leo supported this decision and gave his blessing to our married priests on his final Sunday with us.  Since then, we recently ordained our first woman priest.