About Our Parish

The Roman Catholic Parish of St. Athanasius, founded in 1960, is a suburban, archdiocesan parish located in Reading, MA. The parish is a multi-ethnic, socially, culturally, and educationally diverse faith community.

Our History

Our parish, under the patronage of Saint Athanasius, a third century Bishop, was founded in 1960 to serve the spiritual needs of the growing east side of the Town of Reading. Originally 250 families we have grown to over 1900 households. This includes many who, although outside of the geographical boundaries of the parish, chose Saint Athanasius as their primary parish because of its particular style of worship, the warmth of its welcome and many of the ministries available for service.

St. Athanasius Church was designed by the architectural firm of Louis A. Scibelli and Daniel F. Tully in 1959. The church, when designed, was the largest "Hyperbolic Paraboloid" roof shell in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps the world at that time. It's stained glass windows were fabricated by Tolleri of Florence, Italy from the designs of Scibelli and Tully. The original altar was designed to be in the abstract form of an Alpha and Omega symbolic of the quote in the gospel "I am the beginning and the end." The "screen" [the lattice wall, no longer there] between the seats and the inner lobby was specifically designed to provide insight to the constant change once felt by the churchgoer on entering thru the front doors into the compressed space of the Narthex. [St Malachy's in Burlington and St Timothy's in Norwood were also designed by Tully.]

The Crucifix was sculpted by Italo Bernardini as a labor of love. On being given the commission to sculpt the Crucifix, Italo started mauling many ideas in his mind. Tens of sketches, carbon drawings, Scripture readings. In the end he determined that the figure of Christ on the cross was to signify victory over death, a step towards resurrection.

And then he faced the imposing challenge of size. (30 –foot high cross, with the 15-foot figure of Christ). A centuries–old method was used in the creation of the statue. A solid block of wood was produced by gluing smaller planks together.

The studio ceiling could not accommodate the huge raw material from which the Christus would emerge. The wooden block was laid on the floor and Italo literally labored over his massive work. Italo gave it shape by first brandishing axes and saws, then refining it with his heavy metal mallet and razor sharp chisels. To his intimates he would reveal that his toil was in reality a continuous dialog with Jesus – a way he liked to pray. He had to climb a ladder to be able to assess from above the progress of his work.

He strived to impart it a dynamic movement in space around a vertical axis, with an upwards thrust of the body, intended to signify the bursting open the confines of death. The end result was an imposing work, beautifully located in the church, apt to convey a message to the faithful as well as to complete the aesthetics of the striking and daring architectural church design.

Here are some of the architectural Plans for the Original Building of St. Athanasius Parish: Drawing of the Church Drawing of the Site Here are some photographs of Italo Bernardini working on the sculpting of the Crucifix.

Excavation began in 1960, the construction continued for about 16 months with the dedication by Cardinal Richard Cushing of St. Athanasius Parish in 1962: Dedication Of St. Athanasius

Patron Saint - Saint Athanasius

St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under the eye of Alexander, later Bishop of his native city, he made great progress in learning and virtue. In 313, Alexander succeeded Achillas in the Patriarchal See, and two years later St. Athanasius went to the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, he became a deacon, and even in this capacity he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy of Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373. St. Athanasius was a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

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Pastors of Saint Athanasius

Rev. Dennis J. O'Leary

Rev. Dennis J. O'Leary
Ordained May 25, 1934
June 19, 1961 to October 3, 1968
R.I.P. on October 3, 1968

Rt. Rev. Russell J. Collins

Rt. Rev. Russell J. Collins
Ordained December 8, 1937
October 22, 1968 to December 15, 1987
R.I.P. on June 3, 2007

Rev. Francis C. O'Hare

Rev. Francis C. O'Hare
Ordained July 16, 1951
December 18, 1987 to June 30, 1997
R.I.P. on May 9, 2008

Rev. Thomas D. Conway

Rev. Thomas D. Conway
Ordained February 2, 1960
June 30, 1997 to September 12,2005
R.I.P. on October 25, 2009

Rev. William T. Kremmell

Rev. William T. Kremmell
Ordained May 26, 1966
September 12, 2005 to June 27, 2010

Rev. Darin V. Colarusso

Rev. Darin V. Colarusso
Ordained May 26, 2006
Current Pastor


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