By Mike Henle
Special to the Las Vegas Review-Journal
After gathering for 10 years at Centennial High School, St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church has a sparkling new home in the northwest valley.
The parish started with 40 families and has grown to 2,000 since and continues to expand.
“It’s a big project,” said the Rev. Robert Puhlman, church pastor. “We had to make some adjustments to get the building project going. We now have 400 kids in faith formation classes ranging from first-graders through tenth grade and we had to take out the classrooms to get the worship center built.
“This has been over the moon. As soon as they opened their doors, Father Gene Kenny was the first priest here. When I became the founding pastor in 2012, I started to tweak it even more. (On opening weekend) we were packed for all of the Masses except for the one that was held during the Super Bowl.
“I watched the expressions on the faces of those in attendance. Everyone that I saw seemed to be saying, ‘Wow.’ People have been waiting for this church for so long, and it’s so good to see it all come together.”
The new church is at 6350 N. Fort Apache Road. The church office will remain at 4275 N. Rancho Drive until March.
With a seating capacity of 800, St. Anthony of Padua was jam-packed during the first Mass that was also attended by Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of the Las Vegas Catholic Diocese. About 2,600 people attended five Masses on the opening weekend. Many had tears in their eyes because a dream had turned into a reality.
Jessica Parrish is ecstatic about the creation of St. Anthony of Padua. Now the director of religious education, the Las Vegas native said, “This is working because we are a tight-knit family. Everyone has stepped up to the plate to help us every Saturday and Sunday so that we could celebrate Mass and run religious education.
“Anytime we needed a parish function, people have pitched in to help. Everything here has always been run by members of our parish. Every single week at Centennial, we had to move things all the time without important elements like copy machines, phones and basic office supplies like pens, pencils and paper. ”
“It’s fantastic to have St. Anthony in the northwest,” said Adele Cornman, another native Las Vegan whose family of six was traveling to other Catholic churches earlier. “There is great history with the new church. Almost everything at St. Anthony came from somewhere else and a lot of pieces have been refurbished.
“For instance, the Our Lady of Guadalupe etching on the door entering the church came from a gentleman who made it in Mesquite. The statue of St. Anthony is more than 100 years old and came from Europe. Almost everything now in the church came from demolished churches in Europe. Everything has a historical meaning and has been refurbished.”
Puhlman likes what he sees at St. Anthony. At the age of 66, the native of Pennsylvania who grew up in Southern California has deep roots in the Catholic Church in Southern Nevada. This particular challenge rates right at the top of his memories.
The priest arrived in Southern Nevada in 2002, working at Our Lady of Las Vegas. He also served at St. James the Apostle church.
In addition, Puhlman served for more than six years at Spanish La Virgen de Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mesquite. He held services in the lounge of the Casa Blanca resort when a church wasn’t part of the culture, so he’s certainly adept creative settings.
The opening of St. Anthony of Padua is only the beginning. The second phase includes classrooms for the religious education program, meeting rooms and a kitchen. The third phase will be highlighted by the construction of the church on the 10-acre site.
Jeanne McFarlane has been with the church since its beginning Oct. 15, 2006 on Rainbow Boulevard.
“This is something that we have prayed and worked for and there is now light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Everyone has been anticipating this for so long. We have all shared in an incredible creation. It’s such a work in progress and we’re so thankful to the priests and parishioners who have all joined together to make our vision a reality.”