Rebuilt St. Anthony’s Church Opens Along Sacaton Road

Velia Moncada

Gila River Indian News


A symbol of hope for the Community has arisen on the curve of Sacaton Road: a new church for all parishioners to share God’s word. St. Anthony Catholic Mission Church opened its doors to the public on Saturday, June 8, in celebration of the Catholic community’s hard work and faith in restoring what was lost 24 years ago.


“It’s been a long time coming,” said Lt. Gov. Regina Antone, a four-generation St. Anthony’s church parishioner.

“It devastated the Community,” said Lt. Gov Antone, “so when [Community members] saw this starting to be built, it was bringing everybody’s hope back.”


“We are thankful for all our many donors,” said Lt. Gov. Antone. Donations and funds came from the tobacco tax program, major foundations, church organizations, donations of parishioners who left the church in their wills and  in honor of their loved ones. “This includes the children who collected jars of change, we are grateful to the Community members, and Tribal Council who continued to support this project. Everyone had a hand in rebuilding this and it is truly a Community church.”


The original St. Anthony’s Catholic Indian Mission church was built in the 1920s, under the Diocese of Phoenix. The building was destroyed by an arson fire in the year 2000, creating a devastating loss to the Catholic community. The only element of the original building that survived the fire was the big brass bell that rang in the historic church’s tower.


Now, honoring its history, the bell returned home to the new bell tower of the remodeled and renamed St. Anthony Catholic Mission church. The new church’s architectural elements are reminiscent of the old building, seamlessly blending tradition with modern upgrades and safety measures.


Anthony Jones, Community member from District 1, assisted the church with architectural direction on the project. He said the materials used for the building included Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) block, which provides temperature insulation to the church structure, and Stucco Max material, to protect the building from water and fire.


“We are done, and we are finally here,” said Jones in an interview with the GRIN. “A lot of this journey has ended, but we look forward to the future.”


The church includes hand-painted and culturally connected Stations of the Cross and a Holy Water ceramic basin from Tohono O’odham/Pima-Maricopa watercolor artist and illustrator Michael Chiago.


The celebration included a presentation by St. Anthony’s church parishioner and former Governor Donald Antone Sr., from District 3. Another St. Athony’s parishioner, former Jr. Miss Gila River 2020-2022, and Pacific Regional Representative for the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), Sineca Jackson from District 3 also addressed the gathering.


“Together let’s move forward with hope and excitement knowing that St. Anthony’s church will be source of strength and unity for all,” said Jackson in her speech to church visitors and parishioners.


A video presentation showcasing the church’s storied past and the rebuilding efforts was shown to visitors and Community members in the church’s multi-purpose building. Over a group meal, church members began reflecting on the unity and dedication shown throughout the reconstruction journey of the church. Many expressed their feeling that the new building stands as a testament to resilience and faith, marking a new chapter while preserving the legacy of the beloved church.

The consecration of the new church will be on June 23 in Sacaton.