Every church has a story. Manteca’s churches are no exception. St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, for one, started as a small frame church that was built in 1916 on East Yosemite Avenue on a piece of land donated by the Bacigaloupi family. The first people to attend Masses at the church were Portuguese dairy farmers who came to this once dry and sandy area at the start of the irrigation district in 1909.
The church on East North Street at the corner of Fremont Avenue was constructed after the original church was destroyed by fire in 1960. When the new church – which seats about 1,000 – was completed, it held the distinction of being the first to be dedicated in the newly formed Diocese of Stockton in 1962.
When the pioneer Catholic church burned to the ground, a story about a miracle that took place that night was retold so many times, firing up the faith of parishioners up to the present generation. In a 2002 book about the history of the diocese, parishioner Babe Gatto was quoted as saying, “We had a little miracle that night. The tabernacle was bolted down, but the priest picked it up and carried it outside. When they went to move it the next day, two men could hardly budge it.”
One story about the former St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the corner of East Louise and Cottage avenues centers on its stained windows. They were the work of two parishioners who were members of the church at that time. This corner place of worship is now known as Saint Mary The Virgin Anglican Church in Manteca.
But two churches in the Family City have stories about their building that are quite unique a few words or even a couple of paragraphs would not satisfy their retelling. That’s the Southside Church of Christ, formerly known as the Locust Avenue Church of Christ, and St. Paul’s United Methodist on the corner of East North Street and Powers Avenue which just celebrated its first centennial.
Their stories are strong reminders that a church is much more than a mere conglomeration of building materials, but a manifestation of faithful people working together and praising God and through the work of their hands.