READING -- The year was 1961, and a new parish was opening in Reading. Excitement filled the air, and Anthony Rickley was there.
“I attended the first Mass, even though at the time I wasn’t a parishioner at St. Athanasius,” he explained.
Four years later, Rickley would become a parishioner at St. Athanasius -- and he’s been very involved ever since. Rickley has been a lector since 1965 and an extraordinary minister of holy Communion since 1973 -- even helping to coordinate them for 20 years. In addition, Rickley has served on the finance committee, the building committee and several other fundraising efforts over the years.
Together with his wife of 63 years, Ellen Rickley, he was a member of the parish choir for 25 years, although both husband and wife are no longer involved in the parish music ministry.
And at 88, “I am probably the oldest altar server in the country,” he said with a smile. Rickley helps his pastor, Father William Kremmell by serving beside him at funerals and other special Masses.
“I’ll continue doing it as long as I don’t stumble and fall,” he added.
His faith has also influenced other facets of his life. For the past 35 years, Rickley has frequently been the person to lead the opening prayer at Reading’s biannual town meetings.
Rickley, a retired electrical engineer and World War II veteran, can pinpoint the reason he became so involved in his faith -- his first pastor, Father Dennis O’Leary.
“He is why I got so involved in the Church and why I love St. Athanasius. There was just something about him that drew you to God,” he recalls.
“Faith is probably God’s greatest gift,” he continued. “I’m so grateful for my faith. I can’t imagine my life without it. Life without faith in God leaves you with only the earthly things and earthly things are fleeting.”
Rickley went on to fondly recall each pastor he has seen serve at St. Athanasius, including the current pastor, Father Kremmell.
“When [Father Kremmell] first came, he told us, ‘As a pastor I consider myself as your religious presider...but it is your parish. Many of you were here before me, and many of you will be here long after I am gone.’ I really admired him for that,” he recalled.
However, when asked about the state of the parish community, Rickley noted that although the parish population has grown, the percentage of families that are actively involved in their faith has diminished considerably.
“When we first started in the parish, we had 250 families, and 249 of them would come to every Mass,” he said. “Now it’s not like that anymore.”
Even so, Rickley added, “ours is the most wonderful and dedicated, loyal and supportive group of people a parish can have.”
“We may not make the Church rich,” he said, noting that, “Reading is not exactly an affluent community, but the parishioners are generous and we keep it running.”
St. Athanasius Parish, Reading
Year Established -- 1961
Pastor -- Father William T. Kremmell
Permanent Deacon -- Neil Sumner
Pastoral Associate -- Dorothy Parker
Religious Education Directors -- Nancy MacAllister, Jennifer Campagna
Music Director -- Marcia Cutlip
Office Manager -- Helen Gibbons
Administrative Assistant -- Diane Bukowski