Anthony Bove was born on May 17, 1877 at Albano di Lucania, Italy, the son of well-to-do parents. After receiving a thorough classical and theological education, he was ordained to the priesthood at the age of twenty-two by reason of his high scholastic standing. Immediately thereafter he came to Rhode Island to do parish work for the state’s rapidly growing Italian population.
His first assignment from Bishop Matthew Harkins was at the mission church in Thornton, that eventually became St. Rocco’s Parish. In 1901, he was given charge of the larger St. Ann’s mission in Providence’s North End. He remained at St. Ann’s as its pastor until his death in December, 1931. During that thirty-year span, Bove built a flourishing parish. He supervised the construction of the present church in 1909 as a replica of the church of Sts. John and Paul in Venice, established a parochial school in 1916 which he placed under the supervision of the Sisters of Mercy, for whom he opened a convent. He also opened a day nursery and established an industrial school at St. Ann’s to give technical and domestic training to his parishioners.
Monsignor Bove’s apostolate was not confined to St. Ann’s. He became to Rhode Island’s Italian-Americans what Father James Fitton had been for the early Irish and Monsignor Charles Dauray had been for the French. He was a founder, an innovator, a builder, and a missionary. During his three-decade tenure at St. Ann’s, Bove also organized Italian parishes in Natick (St. Joseph’s), Barrington (Holy Angels), Warren (St. Alexander’s), North Providence (St. Anthony’s), and Fall River (which was part of the Diocese of Providence until 1904). In addition, he helped to establish an orphanage in the Italian town of Fiumicino.
Bove organized the second Italian-American Knights of Columbus Council in America, published devotional tracts in Italian, and preached in English, Italian, and French throughout the diocese on behalf of his Italian educational ministries. He also lectured in Providence schools on American History under the auspices of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was the first priest to volunteer as a counselor in the state’s juvenile court.
His prodigious efforts earned several honors for Father Bove: In 1921 he was decorated as a Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Italy and in 1925 he was invested as a domestic prelate with the title of monsignor.
In December, 1931, at the young age of fifty-four, Monsignor Bove died of a heart attack, brought on, some said, by the strain of his varied endeavors. He was buried in a grave adjoining his beloved church, there, according to a contemporary account “to remain forever among those for whom he spent all his devotion, ability, and energy.” His untimely death produced a great local outpouring of sorrow and of praise.