HistorySt. Anne

1840 marks the beginning of the Catholic faith community in Shrewsbury. Immigrants settled in the area working in the tannery or as farm hands. They were a devout and religious people and traveled every Sunday from Shrewsbury to St. Anne's Church on Gage Street in Worcester regardless of distance, weather or hardship. These old-time Catholics with their deep conviction and commitment were an inspiration to their neighbors. In 1869 the Catholics of Shrewsbury were served by St. Luke's Parish in West Boylston. Mass was celebrated in private homes and at the fire station on South Street.

In 1870 the Catholic people were asked to finance a church of their own in Shrewsbury.  Through great effort these devoted people were able to erect the Chapel of St. Theresa in the center of town in just two years.

Many Catholics were settled in the Lake District and in 1922 plans were made to celebrate Mass for them closer to their homes. The first Mass in the Lake District was offered in a dance hall, Palais Royal. Later, a tent was erected behind the cemetery on the present site of St. Anne's Church and in the winter Mass was held at an old dye building across the street.

In 1922 Rev. Thomas McKoan was named the first resident pastor in Shrewsbury. The town was experiencing sensational growth and the small chapel of St. Theresa was no longer adequate to meet the worship needs of the ever growing Catholic community. In addition to those residing in the center of town, many Catholic families, largely of Italian extraction, had settled in the Lake District. Recognizing the need, Fr. McKoan inaugurated a twin church project.

In the spring of 1923 work was begun on St. Mary's Church in Shrewsbury center and in November construction began on St. Anne's Church in the Lake District. The work was completed in just one year and on August 17, 1924 Bishop Thomas Mary O'Leary, Bishop of Springfield, dedicated St. Mary's Church at a morning Mass and St. Anne's at solemn Benediction in the afternoon.

On March 29, 1950, less than one month after the creation of the newly-established Diocese of Worcester, Bishop John J. Wright elevated St. Anne's parochial status and named Father Thomas J. Smith as its first pastor. Father Smith was an extraordinary priest and administrator. He and his generous self-giving parishioners immediately set to work and in six short years refurbished the church, built a rectory, provided a large parking lot and erected the parish center that bears his name. St. Anne's parish plant is a visible sign of the great value her people place on parish life. Fr. Smith served the people of St. Anne's for 20 years, establishing a strong religious education program and a very viable parish spirit.

In November 1970 Fr. William B. Welz was appointed second pastor of St. Anne. During Fr. Welz's pastorate St. Anne's Human Services was established under the leadership of Elaine LeBlanc. During this time, Fr. Bernard Gilgun also joined the family of St. Anne. The location on busy Route 9, the human service ministry and the influence of Fr. Gilgun all combined to give the parish the identity it proudly holds to this day -- "the parish with a heart."

In 1983 Fr. James A. Lehane was named third pastor of St. Anne. Fr. Lehane renovated the thirty-year old parish center and continued the many education and service ministries that characterize the parish.

In 1989 Fr. Edward J. Moran was assigned fourth pastor of St. Anne. Fr. Moran recognized the need for church renovation.  He wanted to utilize the gifts of Brother Blaise Drayton, a Trappist so he immediately set up a committee and started work.  On February 11, 1990 the newly renovated church with a Blessed Sacrament Chapel was rededicated by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. It is the final church renovation designed by Brother Blaise before his death.

The ecumenical clergy in Shrewsbury determined that they could better respond to the mandate of the Corporal Works of Mercy by combining their efforts.  Since St. Anne had been ministering to the town in this way for more than two decades, it became the distribution point.  St. Anne Human Services Ministry became the headquarters for this town-wide ecumenical endeavor which includes St. Mary, Mt. Olivet Lutheran, Trinity Episcopal, Wellspring United Methodist, First Congregational, St. Nicholas Orthodox and First Baptist Churches. Once again the "parish with a heart" reached out in response to the Gospel.

Two beautiful marble outdoor shrines sculpted in Italy honoring our patron, St. Anne, and our holy Guardian Angels were added to the church grounds in memory of the Defino and Lynch families. These shrines are places of devotion and prayer for the children and adults of our parish family.  In 1994 a carillon was donated to the parish in memory of Christopher Caron and the bells of St. Anne sound out over the Lake District calling God’s people to worship.

St. Anne’s is a singing parish and is blessed with an outstanding organist, Michael Palumbo, and a magnificent choir directed by Victor Kruczynski.

St. Anne’s Church was founded for an immigrant people and in 1995 an immigrant people came to St. Anne seeking a church home. A large community of Brazilian Catholics had settled in the area and needed a place to worship. Fr. Moran and the parish opened their hearts and doors in welcome and the Brazilian Catholic Community of Shrewsbury was born.  These immigrant Catholics graced our parish with exuberant and enthusiastic worship. They enriched our Christian family with a spirit of unity and community.

Since the advent of managed health care our county has experienced a crisis in this area. In 1996, Father Moran was approached by Dr. Harvey Clermont about the possibility of establishing a free medical program at St. Anne to respond to the health needs of the underinsured. Once again, Father Moran called upon the people of St. Anne. Parishioners volunteered to clean, paint, serve as nurses, clerical workers, etc. and in one month’s time St. Anne’s Free Medical Program was initiated. This program has expanded to include psychiatric help, dental screening, and has cared for thousands of people since its inception—another visible sign of the parish’s commitment to the needy.

Another milestone in parish life was the adoption of Stewardship in our parish. The biblical call to stewardship asks us to respond in gratitude to God for all His goodness to us by giving back to Him in Time, Talent, and Treasure. The Stewardship response has enabled parishioners to truly "own" their parish by active involvement. Hundreds of St. Anne’s parishioners serve in Religious Education, as Eucharistic Ministrers, as lectors, as collectors, in youth ministry, as volunteers at Human Services or in the Medical Program, as choir members, as Christian Word ministers, as sacristans, on various parish committees, in R.C.I.A., in marriage preparation, etc. There is no end to the ways people give back to God for all his goodness to them. This "ownership" and love of their church is the greatest characteristic of St. Anne’s.

For many years a painting of Christ, the Good Shepherd graced the back wall of the sanctuary of St. Anne.  This painting was a source of comfort and inspiration to her people. In the summer of 2000 a magnificent stained glass window of the good Shepherd was donated to our parish in memory of the Borgatti family.

The book of Leviticus bids us to make sacred the fiftieth year; to proclaim a jubilee, to care for the poor, welcome the stranger, heal those who are injured and preserve the land. As St. Anne’s Parish enters the new millennium may we continue to respond to the call of the Scripture and walk in the ways of the Lord.


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