St. Ann Parish Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Love. Community. Family.

"FLORENCE—Ask members of St. Ann Church in Florence to describe their parish in its 75th year, and you will hear words such as “love,” “community” and “family.”

They celebrated the milestone recently with a week of special services, a dinner, and a highly anticipated anniversary Mass and fellowship lunch on Oct. 22. More than 100 people packed the small church for the liturgy concelebrated by Father Noel Tria, the pastor, and three other priests.  After­ward, everyone joined for a group photo and then joyfully crowded into the parish hall.One look around during lunch showed just what makes St. Anne so special to its members. Packed tables were filled with dishes from many differ­ent cultures including traditional Southern food, Filipino, Hispanic and Italian dishes.

People of all ages and many backgrounds sat and ate together, laughed, hugged, and shared stories of their years together.

“If you look around here you feel love, just like I felt the first time coming to Mass here,” said Mae Adams, who joined the church 35 years ago. “St. Anne is a place filled with people who just try to walk in a Christ-like way together every day.”

St. Anne was founded by priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who came to South Carolina in the late 1930s to do mission work in the black community. Oblate priests originally traveled from Sumter to celebrate Mass in Florence, and eventually Oblate Father Daniel F. Foley was given permission to estab­lish a church there. St. Anne was of­ficially dedicated on Oct. 19, 1941, by Bishop Emmet M. Walsh, and Father Foley was the first pastor. The Ob­lates served at St. Anne until 1995.Parishioners say the church may have been intended for the black community, but the congregation quickly became more diverse. Tour­ists of all races often stopped for Mass, and membership diversified as military retirees and people com­ing to Florence for work joined the church. Today, the parish of more than 200 families includes a growing Hispanic and Filipino community, plus immigrants from Asia and East­ern Europe.

When St. Anne first began, the neighborhood surrounding it was quiet, almost semi-rural, full of small houses and families who all knew each other. Now, much of that land has been consumed by the growth of McLeod Regional Medical Center, but memories remain.

Deacon James Johnson stood out­side during the anniversary celebra­tion and pointed up and down Kemp Street, recalling where houses used to be, and how farm animals used to graze on nearby fields. Johnson grew up across the street from St. Anne, and a picture of him as a small child was on display during the celebration.

He started attending St. Anne at age 11, and described coming to the church early on Sundays to light the kerosene heater so the building would be warm in time for Mass.

Johnson told stories about the old neighborhood that surrounded the church before growth changed things. One man ran a sawmill nearby, he said, and one day a blade sprung loose and rolled several blocks, right past St. Anne. “It was a miracle no one was hurt,” he said.

He and others also recalled a small neighbor­hood bakery on a nearby street, and how the smell of baking cookies and bread was a sweet distrac­tion during activities at the church.

Johnson left Florence in 1955 to serve in the mili­tary, and returned to his home parish after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. In 1995, he became St. Anne’s first deacon.

Longtime member Mary West, who also grew up in the neighborhood, remem­bered how Jimmy Burch would cook barbecue in a pit at the back of the church in the early ‘70s and sell the dinners to locals to raise money for St. Anne.

She also has fond memo­ries of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, who served the parish for many years, teaching religious education, running a kin­dergarten for neighborhood children, and helping mem­bers of the community.

West said the sisters would show movies by pro­jecting them on the outside wall of the church.

Currently St. Anne is home to several thriving programs, includ­ing religious education and RCIA, the Helping Hands social outreach, a safety committee, Legion of Mary and an active women’s guild.

The church surroundings have changed over the years, but the com­munity spirit never changes, mem­bers say. Kay Schweers, who edits the par­ish bulletins, has been a member of St. Anne for more than 25 years.

“This church is my family,” she said. “It feels like that to me and so many others because many of us here are transplants from somewhere else. This church literally becomes your family. People check on each other. They care about each other here.”

Source: Christina Lee Knauss. The Catholic Miscellany Myrtle Beach Deanery. Parish Life, South Carolina. November 4, 2016.


St. Ann Parish Celebrates 75th Anniversary


"FLORENCE, S.C. – Beginning Oct. 19, members of St. Anne Catholic Church will celebrate the parish’s 75th anniversary.

Father Daniel F. Foley was the church’s first pastor. He was ordained on May 27, 1940. Father Foley often daydreamed about a grand church, according to research by parishioner Sandy Kiessling. He could visualize a large congregation, a trained choir, an altar and a study club.

He referred to its current location as a “no priest land” and admitted that the church would not have been possible if it weren’t for the financial aid of the Rev. Richard J. Cushing, who was the director of the Boston office of the Propagation of Faith.

Father Foley’s dreams of building a church began following his first assignment. He was instructed to assist the first pastor of St. Jude Church, Father Clarence McIntyre. They began traveling to Florence to instruct a small number of black people in their homes.

Father Foley recognized that the city of Florence had a population of more than 10,000 African-Americans, and there was not a Catholic among them. He began visiting people in their homes. He quickly observed that they were hungry for religion. His first Mass was on Dec. 8, 1940, in the home of one of the parishioners.

On Oct. 19, 1941, the vision of St. Anne became a reality. Father Foley was pleased that day to see the church, which seats more than 100, was full. Many people had to stand during the ceremony.

By November 1942, the small church that started out in the black community had gained 38 members. The church continued to grow as Florence grew. Father Foley saw his congregation increase each week.

Only 2½ years after he had been ordained, Father Foley died. He was 31. He was buried at the Novitiate of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Tewkesbury.

In 1943, Father Herbert Morris was appointed pastor at St. Anne.

In 1961, a rectory and the parish hall were built. The Sisters of St. Mary of Namurs lived across the street from the church. Sisters Teresa Claire, Claire Marie and St. John made home and hospital visits and hosted special classes in sewing, religion and education. They served the neighborhood, and classes were open to Catholics and non-Catholics. The sisters also began their “outreach ministry” by helping the less fortunate throughout the city with food and clothing.

The sisters even held kindergarten classes at St. Anne. A youth group also was formed.

In the year 2000, the sisters left St. Anne. Their work was continued by parishioners.

A second parish hall was built in 1965. Another hall was later built on Dixie Street to accommodate many people who were not able to travel to St. Anne.

The parish will celebrate the anniversary for four days. On Oct. 19, following the rosary at 6 p.m., Mass will be celebrated by Father Art Dalupang of St. Ann in Kingstree. Following the rosary at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20, a Mass will be celebrated by Father Noel Tria, the church’s current pastor. On Oct. 21, following a 6 p.m. rosary, Mass celebrated by former pastor John Zimmerman, a dinner will be held in Father Foley Hall. The final day of the celebration will be held on Oct. 22. A picnic will follow an 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Father Tria." Source: Christine McCormick-Cooper. SCNow. October 7, 2016.




We Remember

St. Ann was founded by priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

St. Ann was of­ficially dedicated on Oct. 19, 1941, by Bishop Emmet Walsh.

Oblate Daniel F. Foley, ordained May 27, 1940, became St. Ann's first pastor.

Fr. Foley's first Mass was on Dec. 8, 1940, in the home of one of the parishioners.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate continued to serve St. Ann's until 1995.

In 1995, James Johnson became St. Ann's first permanent deacon.

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