“A Light on the Hill for 110 Years and For Generations to Come” by Dick Malloy for the St. Anne 110 Year Celebration
1908 – 1939: Founding the Parish: Building a Church, a School, and a Community!
In the early 1900s the light on the hill was just a glowing ember, waiting to be fanned into life. At the time, Queen Anne Hill Catholics were members of Sacred Heart Parish at the foot of The Hill. But it wasn’t enough. They wanted a parish of their own and when 40 families petitioned Bishop O’Dea, he named Redemptorist Fr. Patrick Byrne to found St. Anne parish. Fr. Byrne bought the property, but became too sick to start the church. That task fell to another Redemptorist, Fr. Joseph Chapotan, who became the first pastor of St. Anne Parish. The light was growing stronger.
As a pastor, Fr. Chapotan trusted in God for direction and strength. Slowly the wood frame and stucco church rose toward the sky. By the time it was finished, it cost $25,000. On December 20, 1908, Bishop O’Dea dedicated the church and Fr. Chapoton said the first Mass. The church could seat 400 people and the rectory was a room at the back of the church.
Meanwhile, Seattle continued to grow and Queen Anne Hill grew right along with it. The private economy roared during the 1920s with expanding Pacific trade and St. Anne became a mainstream parish – a Light on the Hill. Optimism was sky high. Women voted for the first time, Lindberg conquered the Atlantic and with Boeing cranking out new airplanes, the sky no longer seemed the limit. But the 20s were full of challenges for St. Anne’s. It was off the ground but just barely. It had a church that was falling apart, and to be a viable parish it needed a school. And that meant it needed a convent for the Holy Names sisters, the teachers.
It was a daunting task, requiring a pastor with vision and the grit and determination to keep the parish moving through the Great Depression. St. Anne’s got its man with the legendary Fr. Thomas P. Quain who built, re-built or planned to build every existing structure except Banchero Hall. Under his guidance the school was completed on time and under budget for $25,000. Finally, it all came together. Five Holy Names Sisters arrived in August, 1923 and the doors of the school were thrown open. The school was an instant success. When it opened on Sept. 3 1923 with 150 children the sisters had to order more books.
Next, the parish needed a convent. It would be unthinkable for nuns to live anywhere except in a convent and construction began in June, 1930. When completed it was described in newspapers as “a miniature monastic church of jewel-like artistry.” Fr. Quain said the first Mass in the chapel the day before Christmas. By then some 30,000 people called Queen Anne home and The Hill was becoming a great place to live and raise a family.
But there were storm clouds on the horizon. The Great Depression triggered by the stock market crash of October 29, 1929 hit the nation – and Queen Anne – hard. But Fr. Quain kept St. Anne’s going – probably by the sheer force of his will and the prayers and generosity of parishioners. And as the 30s wore on, it began to look like prayers were being answered. FDR was the president and the New Deal put people back to work. Good times were coming again.
They were not to last long, however, as the rumble of war became louder and louder, soon engulfing the nation in a devastating world-wide conflict.
1940-1970: War, Growth and a New Church
War! It shocked and outraged the U.S. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor “a day of infamy” the nation declared war on the Empire of Japan. Thousands of men enlisted and women joined the workforce to assemble tanks, ships and airplanes in local factories. Life changed overnight, from the relative calm of the 1930s to the feverish war effort of the 40s.
St. Anne Parish got swept up in these changes, but Father Quain provided strong leadership, throughout the 40s, guiding the parish with a firm hand and a lively Irish wit. Meanwhile, the parish desperately needed a new church to house the growing number of families attending Mass. The 1950s were challenging times for St. Anne’s. It needed – and built – a school hall/gymnasium and the largest building project in its history: a new church. Sunday Masses were held upstairs and downstairs in the old church – it was literally bursting at the seams.
December 22, 1959 was a sad day for St. Anne’s – the day Msgr. Quain died. While the parish mourned the loss of its legendary pastor, the Archbishop – and the Holy Spirit – kept the “Light on the Hill” burning brightly with the arrival of a new pastor. Fr. Bernard Cremer was appointed to be the fourth pastor of St. Anne’s. He had big shoes to fill, but he wasted little time, cranking up a financial campaign to raise funds for a new church – which cost $611,520.
With the help of 260 campaigners who called on every St. Anne household – and Fr.Cremer’s favorite saint, St. Polycarp – the funds were gathered. The pastor asked parishioners to remain at home until they were called on that afternoon. The campaign was a big success and work on the church began in April, 1962. Thirteen months later, the church was dedicated by Archbishop Connolly. Fr. Cremer would serve as St. Anne’s pastor for 13 years. Many parishioners have fond memories of him, often recalling his love of flowers. Roses planted on the east side of the rectory still bloom.
The 1960s erupted as a volcano of change, protest and challenge. It was the era of the Second Vatican Vatican Council, which profoundly transformed Catholicism. Pope John XXIII said it was called “to allow fresh air in.” By the end of The Council, the church as many had known it had irrevocably changed. Gone was the Latin Mass, the priest faced the congregation and spoke in English. Gone were the Communion rail, and most cassocks and habits: Many priests and nuns began wearing contemporary clothes.
In 1973, after 12 years with Fr. Cremer, St. Anne Parish was assigned a new pastor, Fr. Richard Stohr. He was a “doer,” founding CYO in the Archdiocese, the Lazarus Day Center for the homeless and, after leaving St. Anne, the prison ministry at the reformatory in Monroe. He might best be remembered for introducing that most Catholic of institutions – Bingo. (Bingo was eventually abandoned after a parishioner with the evening’s receipts was shot on the school steps.)
Seattle was in the doldrums in the 70s, but this didn’t last long with homegrown companies such as Microsoft eventually transforming not only the city, but the way we communicated and conducted business. And St. Anne got caught up in the heady growth of the 80s that turned a sleepy port town into a bustling, thriving international metropolis.
1980 – 2008: An Eruption of Change, Priestly Revolving Doors, Renovation
With a bang heard around the world, Mt. St. Helen’s started the 80’s with a massive eruption, killing 57 people and causing untold massive amounts of damage. Seattle’s growth was explosive, too, though it had the nation’s fourth highest unemployment rate. But the good times were coming, driven by Boeing’s new jetliners, Microsoft and other high tech companies.
Before long St. Anne was struggling to cope with growth, too. Meanwhile, there was a priestly parade of pastors. Fr. John Horan was the pastor in 1976, with a long-haired assistant named Fr. Tony Haycock, the singing Irishman. In 1983 Fr. Ed Norris, remembered for his dramatic homilies, took the reins. Then came the priestly “musical chairs” – four pastors in four years. First Fr Jim Mallahan, always good for a laugh, followed by Fr. Dick Basso – the first Italian pastor – who lasted one year. In 1994 Fr. Kevin Moran came to St. Anne’s, who launched a building program to modernize St. Anne’s. Unfortunately, there were too many choices and too little leadership and Fr Moran left in 1996, saying “This parish and I just don’t dance well together.”
Who would lead St. Anne into the future? The answer was Fr. Bob Camuso, a priest with a business background. He brought common sense, business savvy and taste for the aesthetic to a parish that sorely needed stability and leadership. He quickly went to work on the most ambitious building program in decades. Under his leadership, the parish launched a successful campaign to raise the funds to completely renovate and remodel the church, the school and build a new parish hall/gym.
In addition to his priestly duties, Fr. Bob began a Catholic radio program heard on stations from Seattle to Louisiana and from Texas to Toronto. His reassignment took many parishioners by surprise. Who would take on the leadership of the parish and build on the successful renovation of the school? In 2005 Sister Marilyn Geiger was the first to take over and kept the planning process moving forward. Then progress went to warp speed when Ron Ryan was appointed Pastoral Coordinator in 2006. Under his leadership, the parish raised the funds to both renovate the church and reduce the remaining debt from the school and hall projects.
While the church was undergoing physical changes, so was the parish leadership structure. In 2005 archbishop Alex Brunett appointed a lay pastoral coordinator – not a pastor – and a parochial vicar, Fr. Paul Pluth who served from 2005 to 2008. Fr. Pluth had experience with this leadership model in two other parishes and said and said it worked out well. In July 2008 Fr. John Bowman, famous for passing out candy bars to kids, became our parochial vicar. Today Fr. Tony Bawyn is our parish priest.
Early in 2008 St. Anne began the celebration of its centennial – and the renovation of the church. The church was cleared out so construction could begin and mass was held in Banchero Hall that summer. The work included replacing the roof, installing two skylights, constructing a nursery, separating the two transepts to form a day chapel and a narthex, creating a Eucharistic chapel, a new baptismal font and painting the walls and ceiling. Later, marble flooring and terrazzo pathways were installed from the new south double doors to the altar. Everybody loves the baptismal font with its “living water” gently pouring over the sides. New circular pews focus attention on the beautiful new marble altar. Most people were delighted with the results.
In honor of St. Anne Parish’s Centennial year, 13 parishioners set out for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2008. The Centennial Pilgrimage spent weeks before the journey prayerfully preparing. Some went with specific intentions for themselves, but all also went as a pilgrimage for our parish – praying that our community might be blessed and renewed. A similar pilgrimage was held in the spring of 2017.
St. Anne Parish began its second century on Sunday, December 14, 2008 with a joyous dedication of its newly renovated church led by Archbishop Alex Brunett. “This is a phenomenal achievement,” the archbishop said in his opening remarks. The clergy for the Mass of Dedication and Centennial Celebration included the Archbishop, “native son” Fr. Paul Magnano, the Archbishop’s Vicar for Clergy and Fr. Steve Sallis, St. Anne Priest Moderator. Ron Ryan, St. Anne Pastoral Coordinator, also participated in the Rite of Dedication.
After communion and the closing prayer, the Archbishop said, “It’s a very nice thing, this 100th anniversary. You should go home and say, ‘I was here for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of our parish community.’”
Now, you can go home and say, “I was here to help celebrate the 110th anniversary of St. Anne Parish.