St. Anne’s celebrates 125th anniversary with $1.25 million addition and a party

ESCANABA – From the ashes of a destructive fire, St. Anne’s Church has risen into a strong, faith-driven community that is now celebrating 125 years with a sparkling new addition.

James H. Garland, bishop emeritus of the Marquette Diocese, presided at a Mass and blessed the $1.25 million addition Tuesday that concluded with a celebratory party for about 400 parishioners at Terrace Bay Inn. The three-year project, which includes a three-story elevator, gathering space and expanded choir loft, was funded through donations by parishioners.

Additional pledges will be used to construct a canopy over the circle drive in front of the church at 817 S. Lincoln Rd.

“It is a tribute to all of you for what we have been able to accomplish with this campaign,” campaign co-chairman Dale Ford told the parishioners.

“We shouldn’t be surprised because that is what St. Anne parishioners do, they respond to the needs of the parish.”

The present church opened April 26, 1953, and a new school was built in 1962. The elementary school closed in 1971 and now part of the building is leased to the Intermediate School District while the parish’s Faith Formation Program uses the rest of the building.

The original church, at 317 S. 8th St., was destroyed in a fire July 15, 1947. The parish hall in the adjacent school basement served as a temporary chapel. It was the second fire in that building, after a 1919 blaze caused extensive damage that was followed by parishioners using a “subscription drive” to raise funds for improvements to the church that included a chapel and sacristy.

St. Anne’s Church was founded in 1887 by French-Canadian members of Escanaba’s St. Joseph’s Church, who wanted to preserve their own language and customs. Rev. Joseph Martel was appointed the first pastor.

Co-chair Ann Ford said “we look back at the last three years with joy and gladness at what has been accomplished. That’s not to say there weren’t some bumps in the road along the way, but Rev. Fran (DeGroot) was always there watching out for the church’s best interest.”

DeGroot and a former pastor, Msgr. Michael Steber, joined the Fords and Bishop Garland in addressing the reception. Two former parishioners who are now priests in the diocese, Ryan Ford of Gladstone and Allen Mott of Escanaba, also spoke at the reception.

Bittner Engineering of Escanaba was the project architect and contractor was Roy Ness Contracting and Sales of Escanaba. Parishioners John Chenier (Kobas Electric) and Rick Prica (N.K. Electric) were the electrical contractors and parishioner Karen Moore was the interior designer.