Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 15

Journey of St. Anna’s continues

Posted By November 15, 2012 | 1:09 pm | Lead Story #1
stanna1724WEB

By Michael O’Connell and Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondents

LEOMINSTER – Seven weeks before St. Anna’s Parish draws the curtain on the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of its church, retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly urged parishioners to not only draw inspiration from the past but to look forward to a bright future.
“We all should be looking forward to a wonderful 100th anniversary,” Bishop Reilly told 200 people at Mass last Saturday afternoon.
“Many of you will be there. … Let us keep this parish strong, so 25 years from now we can have as fun a celebration as we’re having today,” the retired bishop said.
The Nov. 10 celebration followed a series of events that have energized this parish community all year long. St. Anna’s hosted a Sweetheart Cupcake Walk last winter, a dedication ceremony with Bishop McManus in the spring, and a pair of events in the summer: a novena to St. Anna with retired Bishop George E. Rueger and a Taste of Italy feast.
On this cool fall afternoon, parishioners gathered outside the church prior to the 4 p.m. Mass for a ceremony dedicating a stone walkway built this year and a newly installed monument commemorating the 75 years since the first Mass there.
Father James B. Callahan, pastor, described the walkway as “a reminder that we are all on a journey” and the monument as “a reminder that Christ is the cornerstone of the church.”
Following the Mass, Father Callahan hosted a dinner celebration at Wachusett Country Club.
In his homily, Bishop Reilly paid tribute to parishioners from St. Anna’s past dating back to the Depression Era when the church community was built.
“Those were challenging years,” Bishop Reilly said. “But the people were determined. They wanted their church.”
The bishop acknowledged that the collective faith may have waned over the years as cultures changed and people incorporated more and more activities into their lives.
“They didn’t have the education we have today, but they had that spirit,” he said. “That’s what we need to hold on to. Thank God for them.”
Bishop Reilly chronicled the history of the St. Anna’s community, starting with the transformation of Lincoln Hall on Lancaster Street into the church in 1937; the construction of the rectory in 1940 and the paying off of the construction mortgage in 1943. He recalled the opening of St. Anna’s School building in 1957 and the energy injected into the community by pastors throughout the years, all the way up to Father Callahan’s appointment in 2007. Near the conclusion of Bishop Reilly’s remarks, parishioners gave their pastor a rousing ovation.
Father Callahan said he was happy to see Bishops McManus, Rueger and Reilly take such an active role in St. Anna’s jubilee.
“We planned on having a celebration,” Father Callahan said. “I invited all the bishops to come up for something.”
Like many other area churches, St. Anna’s has a loyal cadre of parishioners who have attended Mass there for decades. Anna Mazzaferro, of Leominster, is a longtime parishioner who transferred from St. Anthony di Padua Parish in Fitchburg in the middle of the 20th century, when the St. Anna’s community was nearly 100 percent Italian. She has found a home at St. Anna’s, attending daily Mass, serving on a number of committees and leading a morning rosary every day.
“It was nice then,” Mrs. Mazzaferro recalled. “It’s nicer now.”