From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

It’s been 100 years for St. Ann Parish, Spokane

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

St. Ann Parish in Spokane is having a party. On Saturday, Sept. 28, the parish’s 130 families will be joined by former parishioners and pastors to celebrate the parish centennial.

The celebration will begin with Mass at 5 p.m. Bishop Skylstad will celebrate the Mass and confer Confirmation as well.

That event will be followed by a sit-down dinner and music for dancing by the Spokane Marimba Band. The dinner is free, but people who want to attend are asked to sign up by calling (509) 534-3167.

At 130 families, St. Ann is the smallest Catholic parish in the City of Spokane. The mission-style church holds a solid and stable congregation, and its small size gives St. Ann a very home-like family atmosphere.

Centennial committee spokesman Tom Westbrook explained: “Because we’re small, we don’t have much option but to know one another.” What makes community, he said, “is when you know the names of other people’s kids.”

Amelia Minelli, at 94 the oldest parishioner, has been in the parish her entire life. She has seen all kinds of changes. She likes everything about her parish. “The sermons are good and there are good people there.”

Rose D’Amico is another native parishioner who was baptised at St. Ann and will have her funeral celebrated at the church. “Nothing could make me leave St. Ann,” she said.

Free-lance writer and parishioner Ann Colford is compiling a history of the parish. After her family moved to Spokane, she was directed to St. Ann.

“I wanted a church involved with social justice, and when I walked in the door, I knew I was where I belonged,” she said. She describes the parish community as “open and friendly, one that honors the contributions of all the members of the congregation.” Colford said the history book will not be available until at least six months after the centennial event.

The church was started in 1902 by Father L. Ferland, a chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital. He guided construction of the first church, which was dedicated by Bishop Edward O’Dea in 1904.

Msgr. Theophilus Pypers came in 1906 and stayed until his retirement in 1951. An arsonist set fire to the church in 1929, the building’s 25th year, destroying a big part of it. Even though the entire church did not burn, parishioners decided to build a new church, in a style that Msgr. Pypers described as “mission architecture.”

Msgr. Pypers painted a lovely watercolor of the church, which can be seen on the parish web site.

The watercolor will be used to make prints, notecards, and cups that people may purchase at the centennial celebration.

In 1968 the Franciscans took charge of the parish, giving it their unique stamp in the 28 years they were there.

It was during the pastorate of Franciscan Father Gino Piccoli in 1985 that the parishioners voted to declare the parish a sanctuary, taking in an Ecuadoran family fleeing political oppression. This action entailed some risk for parishioners since the U.S. government took a dim view of such refuges.

Said Westbrook of that time: “It was a powerful experience for us. It marked us and gave us our character.”

The church is still deeply involved in social justice issues, belonging to organizations that work to eliminate the causes of poverty, such as the Spokane Alliance. It is also involved in projects that provide more immediate help. One such project is a free Sunday dinner. The church is used every Sunday for the meal, with parishioners taking a turn cooking, alternating with other churches in the neighborhood.

For the last 10 years Linda Kobe-Smith has served as the pastoral administrator of the parish. No one priest currently is assigned to the parish. The parish has availed itself of the services of priests from several sources: those on sabbatical at Gonzaga University, the Jesuit community at GU, and retired diocesan priests.

Kobe-Smith said the centennial celebration was a “good way to gather, to celebrate the life we have and the life to come. We are blessed in young families and elders, and with people of wisdom who bring new hopes and dreams.”

Centennial chairperson Mary Ellen Gaffney-Brown said, “We have a lot to be grateful for in celebrating the spirit of our parish.”

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