UPDATED: St. Anne Parish celebrates 100th anniversary with Mass, banquet
Story and photos by Rebecca Drake
CHICOPEE -- In 1912, the Titanic sank, New Mexico and Arizona gained statehood -- and a new parish was established in the Fairview section of Chicopee.
As several hundred parishioners gathered at St. Anne Church, here, for the 4 p.m. 100th Anniversary Mass on Saturday, July 28, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, Mass celebrant, recalled the humble beginnings of the parish in a community consisting largely of mills and tobacco farms.
"People came to Mass on horseback, in horse-drawn wagons and mostly on foot," the bishop said of the early parishioners who worshipped at a small, wooden chapel built in the 1890s as a mission of St. Patrick Parish in South Hadley.
The Mass was concelebrated by St. Anne's present pastor, Father William C. Rousseau, Father Richard Turner, parish assistant, and two former pastors, Fathers Francis X. Sullivan and Roland J. Galipeau. Also serving on the altar was Deacon Romeo Hebert; Father Ronald Yargeau, a parishioner of St. Anne's ordained in 1971 who was an altar server at the parish's 50th Anniversary Mass; and Deacon Donald Philip, a former deacon at St. Anne's. Deacon Leo Coughlin, director of the diocese's diaconate office, was master of ceremonies.
"It wasn't an easy start," Bishop McDonnell said during his homily. "St. Anne's people were not rich, but soon a new church was built." He acknowledged the many sacrifices and the dedication of past and present parishioners.
"For 100 years, you have been worshipping together and caring for each other," the bishop said. "There are memories here today... So many people, so many names, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten. And all made the parish what it is today."
"I'd also like to reflect on the meaning of parish, and of God, and of grace," Bishop McDonnell continued. "St. Paul proclaimed that the people are the church, in the body of Christ."
"Our oneness is particularly manifested in the Eucharist," he continued. "We are privileged to receive the gift of God himself."
Bishop McDonnell commented on the beauty of St. Anne Church, saying, "This church is a gem."
"Yet, the parish gets its real life from what goes on within and without its walls... from your strength," he told worshippers at the Mass. "Christ is present in the parish."
Concluding his homily, the bishop noted that today in the Fairview section of Chicopee, "many farms have been paved over, businesses have moved away and churches and schools have closed."
"But your faith has sustained you," he told parishioners. "You've kept your faith and your traditions."
"We celebrate the people that made it happen, the sacrifice of all that went before," Bishop McDonnell said. "Mostly, we celebrate that, with the help of the sacraments, St. Anne continues to be a sign of God's presence in our midst, a sign of God's love."
In an interview with iobserve after the Mass, Father Rousseau echoed the bishop's comments on the participation of St. Anne's parishioners. "They don't just come to Mass and leave," he said. "They serve on the committees and knit shawls for our prayer shawl ministry and sing in the choir."
"When people continue to be present, their parish stays strong and continues to thrive," Father Rousseau said.
St. Anne Parish has been marking its centennial with a number of activities and projects throughout the year, including Heavenly Delights, a parish cookbook containing nearly 400 recipes contributed by parishioners; a presentation of "Run to the Cross," a musical adaptation of Christ's Passion; a May concert presented in the church hall by the South Hadley Community band; and the sale of commemorative hats, polo shirts and mugs designed with the 100th anniversary logo.
A 100th Anniversary Picnic is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 26 at the Moose Family Center in Chicopee. And the parish's organist, Daniel Mashia, has been compiling a 100th anniversary commemorative book, which will be available at the end of the year. Mashia, a member of the parish since his baptism in 1965, said his work on the book has increased his appreciation of his parish.
"With all the parishes closing recently, it's nice to be celebrating the 100-year history of a parish," Mashia said.
The July 28 Anniversary Mass was followed by a parish banquet at the Castle of Knights in Chicopee, home of the Fairview Knights of Columbus Council 4044, where a special display included citations from city and state politicians, President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI.
Watch for more on St. Anne's centennial celebration on an upcoming edition of "Real to Reel," which airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS, and in the September issue of The Catholic Mirror, the magazine of the Springfield Diocese.