As the Catholic community in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., continued to grow as the Civil War came to a close, Anne Green, a devout Catholic laywoman, saw many of her neighbors struggle to travel by buggy to Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. Through her work and the support of others, St. Ann Parish in Washington was established in 1869 at Tenley Circle as the first Catholic parish north of Georgetown. Since then, the parish has grown to include a community of 800 families.
Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory celebrated a Mass for St. Ann Parish’s 150th anniversary on Oct. 20, giving thanks for the legacy begun by the Jesuit Fathers of Georgetown College who founded the parish and Green’s effort to bring the faith to the Tenleytown neighborhood fifteen decades ago.
“Today we give profound and prayerful thanks to almighty God for the gift of St. Ann’s Parish for 150 years of service and mission,” Msgr. James Watkins, the parish's pastor, said at the opening of the Mass. “Built on the living stones of the faithful parishioners both past and present, St. Ann’s continues to be a beacon of hope to so many who come to worship, to be educated in the faith, and to be renewed by the grace of the sacraments, and to be served in truth and charity.”
Archbishop Gregory was joined by several other priests from throughout the Archdiocese of Washington, many of whom had served at St. Ann’s over the years.
“I know that this is a special moment in your life as a family of faith, and I know that many hands have gone into making it a festive day and a festive year,” the archbishop said. “So bless St. Ann and bless the people who live under her name.”
Father John Raphael spoke in his homily about the significance of the temple within Scripture, reflecting upon the temple of worship that St. Ann’s has been for the community over the past 150 years.
“We are in this place, built of stones and glass, filled with signs and symbols of all that is holy and sacred,” Father Raphael said. “This place, erected unto the greater glory of God, this place which becomes the house of God and is the house of God not in a merely symbolic fashion, but because God himself, the Incarnate Word, resides in this place.”
The legacy of St. Ann’s is not in the physical church itself, which stands today as the third church on the original property, but the community of people who have supported and strengthened St. Ann’s, he said.
“We as a people of faith, we as members of the Church must always remember that like Aaron and Hur, we must support Moses, that the shepherds and the flock need each other to stand together and surround each other with love, with prayer, with sacrifice and support,” Father Raphael said.
The day of celebration, which took place in the midst of a year of celebratory events which will end in May 2020, was proclaimed “Saint Ann Catholic Church Day” in Washington by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“Saint Ann’s Catholic Church has prayerfully and civically ministered to the spiritual and social needs of generations of congregants from various walks of life for more than 150 years, currently serving more than 600 Catholic families and actively engaging in the community to provide much-needed social services to many of our city’s most vulnerable residents,” Bowser wrote in a proclamation.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump also sent their congratulations in a letter to the parish.
“Your congregation has been a central pillar in your community,” the president's letter said. “It has provided a place of comfort and healing, as well as great joy, fellowship, and peace. Your assembly is central to life’s most meaningful moments and milestones.”
Vice President Michael Pence and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio for the United States, also sent letters with congratulations.
Alice Zischkau, who has been a member of St. Ann’s since she moved to the area in 1993, said that the parish community has always had a spirit of welcome throughout her time here.
“We’re really happy that Msgr. Watkins is here,” she said.
Another parishioner, who has attended St. Ann's since 1987, said when he first arrived, the parish school, which has since been closed, was in full force.
“St. Ann’s has always been here through the changes of the neighborhood,” he said.
Virginia Salcedo, whose family has been part of St. Ann's Parish for the past 30 years, is an active member of the Mother Butler Guild, which sponsored a luncheon following the Mass. She said the luncheon was just another way they could “reach out to people.”
“We are very thankful and lucky,” Salcedo said.
One guest of honor at the Mass and luncheon was Nancy Brewer, a 1947 graduate of St. Ann's Academy. She was baptized and grew up at the parish.
“I was there from the beginning,” Brewer said. “I’m seeing a lot of old friends, there are a lot of good people here.”
Celebrations for St. Ann’s 150th anniversary will continue throughout the upcoming months with lectures and performances, ending with a parish anniversary dinner and dance gala in May 2020.
On Nov. 3 at 5 p.m., St. Ann’s will host a lecture on the theology of a Catholic parish by noted author George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow and the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. On Nov. 17 at 3 p.m., the parish will host an organ concert with Olivier Latry, organist titular from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. St. Ann’s is located at 4001 Yuma Street, N.W., on the southwest corner of the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Yuma Street.