A History of Saint Ann Church Catholic Church

The history of Saint Ann Catholic Church embodies the heart and spirit of her founders and tells the struggle they endured to make their dream become a reality. It is a history filled with the faith of faithful people who identified closely with Saint Jude, Patron Saint of the Hopeless.

The social prejudices which prevailed were also evident in the church. It was not easy for African Americans to practice their Catholic faith with dignity. They attended Mass in a local church which designated where they were to sit by use of a black and gold sign which read, "Colored Catholics Sit Here".

This treatment spurred their desire to worship without these constraints. In their resolve to do something about it, three African American families, consisting of eight Catholics, met in the home of Mrs. Claudia Cameron at 428 Chatham St. on Sunday afternoon, June 24, 1934, to form the Fayetteville unit of the Colored Catholic League of North Carolina.

Fathers Noonan and Sullivan, from St. Patrick Church, attended the meeting and agreed to serve as spiritual advisors. Other attendees were Mrs. Claudia A. Cameron, Mr. Joseph L. Cameron, Miss Annie McKay, Miss Helen McKay, Mrs. Alice C. Evans, Mrs. Eleanor Murphy, Mr. Frank McKay and Mr. William Montgomery.

On October 28, 1939, newly ordained Father William P. Ryan, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) of South Boston, Mass., arrived in Fayetteville to serve the small community of colored Catholics. He arrived on the Feast of Saint Jude, Patron Saint of the Hopeless. And so his mission seemed. His first meeting with his new parishioners took place November 1, 1939, at Mrs. Cameron's home. One of the objectives the group and its pastor set was the building of a church. In the meantime, while plans and funds were materializing, the congregation met for services in a barber shop at 117 Gillespie St. owned by church member Mr. Frank McKay. Out of these early days of struggle came the tradition of a Novena to Saint Jude.



Mack's Barber Shop   at 117 Gillespie St. owned by church member Mr. Frank McKay

First Mass as a Parish Community, December 24, 1939 at the Barber Shop



Contributions for the building of the church came from many parts of the United States and especially from friends of Father Ryan. One of the outstanding gifts was from the Most Reverend Richard J. Cushing, D.D., director of the Boston Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The gift of $4,500 was a memorial fund given by the parishioners of Saint Anne Parish of Neponset, Mass., in memory of their late curate, Reverend John Hennessy of Boston. In recognition of this gift, the Fayetteville black Catholics decided to name their church Saint Ann.

Construction began in August 1940 and was complete in December 1940 at a cost of about $15,000. During the building period, Father Ryan was displeased with the shoddy construction, so he took a sledgehammer to the new walls, telling the contractor to "build it correctly!" The church was dedicated on December 22, 1940, by Bishop Eugene J. McGuiness of the Raleigh Diocese. This was a happy and spirit-filled time.


 A Time of Growth

In the 1950's there was the recognition that a parish school could serve parishioners and the local community. Still in the days of segregation however, Saint Ann School would serve the black community while St. Patrick served the white community.

Those white families who could not get their children into Saint Patrick School because of overcrowding registered at Saint Ann. They maintained that they cared more about a Catholic education for their children than they did about the culture of that time.

The Saint Ann Parish School opened September 4, 1956. On the first day of school, 102 students reported and by year's end, the enrollment had risen to 142. During this time Father Edward Moan was our second pastor and the first teachers were the Sisters of Providence, with Sister Marie Stephanie as principal.

Saint Ann School was one of the first integrated schools in North Carolina. Local parish lore tells of the parish having to pay a fine for illegally operating an integrated school in North Carolina, only to have the fine rescinded because the Supreme Court had decided against segregated education.

Father Moan, like Father Ryan, also served at Fort Bragg. In fact, the generosity and participation of the Fort Bragg Catholic community was crucial to the survival of our church and school.

The church offices, originally built to serve as the church rectory, were added in 1959, during the tenure of our third pastor, Father Matthew J. Noonan. All of the brick work was done mostly on Saturdays by members of the parish and their friends.

Father Lynch served as the fourth pastor. Under his direction, the school was expanded to a modern nine room building.

Father Ryan returned as pastor in 1968, after serving as provincial of the Eastern Province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. These were the heady yet stormy days after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The parish had grown to over 300 Catholics. Father Ryan's stay was ended by illness in 1971 and Fathers Patrick Mangan and George White each served briefly as pastors from 1971 to 1973.

Daughters of Charity Arrive

The Daughters of Charity came to staff the school along with some lay teachers in 1972. Father John J. Lyons arrived in August 1973, with the number of parishioners approaching 455. Without fanfare, Father Lyons started a building fund and in the spring of 1976, his dream of a multi-purpose building began to materialize. Dedicated in May of 1977, the social hall could accommodate about 500 people for Mass,

In 1979, Father Richard Roche became pastor. Under his administration the church was extensively renovated with beautiful stained glass windows, ceiling fans, and a new heating and cooling system. Seating capacity increased to 175.

Father John McHugh came in 1983 and made the school a model for the city, with new roof and office space, new windows and doors and new carpeting. He directed the building of the Grotto of Mary. Father McHugh also invited a Nigerian priest, Father Omoviekovwa Nakireru, Ph. D., to serve as our auxiliary priest.

In 1989, Father Patrick Hollywood arrived and put the parish on a firm financial basis. During this 50 Anniversary year, the Korean Catholic Community of Fayetteville began meeting at St. Ann. Sanctuary furniture was designed for the social hall to link the 11 a.m. Mass celebrated there to the church.

Father Hollywood's tenure was cut short due to illness and Father Harry Winter replaced him in 1991. Father Winter finalized plans for the Korean Catholic Community to become an official component of the parish until they moved to their own church. The Most Rev. F. Joseph Gossman, Bishop of Raleigh, presided at Mass recognizing this on June 27, 1992.

 On October 25, 1992, after a very successful fundraising campaign, the new sanctuary furniture in the social hall was dedicated. A parish town meeting held on November 18, 1992 began the process of meeting the urgent church and school needs for more meeting space, more office space, and privacy for the pastor.

The most recent chapter in the history of Saint Ann Catholic Church began as almost every chapter in the church's history began; with the arrival of a new priest, little money, much prayer and a very determined group of people. 

A Time of Transition and Growth

The next  chapter in the history of Saint Ann Catholic Church began as almost every chapter in the church’s history began – the arrival of a new priest, little money, much prayer and a very determined group of people.

Since the parish had grown so large, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate could no long consider it a mission parish. In 1994 the order that after 55 years of service to Saint Ann their mission work was done.

Saint Ann was entrusted back to the Diocese of Raleigh. With tears and smiles the parish said goodbye to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and welcomed our first diocesan priest, Rev. Ernest J. "Ernie" Ruede.

Many changes were on the horizon. The building that served as both a rectory and parish office were converted entirely into offices. The parish purchased a condominium in the Clarendon House at 1100 Clarendon St. to use as the rectory.

The Daughters of Charity under the leadership of Sister Joanne Goecke, DC established the Saint Ann Neighborhood Youth Center to serve area neighborhood children who were considered at risk. This program pairs at-risk children with volunteer tutors from the local community. During Father Ruede’s tenure the church was refurbished. The pews and floors were refinished, and new carpet and paint were added.

Sacred Ground

As the history of things at Saint Ann goes, growth continued and so did discussion of what to do. Church members were surveyed to see what they wanted to do. Several courses of action were considered:

 •Keep the church and school on the current land and expand;

•Keep the church on the current land and expand but move the school elsewhere;

•Keep the school on the current land and expand but move the church elsewhere;

•Move the church and school elsewhere and expand.

After much passionate debate and discussion on the issue, a majority of the members expressed their belief that the location on North Cool Spring Street was sacred ground due to our history and heritage;, and that this location defined the parish more than anything else. A building fund envelope was added to the monthly collection envelopes. The journey was just starting.

Father Ruede departed in 1997 and Rev. Thomas "T" Davis, Father T, became our second diocesan priest. Father T contacted Shuller Ferris Lindstrom & Associates Architects; they presented Saint Ann Catholic Church with a three phase long range master plan in July 1998. The purpose of the master plan was to provide direction for the long term site and building expansion of the church and school. These long term goals were a framework to help guide the parish in establishing future plans and priorities. The ideas presented in the master plan were generated through a design and planning process between parishioners and the architects in association with Terry Byrd Eason Liturgical Design



Master Plan

The goals of the master plan included:

•Respecting the history of the church and laying the ground work for growth and development for the next 25 years;

•Expanding the present worship space to accommodate 400-500 in a facility that incorporated, respected, and had the feel of the present small church;

•Addressing the immediate and long-range goals of the education program while making the best use of the site and its configuration to improve the function and image of the school;

•Physically tying the buildings together improving circulation and security, at the same time defining the entrances and individual identities of the components;

•Allowing the functional components of the plan to be phased in over time.

The biggest challenge was seeking approval from the Diocese of Raleigh for the Saint Ann Master Plan. Whenever a parish pursues development plans, the Diocese challenges them to look decades ahead. The diocese’s policy says that parishes should he located on eight acres and, if a school is planned, preferably 20 acres. After considering the special nature of our church community and our history, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman granted an exception to this policy.

Once again, as in all the past years with other construction projects when the challenge was issued, members of the parish opened their hearts, minds and wallets. The Blessings Received, Blessings Shared, Blessings Promised Capital Campaign began in November 1999. The campaign asked each member to prayerfully consider what monetary sacrifice they could make to help raise money to pay for the construction needs of the church.

The song "All Are Welcome," written by Marty Haugen, was sung frequently at Masses as a reminder of our building goal. The Altar Rosary Society began collecting pennies to donate to the Blessings Campaign.

Diocesan Support

One of the most important meetings was in May 2000 when Les Griffin and Father Davis traveled to Raleigh to explain how the Parish would fund such an enormous construction project considering Saint Ann was a smaller Parish with limited funds.

A building committee was established and meet for the first time on July 12, 2000 to begin work on phase one of the master plan. Phase one addressed the church’s most immediate needs, which were expansion of the present sanctuary and permanent replacement of the temporary classroom building.

The sanctuary expansion would occur to the west of the existing church towards the social hall. The expansion would preserve the existing sanctuary, sidewalls and the original interior archway. The existing sanctuary would he used as a daily Mass chapel and additional seating for the main sanctuary.

The sanctuary addition would accommodate 400 in a modified fan shaped seating arrangement. The exterior of the addition would compliment the present church built in 1940. Much careful consideration was given to this area, so the design would respect the present church and maintain the sense of place, history and spirituality that is Saint Ann Catholic Church.

• A gathering space would be added to connect the sanctuary and fellowship hall and also serve as the new entrance for the church and as overflow seating. Additional restrooms would he located off this area, and access would be provided into the play areas of the school yard.

•The school expansion would include the addition of two new classrooms, a multipurpose room, faculty lounge, conference room, and office space for the Saint Ann Neighborhood Youth Center.

•The final step of phase one was to acquire the remaining property between the church and Cross Creek, so as to allow for the expansion of parking and a new drop off driveway and connection through to Ann Street to be completed in phase two of the master plan.

Just as Father Ryan was a godsend to our parish forefathers, Father Davis had been a godsend to the current parishioners. His expertise was very instrumental in laying the groundwork for phase one construction. The parish realized his mission had ended when he received the call to return to his home parish in Jacksonville, N.C. where his mother was still a parishioner.

In June 2000 as we bid Father Davis farewell, we greeted our third diocesan priest, Rev. Joseph "Joe" Yaeger. Father Yaeger was not a stranger to Fayetteville, and he only had a short distance to travel since his previous assignment was at Saint Patrick Parish across town.

In October 2000 Father Yaeger, Joyce Moreaux, Francisca Bradley, Les Griffin, and Bill Pollitt met with the diocesan building and real estate commission for a review of the general plan and design concept of phase one. This commission oversees the design process of construction projects to ensure that all liturgical requirements of the current rite of the Roman Catholic Church are met.

After receiving approval of the general plan and design concept, this information was present to parishioners in November 2000. After many questions and much discussion, especially concerning where the Blessed Sacrament Chapel would be located so it would he visible from all areas of the new sanctuary, a final meeting was held with the building and real estate Commission in January 2001.

The building committee decided to build the school addition first and on May 17, 2001, parishioners, Saint Ann school students, teachers, staff, and friends gathered for the groundbreaking and the Blending of the Soil, presided over by Father Joe. In a desire to he a faith community that includes all, each of the school families were asked to bring some soil from their own homes to he mixed in with the foundation soil of the new school building. Each grade collected and blended their soil. A representative from each class blended their soil after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Not long after Father Yaeger had broken ground, parishioners learned his mission with Saint Ann was complete, and the parish members bid him farewell in June 2001. In July 2001 the journey continued when the diocese entrusted the parish to another religious order.   Rev. Thomas "Tom" Malloy of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales (OSFS) was entrusted with leading the parish community.

Player, Inc. Contractors presented a cost estimate to the parish in September 2001. This required a return trip by Father Malloy and Les Griffin, finance committee chair, to the diocese. Originally the plan was to build a shell of the building and finish the interior at a later date at a cost of $1.1 million. After careful consideration, the decision was made to complete the project all at one time. This increased the project cost to $2.4 million and once again required diocesan approval. Construction started in November 2001.

All Masses were moved to the social hall. The three Sunday Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. were combined into two, at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. A special community prayer was written and recited at every Mass after the Prayers of the Faithful. And the Rosary was prayed after all Masses.

In December 2001 the first steps in construction including site work for the school and demolition of the old church began. The stained glass windows and the arch in the original church were boarded up and sealed off to protect them during the construction phase.

In June 2002 stain glass artist Marianne Downs Behle from Warwick, NY visited the parish to gather information and present a review of her work. In July 2002 she was commissioned to create the stained glass windows for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

As construction continued parishioners took time to celebrate an important milestone when our prochical vicar, Father Omoviekovwa Nakireru, celebrated his 25th anniversary of ordination in December 2002.

Father Nakireru had spent 16 of those 25 years serving at Saint Ann. Former parish priest Father McHugh first met Father Nakireru, a native of Nigeria, upon Father Nakireru’s arrival in Fayetteville to take a job at Methodist College. Father McHugh eventually invited Father Nakireru to help serve the Saint Ann community where he continues to serve to this day.

New Sanctuary Dedication

On a beautiful Palm Sunday morning April 13, 2003, anxious parishioners gathered in the social hall. The day for which they had waited had finally arrived. The two usually scheduled Sunday Masses had been combined into one celebration at 10 a.m. Father Malloy and Father Nakireru both concelebrated this special Mass.

After the blessing of the palms, the parishioners processed from the social hall, through the new gathering space which connected the hall to the new sanctuary. The new worship space was breathtaking, especially with all the bright morning sunlight streaming in. The congregation not only filled all the seats in the new sanctuary, hut almost every seat in the Morning Chapel was filled as well.

The new sanctuary was formally dedicated on June 15, 2003. Read about the dedication Mass in the article that appeared in the NC Catholic: "St. Ann Dedicates New Sanctuary."

A New Chapter

Following the dedication of the new sanctuary the parish entered into a period of quiet growth and spiritual renewal.  Fr. Tom Malloy, O.S.F.S. lead the parish community as it adjusted to its new worship space and the addition to the school.  Work continued on repaying the loan to the diocese.

In August of 2013, Fr. Tom Malloy, O.S.F.S. announced his retirement and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales continued their administration of the Church with the announcement of a new pastor, Rev. Stephen E. Shott, O.S.F.S.  Following Fr. Steve’s installation as the sixteenth pastor of St. Ann Church, the community embarked on preparations for the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of the Parish.

Diverse Community

Many parishioners entertained thoughts that with such a large gathering and few empty seats another expansion project may one day, once again, be on the horizon. Until that time, parishioners will offer prayers of thanksgiving and enjoy their beautiful new Sanctuary where they can look past the altar into the Morning Chapel and remember their history and heritage from where they came.

Today, Saint Ann Parish is culturally diverse Catholic Community. Besides serving as a meeting place for Korean Catholics, who have since moved on to form their own Catholic community, Saint Ann has provided a place for Vietnamese and Filipino Catholics to worship in their own cultural style. Every Sunday, the 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass uses the African American Catholic Hymnal and a style of worship traditional to black Catholics.

Pastors of Saint Ann Catholic Church

Rev. William Ryan, OMI (1939-1951 & 1968-1971)

Rev. Edward Moan, OMI (1951-1958)

Rev. Matthew Noonan, OMI (1958-1962)

Rev. William Lynch, OMI (1962-1968)

Rev. Patrick Mangan, OMI (1971-1973)

Rev. George White, OMI (1973)

Rev. John Lyons, OMI (1973-1979)

Rev. Richard Roche, OMI (1979- 9983)

Rev. Jack McHugh, OMI (1983-1989)

Rev. Patrick Hollywood, OMI (1989-1991)

Rev. Harry Winter, OMI (1991-1994)

Rev. Ernest Ruede (1994-1997)

Rev. Thomas "T" Davis (1997-2000)

Rev. Joseph Yaeger (2000-2001)

Rev. Thomas Malloy, OSFS (2001-2013)

Rev. Stephen E. Shott, OSFS (2013 – Present)