A view of the altar at Toronto’s St. Ann’s Church, which is marking its 100th anniversary this year. The celebrations kicked off with a centenary Mass July 27. Photo courtesy of St. Ann’s parish

St. Ann’s has served Catholics from far, and near

By 
  • August 9, 2014

TORONTO - A century ago, the faces of Irish immigrants dominated the congregation at St. Ann’s parish.

Though the faces have changed over 100 years, St. Ann’s continues to be a home for those people away from home.

Fr. Wilson Andrade is the new pastor at St. Ann’s, installed by Cardinal Thomas Collins at the parish’s 100-year anniversary Mass July 27. He takes over a parish that has changed constantly over the past century.

The parish opened on Sunday, July 26, 1914, six years after a fire destroyed nearby St. Joseph’s parish. Archbishop Neil McNeil celebrated the first Mass.

Irish immigrants built the church, said Andrade — today, a stained glass window of St. Patrick recalls the parish’s Irish roots — but the parish on Gerrard Street just east of the Don Valley has seen many changes over the years, accommodating the many Catholics who settled in the city. St. Ann’s has served the waves of Spanish, Filipino and other Asian immigration. The parish’s theme: unity in diversity.

In addition to immigrants, the parish also serves Canada’s first peoples. In the 1980s, in response to the influx of First Nations people moving from reserves to the city, St. Ann’s housed the Native People’s parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto. The Native People’s parish was run by the Jesuits and Oblates until the Congregation of Holy Cross — the order that has been running the parish since 1979 — took over care of the Native People’s parish in 2007.

“The Native People’s parish, St. Ann’s, is the only place (in the archdiocese) native people come and celebrate the Catholic liturgy with native symbols,” said Andrade.

The Native People’s Mass is held every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and always begins with a purification ceremony, which the parishioners also performed for the anniversary Mass. The weekly Mass incorporates native culture into the liturgy, with most of the prayers being said in the Ojibway language.

Today, the church has two side altars for Canadian saints: Br. André canonized in 2010 and Kateri Tekakwitha, the country’s first aboriginal saint, canonized in 2012.

St. Ann’s is celebrating it’s centennial with the theme “journey forward in God’s household.”

“In the 100-year history, a lot of things have taken place at St. Ann’s, but faith remains the same and faith in fact helps through these changes that come, even within the Church and within the world, from Irish immigrants to now, (the) latest from China, the faith is always centre, which helps during these immigrant changes,” said Andrade, who has worked at the parish since he was a seminarian in 2007.

“The Church is home for all these people.”

Comments (3)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

AS BOTH MY MOTHER AND I GREW UP AT 194 FIRST AVE MY MOTHER EDNA PERRY SANG IN THE CHOIR AND HER SISTER AGNES PLAYED THE ORGAN IT IS WITH HAPPY MARRIAGES AND SAD FUNERALS MEMORIES I REMEMBER ST. ANN'S AS A CHILD I WAS TRANSPORTED AT MASS ...

AS BOTH MY MOTHER AND I GREW UP AT 194 FIRST AVE MY MOTHER EDNA PERRY SANG IN THE CHOIR AND HER SISTER AGNES PLAYED THE ORGAN IT IS WITH HAPPY MARRIAGES AND SAD FUNERALS MEMORIES I REMEMBER ST. ANN'S AS A CHILD I WAS TRANSPORTED AT MASS LOOKING AT THE BEAUTIFUL MURALS AND DREAMING OF HEAVEN

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EDNA LANG CANNING
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Rummaging through some family papers, I believe I found a baptismal certificate for myself 66 years ago. I also believe that my father Francis Shoniker along with his brothers and mother Gertrude Shoniker were members of the Parrish. Can you...

Rummaging through some family papers, I believe I found a baptismal certificate for myself 66 years ago. I also believe that my father Francis Shoniker along with his brothers and mother Gertrude Shoniker were members of the Parrish. Can you confirm this? Thank you so much.

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Frank Shoniker
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I have very fond memories of attending St. Ann's School and Church. I remember processions through the church on special days and of course my First Communion breakfast in the basement of the church. Sister Delarosa was always there on Sundays to...

I have very fond memories of attending St. Ann's School and Church. I remember processions through the church on special days and of course my First Communion breakfast in the basement of the church. Sister Delarosa was always there on Sundays to direct the all- girls choir. My brother served as an altar boy under Father Egan. He was very old when we were children and very strict. The church had four masses on Sunday to accommodate all the parishioners. It was a very busy church. The picture shown is as it was when I was a girl and is very different today. Some of the "renovations" have not been done in good taste I'm sure the interior will change again in time. I just hope the church continues to stand. I'm just very disappointed that the school board decided to tear down the school which had such a rich history, Hopefully, a new school will be built!

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Kathy Wilson
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