Somerville parish celebrates 125 years

SOMERVILLE -- The parish community of St. Ann Church capped a yearlong commemoration of its 125th anniversary Sept. 29 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Walter J. Edyvean and a gala for 250 members of the parish family.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley had been scheduled to celebrate the Mass but was called to meetings in Washington.

“If the cardinal had to have a replacement, I am glad it was me,” said Bishop Edyvean. “Although I grew up in Medford, my mother and my grandmother were both born in Somerville and attended St. Ann’s.”

His grandmother’s love for St. Ann’s was legendary in his family, he said. “Even after she moved to East Somerville, she would still take the trolley to Mass here.”

St. Ann’s was founded as an offshoot of East Somerville’s St. Joseph Church. Later, St. Polycarp Church next to the city’s Ten Hills neighborhood grew as an offshoot from St. Ann’s. Although, St. Polycarp’s closed in 2002, many in the city are still attached to its memory. With the St. Catherine of Genoa Parish, the four communities will be united in a tri-parish initiative under one pastor, Father Brian McHugh, said Luci Spinale, who with her husband James, chaired the anniversary’s steering committee.

Father McHugh arrived at the parish on Aug. 1.

“It is good to be with all of you,” said Father McHugh in his remarks at the anniversary Mass. “I am pleased to be your pastor--and we will continue to grow--that is what the cardinal asked me to do here.”

The outreach to former members of St. Polycarp’s was consistent with St. Ann’s anniversary theme: “Honor the past. Celebrate the future,” she said.

Spinale said in the 12 months leading up to the Mass and gala there were both social and religious events, including a novena with former clergy from both St. Ann’s and St. Polycarp’s.

During the city’s Open Studios, when artists all over Somerville opened their workshops, parishioner Mary Robertson led tours of the church’s stained-glass windows and altar pieces carved in oak, she said.

In February, the committee organized a bus trip to Framingham to visit former teachers from the school now at the retirement residence of the Sisters of St. Joseph, she said.

“Celebrating 125 years is a milestone of which everyone associated with St. Ann’s should be proud,” said Congressman Michael E. Capuano, who was the city’s mayor for nine years. “My wife Barbara and I were married at St. Ann’s and my children attended CCD there. I know that many other families have similar memories and I wish St. Ann’s many more years of service to the community.”

Growing up across the street, Somerville Alderman Walter F. Pero said he has spent his whole life in the shadow of the brick church. “I graduated from St. Ann’s School in 1961 and my two children graduated in 1986 and 1997.”

Pero said that when he attended the school there were two classes for each of the eight grades-- “There were 40 students each class, but it was very strict, so everyone paid attention.”

The nuns stressed the essentials, he added.

The then-pastor, Msgr. Andrew J. White, took a direct interest in the students’ performance, he said.

“Msgr White would pass out the report cards personally in front of everyone and he would make public comments about your performance, such as, ‘You are not doing as well as your brother in the sixth grade,’” Pero said.