St. Anne's Church and Parish Complex (Fall River, Massachusetts)
St. Anne's Shrine
|Location||Fall River, Massachusetts|
Louis G. Destremps
|MPS||Fall River MRA|
|NRHP reference No.||83000719 |
|Added to NRHP||February 16, 1983|
St. Anne's Church and Parish Complex, now St. Anne's Shrine, is a national historic landmark located at the intersection of South Main and Middle streets in Fall River, Massachusetts. Until 2018, it was a parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River. In addition to the church, the complex also includes the former Dominican Order monastery as well as the former Dominican Academy, constructed in 1894. The great upper church was formally dedicated on July 4, 1906 and closed November 25, 2018. The Lower Crypt Church shrine was re-opened July 4, 2019, but the upper part of the church remains closed for restoration and renovation.
The church was designed by Canadian architect Napoléon Bourassa in the Romanesque Revival style. Construction began in 1891, and was supervised by Fall River architect Louis G. Destremps. Work began on the upper church on July 17, 1902. The building, which is constructed of blue marble from Proctor, Vermont, measures 277 feet long by 122 wide, with steeples 160 feet high. The exterior was completed in June 1904 and the new church was formally dedicated on July 4, 1906.
Dominican Order influence
The parish and shrine were under the direction of the Dominican Order from 1891 until 1978 when it reverted to the Diocese of Fall River. The Dominican fathers and brothers promoted the shrine as a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Most notable was the Very Reverend Vincent Marchildon, O.P. who served as the first official director of the shrine. Father Marchildon spent 60 years of his priestly ministry at Saint Anne where he organized pilgrimages, novenas, and processions in honor of Good Saint Anne. Father Marchildon and two other Dominican founders are laid to rest in the lower church crypt.
Since the earliest days of the parish, Saint Anne has been associated with unexplained "miraculous" healings. Monsignor Adrien de Montaubricq, the first pastor of Saint Anne's parish was injured when staging collapsed during the blessing of the cornerstone of the "old" Hope Street Church. He promised that if he survived his injuries that he would dedicate the parish to the protection of Good Saint Anne. He survived and kept his end of the bargain and the parish was later dedicated to Saint Anne.
Since that time an annual Novena to Saint Anne was held to prepare the parish for her Feast Day on July 26.
When the "new" church was built and dedicated on South Main Street. The Dominican Friars envisioned that it would serve as a great shrine that would attract pilgrims from all over, much like the Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, Canada. By the mid-1920s, the shrine began to flourish so that an official director was named to overtake its daily operation. Pilgrims began to flock to the shrine from all over the region to hear sermons from various priests, attend novena and healing services, and to venerate the first class relics of Saint Anne.
During these healing services, pilgrims would come with canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and other maladies seeking the intercession of Good Saint Anne. They would be prayed over by Father Marchildon and anointed with the oil of Saint Anne. He often would then instruct the "ill pilgrims" to offer a nine-day novena to Saint Anne every day at the same time and that, on the ninth day, their malady would be healed. Many of these individuals would return to the shrine as instructed this time "healed" and would leave their crutches, canes, and wheelchairs as a token of thanksgiving to Saint Anne. These crutches to this day are still on display at the shrine for pilgrims to bear witness to the healing power of Saint Anne.
While these "healings" where never officially investigated or approved by the Catholic Church. The Dominican Friars who ran the shrine for over 90 years felt it was extremely important to document such healings. These documents are now housed in the Archives of the Dominican Order in Montreal, Canada.
The main upper church was closed in May 2015 when a large piece of plaster fell off a wall during Mass. Subsequently, weekend Masses were held in the lower crypt church shrine. On October 15, 2018, Bishop Edgar da Cunha announced that St. Anne's would close as a parish church on the Feast of Christ the King, November 25, 2018.
Re-opened shrine, and restoration of main church
The Saint Anne's Shrine Preservation Society, a registered non-profit charitable organization, through negotiations with the Diocese of Fall River, signed a 10-year lease for the property on July 1, 2019. The Society is actively raising funds, independently of the Diocese, to stabilize the building, repair damage from years of neglect, and, over the course of the lease, restore the building as a shrine and location for devotions and study. The lower church crypt shrine re-opened July 4, 2019, but the main church remains heavily damaged and closed during restoration efforts.
On July 26, 2019, hundreds of people attended the Feast of Saint Anne, celebrated by Bishop Edgar daCunha, ordinary of the diocese, in the church's lower crypt church shrine in its first Mass since the closure. The Preservation Society is actively working to open the upper part of the church by 2029.
The Lower Crypt shrine is the largest Catholic indoor votive candle shrine in Southern New England. There is the capacity to hold over 3,000 wax votive candles that are strategically placed around the various side chapels and oratories.
A school opened in the 1880s, with the first classes in the church basement. Its enrollment was 1,559 when the church opened the new school building in 1925. By 2007 it was the largest Catholic elementary school in Fall River.
In 2001 there were 432 students. At one point in the 2000s the school put in a chapel on the first floor. The school spent $500,000 on windows installed in 2001. Renovations to the cafeteria and gymnasium and a new playground were put in place as part of 2005-2006 renovations.
The school closed at the conclusion of the 2006–2007 school year, with 206 students, including 22 students in the graduating class. Of the non-graduating students, about 20 were to transfer to Fall River's other Catholic schools.
The school building is now used by the Atlantis Charter Middle School for its Julien F. Paul Campus.
Casavant Organ, Opus 2793
The church is home to a three manual Casavant Freres organ – their Opus 2793 (1964). It has 3 manuals/pedal, 84 ranks, and 4,518 pipes ranging in length from 7 inches to over 32 feet. The organ was dedicated on October 12, 1964 by blind French organist and composer Jean Langlais. The instrument was featured in the 2005 convention of the Organ Historical Society.
Normand A. Gingras (1927-2020) served as organist and choir director at the church for 54 years, from 1958 to 2012. As organist, Gingras oversaw the installation of the instrument and was responsible for its upkeep. He received degrees from Boston University, the École Normale de Musique in Paris, and privately studied with organist Jean Langlais.
The first of a series of "virtual concerts" to showcase this instrument was performed on July 28, 2020, by organist Matthew R. Dion who is a Somerset native and student at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Due to the upper church being closed, the concerts are pre-recorded for later release to social media.
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Fall River, Massachusetts
- Notre Dame de Lourdes Church (Fall River, Massachusetts)
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
- "Assessing the damage to St. Anne's Church". Fall River Herald News. 4 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
St. Anne’s Church in Fall River is in dire need of repair. With the St. Anne’s Preservation Society reopening the shrine to the public, a few people got a look at the damage to the main church.
- "USA Finance Guide – Payday loans and more!".
- "Biography – BOURASSA, NAPOLÉON – Volume XIV (1911-1920) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Home – Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 2020-11-04. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
- Fraga, Brian (2018-08-03). "Fall River Wonders: How can we save St. Anne's Church?". The Herald News. Fall River, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
- Holtzman, Michael (2018-10-14). "Bishop announces Nov. 25 closing of St. Anne's; says fundraising millions needed 'highly unlikely'". The Herald News. Fall River, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
- "In Agreement with Diocese, St. Anne's Preservation Society to Re-open, Maintain St. Anne's Shrine". 2 July 2019.
- "In Agreement with Diocese, St. Anne's Preservation Society to Re-open, Maintain St. Anne's Shrine". Diocese of Fall River. 2 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- Kennedy, Danielle (26 July 2019). "Hundreds gather for Mass at St. Anne's Church on feast day". NBC 10 News. TurnTo10. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- Allard, Deborag (2008-06-08). "Notre Dame, St. Anne schools graduate their final classes". Fall River Herald News. Retrieved 2020-06-27. - It states the final enrollment was 149.
- "List" (PDF). www.organsociety.org. 2005. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
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