St. Ann’s celebrates 100 years

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Worshipers fill St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Palisade, where they heard a message of maternal love, particularly that of the parish’s namesake, who was mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ. The church celebrated its centennial Sunday with a Mass, a pageant and a meal.

It was standing room only for the 200 or so parishioners, family and friends who crowded into St. Ann’s Catholic Church on Sunday to hear a special message, watch a history pageant and eat fried chicken together, all in celebration of 100 years as a church family.

The message about the power of a mother’s love seemed appropriate, considering the Bible records that Ann, the Palisade church’s namesake, was mother of Mary, the same Mary who gave birth to Jesus Christ by immaculate conception, according to church teaching.

After Mass, youngsters Katherine Commons and Morgan Rister told the story of Saint Ann and how the Palisade church came to be named for her 100 years ago.

In the Bible story, Ann could not bear children but eventually gave birth after immaculately conceiving Mary;  an angel’s message had informed her she was chosen by God to do so.

Tera Morrison, a member of the church for a little more than four months, won the role of St. Ann. Her daughter, Ainsley, 3, played Mary as a child.

Morrison, who has a strong singing voice, said she and her family had been looking for a church home since moving to Grand Junction from Kansas two years ago.

“They just swooped us up in their caring arms right away and treated us like family,” Morrison said of St. Ann’s congregation. Her family has been attending services there ever since.

Morrison’s other children, Liam, 10, Dane, 7, and Graham, 5, all took part in a tribute to longtime member Gary Huber, now an elder in the church, who has played the organ for services at St. Ann’s since he was a teenager.

The Morrison children, with help from the congregation, sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for Huber in recognition that St. Ann’s was founded the same year the Boston Red Sox signed Babe Ruth.

For his part, Huber seemed to enjoy the performance, but probably enjoyed seeing his brother, Daniel, even more.

Daniel Huber is a Catholic monsignor now retired from the church who said he realized his calling by age 6 while a member of the original St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

“I’m hopeful about the future,” said Huber, 80, who likes the message Pope Francis is carrying to the world.

Huber said he was ordained in 1950 and worked in parishes all across the West Slope before the original St. Ann’s burned down in 1963 following Christmas mass.

Looking at the world and each other as a mother looks at her children — as Ann looked at Mary or as Mary looked at Jesus — is a great way to spread God’s love, said Father Joachim Andione, a priest who ministers at St. Ann’s, a church within the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. 

The message of God’s love is what inspired church founders to build St. Ann’s in the first place, Andione said.

The rosary, prayer beads used by Catholics, figures prominently in St. Ann’s history, Commons said.

The church was founded in the same year Catholics celebrated the 700th anniversary of St. Dominic’s introduction of the rosary to church teachings.

In another rosary-related connection, St. Ann’s received much of the funding it needed to begin building from St. Joseph’s Altar and Rosary Society in Grand Junction, which started collecting for the building fund in 1910. 

“To pray the rosary is to contemplate the face of Jesus through his mother’s eyes,” Commons said, paraphrasing Pope John Paul from a script written by Mary Commons, a St. Ann’s parishioner for seven years.

Ann is the patron saint of pregnant mothers, children and the poor, Rister said. But why name the church after her? Commons asked. “Why not another saint for the patron of our church?”

The answer: Naming rights were granted to Mrs. M.J. Mulvihill of Pittsburgh in 1914 in exchange for her donation of $1,000 towards construction of the original building, Commons said.


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