FLORENCE—Members of St. Ann Church on the east side of Florence now have a new place for classes, meetings and parish events after their new parish life center was officially dedicated Nov. 29.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with Father Noel Tria and then officially dedicated the new building.
Father Tria became pastor at St. Ann in 2014 and said he was honored to carry on with ongoing plans for the building and help make it a reality. Groundbreaking for the parish life center was held last year, on June 9, 2019, which was Pentecost Sunday.
“St. Ann’s parish life center began with a vision, and the parishioners and friends of the parish truly gave their time, talent and treasure to make it a reality,” Father Tria said. “As pastor, I have been both grateful and humbled by what the parishioners have been able to accomplish, and I look forward to a bright future for the parish as well as the community we so proudly serve.”
St. Ann has a long history in the diocese, especially in the Black community, and members of the church said the new building is a welcome addition.
St. Ann was founded 79 years ago by priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who came to South Carolina to do mission work in Black communities. The order’s priests originally traveled from Sumter to celebrate Mass in Florence. Then, Oblate Father Daniel Foley was given permission to establish a church and St. Ann was officially dedicated on Oct. 19, 1941, by Bishop Emmet M. Walsh. The Oblates served in Florence until 1995.
The parish continued to serve the Black community, but also quickly grew in diversity as tourists of all races stopped for Mass and people moved to Florence for work and retirement. Now, St. Ann’s roster of 250 households includes a growing Hispanic and Filipino community as well as immigrants from other nations.
William Cooper grew up across from the church and still lives in the family home. He joined St. Ann 64 years ago when he was 8 years old, and said he was one of four of six siblings who became baptized Catholics because of the parish’s outreach to the community.
Cooper recalled how the church started to become more diverse in the 1960s, and he also recalls when the first parish center, known as Father Foley Hall, was built.
“We had help from some of the airmen at Shaw who came over to help with that original building, and I even helped out a little bit with some of the work,” he said. “I got to see that old building start from the ground up. Now this new one is a much needed addition to the campus. It will benefit the whole parish family.”
Bonnie Kolsrud has belonged to St. Ann for more than 20 years and served on both the building and fundraising committees. She said plans to expand the parish campus and add a new building first started nearly 20 years ago. Funds for the building were raised through a capital campaign called St. Ann Funding Our Future, and the parish also raised money for the project by involving the larger community. Parishioners held car washes, sold apple pies and sidewalk pavers, and started an annual fall gala and silent auction that draws people from all over the area. The event couldn’t be held this year because of the pandemic.
Kolsrud said the new building includes classrooms, meeting space, and a full kitchen and storage space. It was built with the capacity to add new sections in the future. No existing buildings on the church campus were destroyed, but instead have been repurposed to include classrooms and space for parish outreach ministries including a food pantry.
“The building is going to allow us to continue and expand our mission of service to the poor here in Florence,” she said. “St. Ann’s shares the love of God in all our efforts. I think 2021 will be a year of blessings as we continue building community in service to others.”
Mae Adams has been a member of St. Ann for more than 40 years. She said she loves her parish because of its diversity and the strong community feeling among members. Adams believes the new parish life building will make it possible for parishioners to take part in a wider range of activities and build even stronger relationships.
“This building will always represent the holiness and the faith of the people who were diligent and kept hope alive and worked to see this day come,” Adams said. “This building is going to give the people here who love God many more years and many more chances to keep the faith.”