of St. Anne Church

On Friday morning, September 1, 1961, a Mass was celebrated in the cafeteria of Holy Family School on Trinity Drive. It marked the official beginning of a new parish in Columbus, Georgia. It was named St. Anne in honor of the mother of the Virgin Mary. The celebrant was Reverend Monsignor Herman J. Deimel, Pastor of Holy Family Church. A formal announcement of the establishment was issued the same day by His Excellency, Bishop Thomas J. McDonough of the Diocese of Savannah. He appointed Monsignor Deimel as Pastor and Reverend Lawrence Lucree as Assistant Pastor.

Humble Beginnings

The real beginning took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s when land was purchased for the construction of a new school to replace Holy Family School in downtown Columbus. The new Holy Family School was built in its present location in 1952 and all the classes began in September of that year. The Sisters of Mercy continued to live in downtown Columbus and commuted back and forth to the school until a new convent was built by the sisters in 1962. Mass was celebrated on a regular basis in the cafeteria beginning in 1952. Initially, St. Anne Parish encompassed north Columbus, as well as Harris County, serving 400 families. St. Anne was the fourth Catholic Church in the area in addition to Holy Family, St. Benedict the Moor, and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Monsignor Deimel was a driving force of the Catholic community in this area. He served as Pastor of Holy Family from 1943-61 and St. Anne from 1961-66. During his 23 years in Columbus, he was instrumental in the establishment of St. Francis Hospital, which opened in 1950, the new Holy Family School started in 1952, and Pacelli High School, which was built in 1958. Pacelli was originally called Holy Family High School, but was renamed Pacelli in 1958 in memory of the late Pope Pius XII, who died that year.

In 1966, Monsignor Deimel was appointed Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Augusta, where he remained until his retirement in 1968. He died on November 9, 1985, at his home in Fitzgerald, Georgia. His body was brought back to St. Anne, Columbus, for the funeral Mass after which it was transferred to Savannah, Georgia, for burial in the priest’s lot in the Catholic Cemetery.

The following is a list of the Pastors and Associate Pastors who followed Monsignor Deimel:

Msgr. Herman J. Deimel (1961-1966)
Msgr. Marvin J. LeFrois (1966-1970)
Rev. J.L. Stranc (1970-1972)
Rev. Roy L. Cox (1972-1975)
Rev. Timothy O’Mahony (1975-1976)
Rev. Patrick Shinnick (1976-1983)
Rev. J. Kevin Boland (1983-1995)
Rev. J. Gerard Schreck (1995-2013)
Rev. Jeremiah McCarthy (2013-present)

Rev. Lawrence Lucree (1961-62)
Rev. Timothy Ryan (1963-1967)
Rev. Donal Dunne (1967-1968)
Rev. Barry Stanton (1968-1971)

Rev. Frank Higgins (1969-1971)
Rev. Michael O’Keefe (1971-1972)
Rev. Timothy O’Mahony (1972-1975)
Rev. Thomas Peyton (1974-1977)
Rev. William Leahy (1978-1987)
Rev. Michael Kavanaugh (1985-1986)
Rev. Thomas Campbell (1985-1989)
Rev. J. Patrick McCarthy (1987-1989)
Msgr. Felix Donnelly (1989-1993)
Rev. J. Gerry Schreck (1989-1995)
Rev. Douglas K. Clark (1993-1996)
Rev. Joseph A. Smith (1996-1998)
Rev. Frederick Green (1998-1999)
Rev. John R. Madden (1999-2002)
Rev. Timothy C. Donahue (2000-2002)
Rev. Mike Ingram (2002-2005)
Rev. Chidi Osondu (2005-2006)
Rev. Mark VanAlstine (2005-2008)
Msgr. David Talley (2006-2007)

Rev. Martino Thong Nguyen (2008-2009)
Rev. Scott Winchel (2009-2011)

Rev. Mariusz Fuks (2011-2013)
Rev. Jacob Almeter (2013-present)

Growing Through Change

In September 1976, the population stood at about 100 families. From 1976 to 1981, the population increased dramatically to 930 families. Fr. Patrick J. Shinnick, who was appointed Pastor in 1976, set in motion plans to build a new church. A ground breaking ceremony was conducted by His Excellency, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard of the Diocese of Savannah on August 24, 1980. On August 23, 1981, Bishop Lessard returned to bless and dedicate the new church. In his remarks at the dedication, Fr. Shinnick said, “Today we see a long awaited dream become a reality. This reality is a beautiful symbol of the deep faith of so many people.”

Without the deep faith, great sacrifices, and untiring efforts of this parish family, the church would not have become a reality. From the very beginning of St. Anne parish to the building of the beautiful grounds we have today, the people of St. Anne have characteristically contributed their time, talent and treasure. In 1986, the parish organized its first stewardship committee and began on the journey to becoming a full stewardship parish. In 2003, St. Anne was presented the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Award given by the International Catholic Stewardship Conference to the parish that best exemplifies stewardship in action. Today, as the parish looks to the future, the people inspired by this tradition cannot help but sustain the commitment of ongoing service and support.

Reflective of the many changes at St. Anne during the early 1980s, was the establishment of a new Rectory and Parish Center in the fall of 1982. This multi-purpose facility was accomplished through the renovation of the convent, which was built by the Sisters of Mercy in 1962. At that time, the Sisters of Mercy, who were staffing both St. Anne School and Pacelli High School, moved to a home in the Edgewood section of the city.

No history of St. Anne Parish would be complete without drawing attention to the many important charitable and educational contributions made by the Sisters of Mercy, who first came to Columbus in 1862. By their devotion and sacrifice, the Sisters of Mercy have rendered invaluable service to the parish, St. Anne School, Pacelli High School and the Columbus community in general.

The steady growth in the number of families, combined with the parish’s commitment to Stewardship, made possible the second phase of the church building, which began in 1990. In March 1992, dedication services were held for the new addition which houses Our Lady of Mercy Chapel, Meeting Rooms, the Youth Room and Visitation Hall. On April 18, 1995, Bishop J. Kevin Boland transferred the ownership and governance of Pacelli High School to St. Anne Parish, making it a parish high school. In October, 1998, the parish broke the ground on a beautiful bell tower and an addition for St. Anne School, which has enabled the school to double the number of classrooms. This new addition was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Boland on December 9, 1999.

Today, St. Anne Church is made up of over 2,000 families. St. Anne Parish is blessed with a very caring, dedicated and faith-filled people.