St. Anne Catholic Church, Somerset, celebrated 100 years in their current building Saturday, July 22 – exactly 100 years after the first service was held in the newly built church.
Diocese of Superior Bishop James P. Powers concelebrated the 5 p.m. Mass with Fr. Andy Anderson, assisted by Deacon Richard Peterson.
The church was decorated with blue and gold banners with the fleur-de-lis on each cross, a motif associated with the French, who came as missionaries to the Great Lakes region of North America and to what is now the Diocese of Superior; the décor also honored French settlers who came to Somerset.
In his homily, Bishop Powers touched on many points, including reflection on the readings, St. Anne’s church history, and a personal experience at St. Anne’s Church.
In reflecting on the readings, he talked about the parable of the weeds and wheat and how the weeds were left to grow with the wheat so as not to also pull out the wheat. This, he said, shows how God is not into doing a quick fix, but gives us time to grow closer to Him. We all need repentance and a savior.
He touched on some of the history of the church building including remembering Nicholas (Little Nick) Grasser, a bricklayer from Mankato, Minnesota, who died when he fell from scaffolding while working on the building. The church has a plaque made in his memory.
Bishop Powers also mentioned he had attended a Together Encountering Christ Retreat at St. Anne’s in 1989 that had a major influence on his future. He encouraged parishioners to attend a retreat of some sort in their lifetimes.
After Mass, parishioners congregated in Caron Hall for a chicken dinner and an opportunity to view an exhibit of historical pictures and memorabilia. Displays highlighted the church’s rich history, including the progress of the parish and its structures, beginning in 1856.
By 1916, the church built in 1875 was much too small. Fr. Caron called in one of the finest architects in the northwest, Emmanuel Masqueray, who had designed the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, and many famous churches in the Midwest.
St. Anne’s is his only commissioned church in Wisconsin. It is of the modernized Italian Romanesque style of architecture. St. Anne’s Church also had a plaque made to honor his contribution to the parish.
On July 27, 1916, the day after the feast of the parish’s patron St. Anne, the wrecking crew began to tear down the old church; 361 days later, divine services were held in the new church in the same location. The cost of the new building was $52,000. Only a small debt of $15,000 remained after the dedication.
In the early 1970s, Fr. Louis Nowak led the effort to remodel and redecorate the sanctuary. In 2001, Fr. Jim Brinkman initiated the building of a new addition, named the Beaudette Center after a much-loved priest who shepherded St. Anne’s Parish from 1917 to 1946. The basement with an elevator access from the gathering space was named Caron Hall, after the priest who supervised the 1916 building of the church.
In 2009, 92 years after the church was built, the stained glass windows needed repair. This project was completed for $250,000.
Today, St. Anne’s church stands as a historical example of early 20th century church architecture. More importantly, the church’s long and rich history remains a testament of God’s abundance and love.