The founders of St. Ann’s Church were Christian people who emigrated from the Holy Land in the Near East, especially from Lebanon and Syria, to Southeastern Connecticut in the early 1900’s. Here they found a land of progress and challenge, but the religious tradition of their forefathers was not present here, and they longed for the glorious and fascinating liturgy of their past in their own language.
In 1929, Reverend Anthony J. Aneed, a missionary from Lebanon, recognizing the need of these Catholic people for their spiritual and sacramental obligations, received permission from the Most Reverend John J. Nilan, Bishop of Hartford, to establish a parish in New London. He gathered the Melkite community together, and began to organize St. Ann’s Parish.
At first, services were held in private homes, and later in basements of other churches. Soon after, land on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and West Coit Street, in New London, was purchased from the estate of Daniel Newman by the Roman Catholic Diocese Corporation, and the construction of a church was begun. The ceremony of groundbreaking was dedicated on April 6, 1930. It it interesting to note that a great deal of the work was done by the parishioners themselves.
Reverend Aneed remained as Pastor until January 21, 1934, when he moved to California. From 1934 to 1936, in the absence of a permanent Pastor, St. Ann’s Parish was served by the Dominican Fathers from Providence College, in Providence, Rhode Island.
In 1936, Reverend Basil Shaheen, a priest of the Basilian Salvatorian Fathers from Lebanon, was appointed Pastor, and celebrated his first Mass on December 25, 1936. He remained as Pastor until his death on January 28, 1953. During the pastorate of this faithful priest, many improvements were made. The inside of the church was decorated with beautiful paintings, stained glass windows were installed, and the basement was finished. In his honor, a beautiful granite statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was erected in the churchyard of St. Ann’s as a memorial to him from his parishioners.
After the death of Father Shaheen, the parish was administered by the Pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Reverend Francis J. Finn, while the late Archimandrite Malatios Mufleh, B.S.O., of St. Elias Church in Cleveland, Ohio, attended to the spiritual needs of the parish.
On April 5, 1954, Reverend Simon G. Hage, B.S.O., arrived from Lebanon to become the Pastor of St. Ann’s. Under his leadership, the parish prospered, and, realizing the need for a better edifice and suitable surroundings, including sufficient parking for cars, activities, etc., Father Hage organized a Parish Council to look into purchasing land for construction of a new church. This immense undertaking was enthusiastically received by all the parishioners, societies, and friends of St. Ann’s.
Land was purchased on 41 Cross Road, Waterford, Connecticut, and the new St. Ann, a church of Byzantine architecture of the Middle East, was begun. Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on December 12, 1976, and the land was blessed by Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Bishop of the Melkite Diocese of Newton, and Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich. This beautiful building was completed in April 1978, and the date for the dedication was set for June 11, 1978.
Many important events took place during the period of Father Hage’s pastorate, the most notable being the visit of the late Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh on September 6, 1955, commemorating the Silver Jubilee of the church; a visit from the late Patriarch Maximos V Hakim on July 28, 1968; visits from the late Bishop Justin Najmy, our first spiritual father in America; and also visits from the late Archbishop Joseph Tawil, who succeeded him.
St. Ann is a connecting link between the traditions of East and West; for, while following the Eastern Melkite Catholic Rite in an American community, it renders a great contribution to understanding the universality of the Church of Christ in the world.
In 1979, St. Ann hosted the 20th Annual Melkite Convention as it celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the church, and it is proud to host the 40th Annual Melkite Convention as it celebrates its’ 75th Anniversary.