What began as a small mission with services held in a private home has grown to a beautiful church with a parish of more than 140 Roman Catholic families.
The threat of World War II led European immigrants to find a refuge in Canada. The fertile farmland of Fenwick beckoned and a dozen Polish families fled a turbulent Poland and settled with their families in the Niagara Peninsula.
When Grimsby’s Father Benjamin Webster discovered these twelve families, he quickly brought them together to form a mission. Services began in the Canboro Road home of Mr. Brezinski in 1942 and then later mover to the new St. Ann’s Chapel. Father Webster was transferred in 1945 leaving the parish with no priest to call its own until 1947 when the Polish Oblate Fathers of Toronto took charge of St. Ann’s and the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in Welland, Ontario.
Following World War II, two services were needed to accommodate everyone both in English and Polish and soon there was “standing room only.”
Recognizing the need for a new church, Father Joseph Oblate arranged to purchase a one acre property from Walter Kardas. However, it took more than five years for construction to begin.
In 1955 Father Mieczylaw Wiecki, pastor from 1954 to 1958, began the construction of the new $36,000 church. The new church could now hold ninety-five families for Mass and could also facilitate many church functions in the large basement. A year later in 1956 St. Ann’s attained parish status.
Father Richard Latusek succeeded Fr. Wiecki in 1958 and witnessed the building of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic School, also on the property of Walter and Ann Kardas. It was officially opened by the Most Rev. Thomas J. McCarthy. The Fenwick parishioners donated money and skills toward the building of a rectory behind the church.
Remembered also are Father Puchniak for the development of the church and school, Father Misiag for his work with youth and love of sports and his involvement in the Catholic Youth Organization activities. In the 1960’ and early70’s, Father Kopec enjoyed the many new families of various ethnic backgrounds that altered the composition of the parish. Father Latusek returned to the parish from 1972-1978. When the last Polish Priest, Father Michael Kucharski passed away at St. Ann’s in 1989, the Polish Oblate Order of the Archdiocese of Toronto ceased sending pastors to the parish. Father Denis Grecco became the first priest from the St.Catharines Diocese to welcome laity into the celebration of the Mass. At this time, the Polish language was dropped and Mass was celebrated only in English.
The year 1989 saw the St. Ann’s Women’s Society, at the request of the Bishop, join the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) of Canada. These energetic women support many charitable organizations, lending a hand both spiritually and physically when needed.
In 1993 Father David Byrne became Pastor and was influential in completing a spacious rectory, office and meeting room and joined them in celebrating the 40th Anniversary. A special Eucharistic service presided over by Bishop John O’Mara and the retired Bishop Thomas Fulton began the festivities that included a dinner, dance and social. After Father David Byrne left, Father Tom Cresswell looked after this parish for a short time.
In 1998 Father Phillip English came to St. Ann’s Parish and saw that a few things needed to be completed to make this lovely church a little more beautiful. After numerous fundraisers and the generous donations of the parish community the parking lot was paved providing a much needed area for parking.
Also, at this time ten families from St. Ann's Parish volunteered to provide funding for the new leaded glass windows in the church enhancing the simple beauty of the Church with a variety of colourful scenes from the Gospels.
The old furnace replaced by a modern high efficiency furnace which also included air conditioning, providing greater comfort to parishioners during both summers and winter. A new cedar wood porch was added to the Church entrance.
Finally the last construction was an elevator to assist the physically challenged gain access and egress from the vestibule up into the Church and down into the basement. This major project was a long time in process, the funds required came from various sources, including donations from individual parishioners, the Catholic Women's League, St. Ann's Bingo, Brock Bingo and many other sources too numerous to mention.
St. Ann’s Parish isn’t just about construction! It is about the warmth of the parishioners. It is about eating strawberries every June at the Strawberry Fair with friends and family. It is about enjoying Sundae Sunday and Pre-Lenten Brunches, and the peaceful, beautiful presence of Christmas flowers as the coming of Christmas is celebrated and it is about the warm welcome that is extended to all who come to visit or join the parish community. It is also about welcoming young people all the way from Indonesia as part of the World Youth Day Celebrations. It is about the many people who volunteer their time to usher, read, sing, altar serve, decorate, pray with the children, and laugh at Bingo.
In the summer of 2005, the parish welcomed Father Stanley Ksciuk to join this friendly parish and enjoy such a rich heritage. That same year, the parish celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Church in Fenwick. And what a celebration it was! An Anniversary Mass was celebrated on September 18th at 10 a.m. and then lunch, games, cake, a magician and clowns and old and new friends all joined together at the beautiful grounds of Lipa Park.
The History of St. Ann’s was provided by Margaret Comfort in her book Intertwined Through Time and by memories of the parishioners of St. Ann’s Parish