There is mystery in our spiritual beginnings here in Lansing, as there is with all great things. Records are sketchy or unclear, and memory is inadequate to fill in all the blanks of the earliest days of St. Ann. Our civic roots extend even deeper than the life of our parish. The State of Illinois was regarded as part of the “Northwest” of our country through the middle of the 19th Century. Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837, with a population of only about 4000 souls. The Diocese of Chicago, created in 1843 by Pope Gregory XVI, included the entire state; the first Bishop was William J. Quarter. In the same year a man named August Hildebrandt and his family settled in the area eventually to be known as Lansing; three brothers with the surname of Lansing settled here a few years later in 1846.
Prior to the turn of the century a few Catholic families settled in the vicinity of Lansing. They attended various parishes in Hammond, Calumet City, Glenwood, and Riverdale. The parish records of these churches contain names like Andrew Ward (a road contractor), Charles Neufer, Matt Eslinger, Anthony Koselke, Edward Koselke, Anton Matuszewski, William Hastings, George Hagan, Max Trinowski (a farmer, whose house stood where the Village Hall now stands), Leo Barth, Charles Weinacher, and Mrs. A. Van Steenberg. Over the years they and their descendants told many stories about how they attended religious services on foot, by hayrack, wagon, and automobile.
With these early Catholic families of the area begins the uncertainties about how it all began. One version of the story has eight families (another record says that it was seven, while another lists nine) approaching Fr. Armand C. Martin of Hazel Crest in 1913 with a request to celebrate Mass in Lansing for the few Catholic families living there. In 1911 Father Martin had already organized the parishes of St. Anne in Hazel Crest and St. Joseph in Homewood. Worship space was made available in Lansing by Charles Neufer (one record spells the name “Neupher,” while another has it spelled ”Nufer”) in a building he owned which had been used variously as a dance hall, community center, polling place, and a magistrate’s court. The building still stands today at the Southeast corner of Torrence and Indiana Avenues.
This version of the story holds that by the summer of the very same year, much of the work being done by the men of the parish, a small church was built at the corner of Ridge Road and Chicago Avenue at a cost of $2,800. Each of the families was asked for $50.00 for the construction, and the bricks and mortar were donated. Father Martin reportedly approached the Catholic Extension Society for the construction costs that were not covered by the church members.
Another version of the story of our roots says that the church was completed in the autumn of 1914, and dedicated the following year by Archbishop George Mundelein, which is rather unlikely, as he didn’t become Archbishop of Chicago until 1916. A story from the Lake County Times in October of 1916 reports that Archbishop Mundelein dedicated the new church on Wednesday, October 18, 1916, a story which may have the greatest historical accuracy. One way or the other, it was a small beginning, because St. Ann didn’t become a full-fledged parish for almost another 30 years.
Still in 1914, Father Martin was named the first resident pastor of St. John in Glenwood, until then a mission which had previously been served from Hazel Crest. At this point, St. Ann became a mission of St. John. It may have been small, but things were lively at St. Ann, with dances held regularly in the church basement as fundraisers. The first dance is said to have netted $8.00. The little church was already recording its “firsts;” the first altar server was Paul Koselke, and the first wedding was that of Anna Eslinger and Edward Van Pelt. This wedding, which took place on Tuesday, September 14, 1915, was reported in the September 16, 1915, edition of the Lake County Times as follows: “Miss Eslinger is the first bride since the completion of the church. Reverend Father Martin officiated.”
Another story from the same newspaper, dated July 29, 1915, and referring to a church service scheduled for August 1, 1915, reads: “Reverend Father Martin will conduct services at the new Catholic church here Sunday morning.” This newspaper report, along with those of the first wedding and the church dedication, strongly suggest that the original church was not completed until the Summer of 1915 and dedicated in the Autumn of 1916.
Life in this area was very different from what we know today! Although electricity came to Lansing in 1912, our little church had no furnace or plumbing, and a small coal stove was only barely adequate in cold weather. It is said that the Holy Water often froze in Winter. Residents of Lansing had wells instead of city water, and rainwater from cisterns was regularly used for bathing. In winter, farmers let their horses run wild in what is now Thornton Woods. In summer, gypsies set up their camps there, and the prairie produced abundant wild blueberries. The south end of Lansing was mainly marsh-land that was eventually drained by the construction of Lincoln Drainage Ditch, creating more farmland. Onion farms were plentiful in those days. Another important part of the local economy was brickyards, and Lansing had at least five. There was only one doctor in town, and most babies were born right at home.
Lansing may have been a quiet farming community, but changes were still happening. In 1915 Archbishop Quigley of Chicago died; and in February of the following year George Mundelein, formerly Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, was installed as Archbishop of Chicago. In the same year, Ridge Road was finally paved by the Fred Lorenz Company. The First World War was already underway in Europe, with troops going over there in 1917. Here at St. Ann, although there was no school, there was still a need for religious education for the children. Records show that members of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began providing that service in 1918. They came from St. Victor Parish in Calumet City. The Roaring ‘20s then brought the Lansing Airport, built by Henry Ford in 1924. This was a significant event for such a rural area, but Lansing eventually had two airports, with the addition of a smaller “mosquito” airport just North of Bernice Road.
In 1925 Father Martin was named Pastor of St. Mary Church in Minooka, Illinois (now in the Joliet Diocese), and served there until his death in 1946. In his obituary The New World noted that he “organized parishes in Homewood, Glenwood, Thornton and Lansing, often wielding hammer and saw himself to realize the ambition of providing a place of worship for his flock.”
With Father Martin’s departure, Father Edmund P. Kelley became pastor of St. John in Glenwood and continued to celebrate Mass weekly at St. Ann until his death in 1930 at age 39. In the middle of the ‘20s there were reportedly about 20 families who were members at the mission of St. Ann.
Infrastructure progress arrived in Lansing in 1926 with the installation of a modern water and sewer system. With the addition of Lake Michigan water, Lansing began to develop as a residential community, and the town’s population grew, as did that of St. Ann.
By 1930 Father James E. Burke was named pastor of St. John in Glenwood, also serving the mission of St. Ann. The year 1931 saw the formation of the St. Ann Ladies Club, with Mrs. Rose Brown as the first president. More updates came in 1937 when plumbing and a furnace were installed in the little church. The mission church had grown to 90 families. Two services were now necessary on Sundays. and Father Burke engaged the aid of the Carmelite Fathers from Chicago to assist him.
The 1940s were a time of enormous change both around the globe and right here at home in Lansing. The first half of the decade saw the most terrible warfare we had ever seen, leading to a very different kind of world by the time the war was over. Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Chicago gained a new shepherd in 1940 when Samuel Stritch, formerly the Archbishop of Milwaukee, was installed as Archbishop of Chicago. The new archbishop didn’t waste much time changing things in Lansing–by October of 1941 he had decided to do away with St. Ann’s status as a mission of another church. St. Ann now became a parish in its own right, and Father Francis Bellerive was named the first pastor. Fr. “Bell” was a man who had his own ideas about change, and eventually brought them to fruition. At first, though, he had to be patient and live a simple life, and for his two months at St. Ann he lived in the basement of the church.
Exponential growth began to happen rather quickly. Early in the year of 1941, the little parish had just 67 families, but by Christmas time, just two months after Father Bell’s arrival, the number of families had nearly doubled to 120. This growth spurt led the new pastor to increase the number of Sunday Masses from two to four by January of 1942. Amazingly, by the time Easter rolled around, parish membership had doubled again, and six Sunday services were necessary. By the end of 1942, over 300 families were registered at St. Ann, including about 100 families from Munster, which had no parish of its own. This was also at a time when many young men and women were postponing marriage and going off to war.
At the beginning of 1943 Father Bell published a parish yearbook which revealed his ambitious plans for the future. The small yearbook was made up almost entirely of ads, apparently to raise funds for the building of a new church he envisioned for the parish. He wrote, “The plans for a combination Church and school are nearing completion. The Church will have a seating capacity of four hundred and fifty persons while the school will have a complete curriculum for eight grades. The large well-furnished rooms will accommodate thirty-five pupils each. Provision is also being made for a large basement to serve as a gymnasium, with appointments to be installed for other parish affairs.”
In the spring of the same year, the young parish had another of its “firsts.” Bishop William D. O’Brien, an auxiliary bishop of the Chicago archdiocese, conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation for the first time at St. Ann Parish. The Confirmandi included 52 children and 15 converts to the faith. The St. Ann Men’s Club also came into being during this year. These were the men who regularly donated their time, money, and technical skills to the enhancement of the parish, and now they organized themselves into a club.
1945 brought more change to St. Ann. This was the year that St. Thomas More Parish in Munster was founded. The parish census at St. Ann shrank a little as a result, although many Munster residents stayed on. 1945 was also the year that the St. Ann Sewing Circle was formed, organized by Mrs. Josephine Schoettle. Over the years, this club produced vestments for church and beautiful quilts for fundraising events. On the world scene, World War II came to an end in September with the surrender of the Japanese.
In July of the following year, St. Ann held its “Seventh Annual Picnic” at the Lansing Sportsman’s Club. An ad book was printed for the event, apparently to raise funds for the building of the new church, still a few years in the future. Ads included Ridgeway Motor Sales, Gus Bock’s Hardware, Schroeder Funeral Home, Walter Schultz Real Estate and Insurance, Vierk Liquors, Lorenz Coal & Building Materials; names that are still familiar in the area. One of the ads was for Blair’s Hatchery (Baby Chick Hatching–Light & Heavy Breeds), and reveals that Lansing of 1946 was still very much a farming community.
At the parish picnic prizes were raffled off: a Universal Gas stove, a washing machine, an “ironer,” an Admiral radio, an Emerson radio, two electric irons and a handmade quilt. The picnic included a “Ladies’ Fancy Work Booth,” and there were continuous Bingo games.
We can imagine that throughout the ‘40s Father Bell was very active with his fundraising efforts, because his big project started just as the decade was coming to an end. In September of 1949, with great anticipation and hope for the future, the parish family of St. Ann broke ground for the new church and school building. After 10 months of construction the new church, rectory, and school buildings were dedicated on July 5, 1950.
The cost of this large construction project was reportedly $250,000. The original church, right at the corner of Ridge Road and Chicago Avenue, continued to serve the parish until the community moved into the new church building. When that happened, the small, old church was torn down and the new rectory was built in its place. Now there was room for another priest, and the first Associate Pastor was appointed, Father Raphael Orozco.
That autumn the brand new St. Ann School opened with 296 students, and the tuition was a back-breaking $35.00 for the year. The school was staffed by nine members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, including the first Principal, Sister Mary Salome Gilmore. The sisters moved into the well-known “white house” which was formerly Father Bell’s residence. Originally a one-story frame bungalow big enough for one priest, it soon became a two-story house that accommodated the nine sisters. The large addition, with all the accommodating electrical, carpentry and plumbing work, was done by the men of the parish.
What to say about the ‘50s? The Eisenhower years, post-war prosperity, the birth of Rock ’n Roll, the Korean War, McCarthyism, the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, fear of the atomic bomb. On the national scene so much seemed to be happening. Here at home, the changes that came about at St. Ann’s during the decade of the ‘50s can be summed up in one word: growth. Several new ministries came into being, and the physical plant of the parish had to be enlarged as the parish census and school enrollment continued to expand.
In 1951 the Men’s Choir sang their way into existence (apparently women didn’t sing in those days). In 1952 the Lansing Council #3540 of the Knights of Columbus formed with the help of Father Bell. The first Grand Knight was Louis Visnak. In the same year, Father Roger Jones was appointed Associate Pastor, and the St. Ann’s Nurses Health Organization began. This group consisted of 13 nurses and 16 mothers who worked under the direction of the Cook County Department of Public Health for the betterment of St. Ann students. In only the second year of the new school’s existence, enrollment had increased by almost 100 students. 1953 saw the formation of the Daughters of Isabella, Lansing Circle 896, with Evelyn Linn as the first Regent. Father John Eichelman was appointed as Associate Pastor.
By 1955 Richard J. Daley was elected to his first term as mayor of the City of Chicago. The next year’s enrollment at St. Ann School was getting out of hand, and five new classrooms were added to keep up with the demand. Increasing school enrollment was apparently a function of an increase in the parish census, so by 1957 additional space was added to the church, allowing seating for 300 more people. In the same year, Father William Murphy was appointed as Associate Pastor, and the Ushers Club formed. In the late’50s several more associate pastors came and went, while Father Bell stayed the course. Also in 1957, Our Lady of Knock Parish in Calumet City formed to serve those living at the northern end of St. Ann’s reach and the southern end of St. Victor’s. 1958 then saw the opening of Thornton Fraction South High School, an important institution in the lives of so many current parishioners.
The 1960s was a period of both excitement and turbulent transition, although it started quietly enough. The big event at the beginning of the decade was the election of John F. Kennedy, the country’s first ever Catholic President. Many Catholics took pride in his election, as there had been a history of discrimination against Catholics in politics at the national level.
By 1962, here at home, St. Ann School reached its largest enrollment ever with 890 students, in an era when life seemed to be good. In Rome, following the vision of Pope John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council opened in October, eventually leading to the realization that the Church needed to seek its roots in its earliest history and open itself to a new and more vital Spirit. In Lansing the Knights of Columbus celebrated their 10th Anniversary. Dick Mauch was the Treasurer, George McNamara a Trustee, and Walt Jonassen the General Program Chairman. Also, in ‘62 the Young Ladies Sodality was formed at St. Ann, under the guidance of Father Byron Maher, an Associate Pastor at the time.
1963 was both a year of celebration at St. Ann (50 years since Father Martin first steered his buggy in our direction) and a year of tragedy for the country, with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Three years later, Father Bell celebrated 25 years as the Pastor of St. Ann. This was a bittersweet occasion really, because it also marked the end of Father Bell’s tenure here. For the first time since St. Ann became a parish, we had a new Pastor, Father George A. Slominski. On the national scene, the US was becoming more deeply involved in a war in Vietnam, leading to both questions and protests about the wisdom of our involvement.
Back in Lansing, Father Slominski led the effort that eventually produced St. Ann’s first Parish Council in 1967, and the CCD Program (Religious Education) was re-organized and christened the Family Faith Program. As the decade came to an end in 1969, enrollment at St. Ann School had dropped of to 720 students, indicating that the baby boom was over.
Late in 1970, Father Bell returned to Lansing to celebrate a major milestone, 50 years in the priesthood. The parish bulletin of that Sunday in December paid special tribute to our first Pastor: “Good health, Father Bell. Thank you for sharing 25 years of your priestly life with us. Thank you for sharing this moment of joy and triumph with us. This place is just not the same without you.”
In 1971 a new parish group was formed, the Funeral Luncheon Ministry. By 1972 the parish purchased two new shrines and dedicated them in the church. Hand-carved in Italy, one portrayed the Holy Family. We also had a new organ installed in the church to enhance the weekly liturgies. Growth continued in 1973 when St. Ann School opened a Kindergarten. This was also the year that the Parents Club was formed at the school. In August 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States, and the painful Vietnam War finally came to an end in April 1975. At St. Ann, one of the changes initiated by the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council arrived in 1977 when parishioner Dick Mauch was ordained by Cardinal Cody as first permanent Deacon to serve the needs of our parish.
About this time, the parishioners of St. Ann expressed a new outpouring of generosity and social concern by sponsoring a large family of Vietnamese refugees. Led by Frank and Diane Batinick, and John and Phyllis Rowe, several parishioners coordinated the effort that included purchasing a home for the family and providing for all their needs. The children attended St. Ann School.
1978 was the year that Karol Wojtyla became the first non-Italian Pope in 450 years, taking the name of Pope John Paul II.
In 1979 there seemed to be a whirlwind of change. In March of that year, Father Slominski retired, and Father Edward F. Harnett was named pastor. One month later another new ministry began when the Eucharistic Ministry to the Sick was organized. In May the Adult Catechumenate Program, now known as RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) began and in September the new Marriage Preparation Program started. The first communal Anointing Masses took place in October ‘79. Parishioner Joe Rowe was ordained to the permanent Diaconate in December. By this time the parish census was 2700 families.
In 1980 the very first St. Ann School Board was organized. In 1981 the St. Ann’s Ladies Club celebrated 50 years. At that time the Club had more than 400 members. Past presidents included women like Martha Trinowski, Louise Koselke, Josephine Schoettle, Kathy Clinnin, Pam Lauer, Margaret Jonassen, and Jean Nosal. There was sadness in 1982 when Deacon Joe Rowe passed away early in the year. Father Harnett was assisted in his duties by two associate pastors at that time, Father William Fischer and Father Richard Sztorc.
The outgoing Principal of St. Ann School was Ruth Traman, and we welcomed Gloria Regocki in her place. Also in 1982, Joseph Bernardin, then the Archbishop of Cincinnati, was named as Archbishop of Chicago. 1983 saw the organization of the Ministry of Care, and Erv Chojnacki was ordained a permanent Deacon in April. It was also in 1983 that a ministry for widows and widowers, WOW, first organized at the parish.
1984 was another busy year at St. Ann. John Rowe, the brother of Joe Rowe, was ordained a permanent deacon. A big change in the parish July 1 of that year was the installation of our third pastor, Father Norm Kunz. The “Review” Program began that autumn, as did the Bridge, a drug and alcohol intervention program. The parish also tried out a big fund raising effort, Show Biz Annies, which had a successful debut in November. In 1985 we welcomed two new permanent deacons, as Marv Studer and Joe Winblad were ordained.
The passing of an era came in 1986 when Father Francis Bellerive died on October 8. Born in 1893, at the time of his death he was the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Our associate pastors at this time were Father Eugene Burns and Father John Heffernan. The first Christmas Giving Tree Program was organized by Monica and Tom Lockton. The following year another new ministry added to the life of the parish, the W. A. Y. (Welcome All Youth).
A major milestone for St. Ann came in 1988 when we celebrated 75 years of existence as a Catholic Christian community. During Lent of the same year a new ministry for the youth of the parish began—the Living Stations, under the direction of Vera Seymour, Dan Lemon and Ken Toosevich. As the new school year began in 1989, St. Ann School welcomed a new principal, Sister Eileen Morley, O.P. The parish also organized another new ministry, the Little Rock Scripture Study Group. That year our Village of Lansing was bulging, with a population of almost 30,000.
In 1991, to the astonishment of many Americans who had lived their entire lives in fear of “godless Communism,” the Soviet Union came to an end. In 1992 Father Norm, who had served us so well since 1984, retired as pastor, and was replaced by our fifth pastor, Father Michael A. Gabriel. In 1993, the sleepy little farming village of Lansing, now a robust suburb of Chicago, celebrating its 100th Anniversary. This was also the year that the Parish Mission Team was organized here at St. Ann. In 1994 a new parish position was created and filled by Todd Williamson, that of Pastoral Associate. That summer, members of the parish participated in a mission to Juarez, Mexico.
This year also brought some sad moments as the popular Father Norm Kunz passed away in July, after a long battle with cancer. Father Larry Collins, who had served St. Ann for several years, moved on to a new ministry at Little Company of Mary Hospital, and was replaced by Father Wojciech Kwiecien. Later the same year the Tomorrow’s Parish Program began under the leadership of Ted Cap, Linda Hibbs, Paul Parise, Walt Jonassen, and Wilda Warren, which led to the awareness that St. Ann Parish needed a new church building.
1995 saw the deaths of two of our deacons who had long served the parish, Marv Studer and Erv Chojnacki. It also brought the exciting news that Cardinal Bernardin had approved the building of a new church building at St. Ann Parish. Planning began immediately for the new building, and we adopted a theme taken from the Prophet Jeremiah: A Future Full of Hope. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on September 8, 1996, officiated by Bishop George Murry. Construction began soon thereafter, but these events were accompanied by the sad news that Joseph Cardinal Bernardin had died. Also in 1996 our parish staff grew, with the additions of Father Joe Allen and Joe Ceh. Not long after their arrival we said farewell and good luck to Father Wojciech Kwiecien and Father Dick Shannon.
On September 7, 1997, we celebrated the final Mass in the old church/school building with Fr. Michael Gabriel. After this last Mass, the congregation processed to the new church building with the sacred items for the Celebration of Mass.
Finally, after almost exactly a year of construction, our magnificent new church building was formally dedicated by Archbishop Francis George on September 27, 1997. St. Ann Parish continued to grow in size, one of the factors which necessitated the new church. Our parish ministries, organizations, and clubs then numbered 52. Many of these committees became creative in developing fundraisers to help cover expenses. Just a few of these include Italian Fest, a “Green Eggs and Ham” breakfast, Mardi Gras, Nights of Romance, fish fries, and a fashion show.
During Catholic Schools Week 1998, Fr. Mike blessed the new wing of the school that had been developed in the location of the former church. In addition to administrative offices, the modern wing included a large multi-purpose room that was used for Pre Cana and other large meetings, and eventually became the Preschool Room.
In the fall of that same year, all the children of the parish participated in “The Children’s Spare Change Project.” They were able to collect enough money to commission an artist to paint a picture of St. Joseph in memory of Joseph Cardinal Bernadin. The Michael Chelich painting hangs on the southwest wall of the church to this day.
January 1999 marked the beginning of preparations for the New Millennium. Our Holy Father chose “Disciples in Mission” as a theme for that year. As disciples, the faith community continued in its many ministries and added another: a bereavement group. There were also changes in the staff, with the death of Deacon John Rowe and the departure of Todd Williamson, who accepted a position with the Archdiocese Office of Divine Worship. St. Ann celebrated this year with two parties: a dinner dance to commemorate the second anniversary of the dedication of the new church, and a New Year’s Eve Party to welcome in the new century.
Pope John Paul II declared the year 2000 a Jubilee Year, and Catholics celebrated the even throughout the world. The Archdiocese of Chicago held a Eucharistic Convocation at Soldier Field on June 24, and St. Ann parishioners traveled by bus to join the other parishes for a solemn Mass that was celebrated in the pouring rain.
The year 2000 also marked the 50th anniversary of St. Ann School. On September 11, Francis Cardinal George came to celebrate Mass with the school children for the opening of the new school year. The parish also recognized the anniversary with a special Mass on September 30, followed by a reception. The year also saw a transition in leadership at the school. Sister Eileen retired as principal after 11 years, and Mr. Tim Hathhorn stepped into her shoes.
The following year, former St. Ann teacher Mr. Jim Renwick was ordained a deacon on May 20 and the joined the pastoral staff. Later that year, Father Kurt Boras was also assigned to St. Ann.
September 11, 2001 was a day all will remember forever. The United States was attacked by terrorists, and thousands were killed on our soil. This day changed us as a nation, and it changed each one of us at St. Ann. Prayers, flags, volunteer service, letters to firemen and policemen at Ground Zero were a few of the ways we stopped and remembered.
The fifth anniversary of the new church in the fall of 2002 was also the kickoff celebration for the 90th anniversary of St. Ann Parish. Former priests from St. Ann were invited to return and celebrate Mass on various Sundays throughout the year. This provided a great opportunity to visit with the many priests who had ministered to our parish over the years.
In the spring and summer of 2003, St. Ann School worked to renovate the library and dedicated it to Sister Eileen Morley. We also hosted a concert by the French Boys Choir in church, and parishioners opened their doors to the many boys and adults who accompanied them. That same week a record storm hit Lansing, a great microburst that caused major damage, uprooting trees, blocking street, blowing off roofs, sending fences and patio furniture flying. Power was out for several days. We sustained damage from the wind and water, including a flood in the school basement. The Village of Lansing Department of Public Works, Police and Fire Departments, and many volunteers helped us return to normal.
Pastor Michael Gabriel, “Fr. Mike,” celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving on June 13, 2004 to recall his 11 years as pastor of St. Ann. He did not want this Mass to be a farewell, but rather “an opportunity to look back on how much WE have accomplished as a parish.” An outdoor reception followed the Mass. Then on Sunday, July 18, St. Ann welcomed a new pastor, Fr. Fred Pesek, who was formally installed at the 5:00 p.m. Mass on October 9, 2004.
That year St. Ann Parish put on its first Ministry Fair. The gathering gave parishioners the opportunity to mee with our many ministries and organizations and learn about how they can become involved. We have continued this “expo” for many years as a means to grow our groups and bring in new members.
In 2005, we said farewell to both Father Kurt Boras and Deacon Jim Renwick, who moved on to new ministries elsewhere. We also said hello to St. Ann Preschool. Declining school enrollment prompted the creating of this program as a “feeder” for the K-8 school. Under the guidance of PreK teacher Mrs. Kathy Sandrick, the program grew very quickly.
In the spring of 2006, the Village of Lansing celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Ford Hangar at the Lansing Airport. To commemorate the occasion, fiberglass replicas of the Ford Tri-Motor airplane were offered to businesses and organizations all over Lansing as a street art program. An anonymous donor purchased one for St. Ann that was then designed and painted by student Kristi Dawson. The plan continues to stand between the parish office and the school building on Ridge Road.
The years of 2006 and 2007 saw significant changes in staff at St. Ann. First our new principal, Ms. Liz Gard, arrived for the 2006-7 school year, and then Father Mark Kalema joined us as Associate Pastor on July 1, 2007—his first stint at St. Ann.
Stewardship became the focus of our parish life during the next three years. Retreats, meetings, surveys, newsletters, and increased times for prayer all focused on the theme of Time, Talent, and Treasure. Additionally, Fr. Fred initiated a project to read the entire Bible in a year, complete with discussion groups and websites where readers could share their reflections on the scriptures for the day.
On January 27, 2010, the Archdiocese of Chicago Priest Placement Board cane to St. Ann for a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the parish’s concerns, hopes, and dreams for a new pastor. Many gathered to share their opinions and ideas related to our growth as a faith community and prayed together for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the assignment of our next pastor. The following July, Father William McFarlane arrived to bring us together and start anew. He saw us through a major Archdiocesan project known as the Parish Transformation Initiative, helping us to evaluate and set goals for the future.
Also joining us in 2010 was new school principal, Ms. Donna Lamoureux. Together with Fr. Bill, Ms. Lamoureux brought back weekly school Masses and regular Sunday Family Masses. Fr. Bill also introduced us to the Blue Mass, in which we honor police, fire, and other first responders. These moving annual Masses involved the school children, the Scouts, and all local rescue personnel and Village administration were invited.
Over the course of 2013, St. Ann held many events in commemoration of its 100th anniversary as a parish. The fun paid homage to the many different decades the parish had seen. There was a 1940s salute by the Legacy Sisters, a parish-wide skating party at the Lynwood Sports Center, an Elvis Night in the school hall, and finally a 100th Anniversary celebration that included Mass celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, followed by a dinner dance at the Lansing Serbian Center.
In 2018, Fr. Bill announced he would be moving on, so the search for a new pastor began anew. The good news was the return of Father Mark Kalema, who had been with us as Associate Pastor in 2007 and already knew many parishioners. Bishop Joseph Perry installed Fr. Mark as Pastor of St. Ann in August 2018.
In 2020, we found out that St. Ann would be going through the Renew My Church program in a grouping with our neighboring parishes of St. John in Glenwood and St. James in Sauk Village. While undergoing this process, we were also informed that due to drastically decreasing enrollment, St. Ann School would close at the end of its 70th school year, 2020-2021, unless we could raise $150,000 to cover our mounting deficit. The School Board launched a massive effort—the Angel Program—and reached out to alumni, parishioners, school parents present and past, friends, and neighbors. Although the majority of the money was raised, the effort was deemed inadequate, and the school closed at the end of May 2021. In June, we held a bittersweet Final Farewell Celebration that included self-guided school building tours, Mass, and a parking lot bash. The building is still in use for Religious Education, AA, and parish gatherings.
July 1, 2021, St. Ann merged with St. James and St. John. St. John Church was permanently closed, with St. Ann and St. James remaining open as worship sites, and St. Ann hosting the administrative functions and parish records for all three former parishes. In October 2021, Cardinal Blaise Cupich determined that our new name would be All Souls Catholic Parish. He recognized that the name is truly Catholic, or universal, and includes all of the souls in heaven, in purgatory, and in hell, as well as all sainted, blessed, and venerable souls, thus making it truly inclusive of all.