St. Ann Catholic Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., stands out starkly from the landscape: The white exterior contrasts with the green palm trees surrounding it.
St. Anne, due to her role as grandmother of Jesus, is honored as the patron of grandmothers.
I thought of this as I passed the statue of St. Anne outside the church and saw the stained-glass window of St. Anne in the sanctuary as I entered the sacred space.
My wife, Mary Louise, and I named the second oldest of our five daughters after St. Anne. As a result, she has a special place of honor in our lives. My mother, as a grandmother, also had great devotion to her patron saint.
The first St. Ann Church was built in 1895 on the corner of Rosemary and Datura Streets by Jesuits during the late 19th century.
Later, Henry Flagler, the famous Florida developer who helped build the city of Miami and also built rail systems and major hotels in the state, donated land for the building of a new St. Ann Church on North Olive Avenue. He did so because his employees were mostly Catholic and he wanted to be sure his employees’ spiritual needs were well taken care of.
So the original St. Ann Church was moved to the land donated by Flagler: its present location on the corner of Second Street and Olive Avenue in 1900. About a year later, the priest’s residence was built behind the church, with labor and materials provided by Flager. (Flagler donated land in downtown West Palm Beach for all the major religious groups and did the same in Miami. His rationale was that if one were to build cities, churches would be needed.)
When the first St. Ann Church was built, most of the wealthy Floridians lived on Palm Beach Island. The island’s Catholic church was St. Edward Church, also built by the Jesuits; it was originally a mission church of St. Ann’s.
But as the population in West Palm Beach grew, it became necessary to build a new and larger St. Ann’s, in 1913, at 310 North Olive Ave.
Historical fact: Prior to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, he attended his last Sunday Mass at the church on Nov. 17, 1963.
The altar steps and altar in the most recently built St. Ann Church are marble. A sculpture of the Last Supper is at the altar. To the left of the altar is a statue of Mary and the Christ Child. To the right is a statue of St. Joseph. The Stations of the Cross date back to the 1950s.
The stained-glass windows, which came from Germany, take up so much of both side walls they appear to have become the walls of the church. The entire story of salvation is the theme of the eight windows. Perhaps what impressed me most about the church were those windows, which help the faithful to truly appreciate our faith history.
St. Ann Church truly is a spiritual oasis in a tropical climate.
Joseph Albino writes from Syracuse, New York.
Planning Your Visit
For Mass times, including family Mass information, visit StAnnWPB.org.
Take I-95, the north-south interstate, and exit at the Okeechobee Exit. Go east to Olive Avenue. Turn left onto Olive Avenue, which is a one-way street. Go to Third Avenue. The church parking lot is on the corner of Olive and Third Avenues.