THE HISTORY OF ST ANN'S CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CORMAC
The Stately Gray Stone Church
As one travels down Foymount Hill, the stately gray stone Church of St. Ann's, with its sky reaching steeple, rests serenely at its foothill. Visible, are not only buildings, but the well maintained sheds that sheltered horses and carriages in earlier days.
The beautiful Shrine of St. Ann, nestled among the pines, where the first Pilgrimage took place in 1938, finds tourists frequently praying at Her steps or kneeling before the nearby monument to the newborn. A young high school student, (now Reverend George Holly), arranged for the Crucifixion Scene beside the church.
People can be seen resting on a bench in thoughtful reflection or saying the Stations of the Cross. This beautifully decorated church which houses a statue of St. Ann above the altar as well as a relic of St Ann was not the first church to grace the grounds. Until 1891, a small chapel on the Opeongo served as a mission for Catholic families.
The Building of the First Church
Father James McCormac was responsible for the building of the first church in Cormac in 1891. This location was chosen because it was the center through which most traffic flowed, and so named because of Father McCormac's deep devotion to St. Ann. At the same time, the cemetery was moved from the Opeongo and positioned near the church, where it remains today.
The church was built of clapboards, with steps leading up to the entrance, and located on land donated by John Gibbons and by Thomas Kelly. This church served the parishioners until it burned on January 8th, 1916 at 3:00am. The cause of the fire was thought to be that of a faulty wood furnace.
The Rebuilding Begins
Parishioners immediately began building a new cement block church under the guidance of Father J.N. George. Fifty-five families donated lumber and worked laboriously to build a church that would serve its people. While the church was being built, Mass was offered at the Castile School (where Kevin Mullin's new house is located). A year after the church was built, a parish house was built. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated by Father George on July 23, 1916. The shell was up but the inside was incomplete. In 1917, the church was blessed by Bishop John Ryan. Father J.N. George became Cormac's first pastor on Nov 1st, 1919, ending Cormac's 60 plus years as a mission of Brudenell. The blessing of the bell took place on July 25, 1920. The next day, the first ordination was of Stephen Joseph Ryan, a native of Cormac, bestowing great blessings on St. Ann's. The first marriage was that of Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Manion on Nov 28, 1917.
Since Cormac was centrally located in the diocese, Bishop C.L. Nelligan approved of a Shrine to St. Ann in 1939. On July 26th 1938, Father George and parishioners hosted the first Pilgrimage and thus fostered a deep devotion to St. Ann in the hearts of people. Following the First Pilgrimage, the Shrine was built and blessed in July 1939. In 1946 and the following years, the church was extended, property improved and the Shrine enlarged with stonework, a stone railing around it with steps leading to the Alter. In 1978, Brudenell became a mission of Cormac.
St. Ann's was blessed by each pastor, who continually gave dedicated service to the church and community, not only to improve physical appearance and ambiance of the church, but to keep it vibrant as a living center of worship. St. Ann's lost its Resident Pastor August 1, 1999 with the reorganization of priests. Father Richard Starks moved to St. Micheal's, Douglas, but continued to serve as our Pastor. Then on September 1st 2004, Bishop Richard Smith, at an organizational meeting at St. Ann's, announcing that St. Ann's Church would no longer have a weekend liturgy.
St. Anns Continues to Flourish
St. Ann's continues to flourish as a parish community with Wednesday evening Mass and liturgies for special celebrations, funerals and weddings. Thanks to the dedication of a few faithful families and summer residents, we continue to serve the thousands of pilgrims who attend our annual Pilgrimage. The spiritual devotion to St. Ann and the faith of the people are still evident in Cormac, through the participation, financial support, and devotion of the people and community.