Last updated on July 31, 2016

With the dawning of new century the early 1900s brought about amazing growth in the South end of Tacoma. Population figures grew with the military impact of World War I along with the extension of the streetcar lines through the area.

The nearest Catholic churches were Holy Rosary at South 30th and Tacoma Avenue and Sacred Heart on McKinley Avenue. Since the only way for families to reach these churches was by street car, as very few owned automobiles, the cost of public transportation kept many of them from Mass and participation in parish life. The presence of a Catholic Orphanage, St. Ann’s Home, established at 82nd and J Street in 1921 sparked a movement among the Catholic residents of the area for a parish to accommodate the many people attending Sunday Mass in the orphanage chapel.

Thomas and Anna Hucek Delaney met with Gus and Anna Jezek in their home at South 72nd and Park Avenue and agreed to canvas the South End to form a petition for the formation of a parish. Anna Delaney traveled to Seattle to deliver the petition to Bishop Edward O’Dea who established the parish as St. Ann on April 15, 1924. The first pastor, Rev. Michael Murphy, celebrated the first Mass on April 27, 1024 in the home of Patrick Gallagher at South 67th and Yakima Ave. Property was purchased for $5,600. The church (with seating for 300) and hall were built at a cost of $14,500. The church was formally dedicated by Bishop O’Dea on October 5, 1924. The rectory was finished in early 1925 at a cost of $8,000.

In 1932 Rev. Robert Dillon was appointed pastor and led the parishioners through the difficult years of the Great Depression. In 1935 Rev. Edmond Hayes served as pastor temporarily until the appointment of Rev. Maurice Galvin in 1936. Although the economy had rallied in the United States, many repairs and maintenance had been set aside. Parishioners faithfully supported dinners, social events and volunteer work to further strengthen the parish community. In 1938 Fr. Galvin instituted religious education classes and enlisted the assistance of the Sisters of St. Francis from St. Ann home to conduct the classes.

August 1943 saw the appointment of Rev. J. F. Milner to St. Ann Parish. Formidable and determined, he accomplished a great deal during his pastoral years. His brusque Irish manner belied his deep sense of humor and his caring nature. His assistance to those in need was widespread, yet he preferred to remain anonymous. Longtime parishioners are able to share many stories of Fr. Milner and his accomplishments. The parish debt was paid off soon after his arrival, and the long awaited school building and convent (now the Milner Center) were built. The debt for them were paid off in just five years.

Starting in the 1950s St. Ann Parish was blessed with the addition of assistants to Fr. Milner, namely Fr. Edmond Barry, Fr. William Slate and Fr. Michael O’Brien. During the 1950s and 1960s additional parcels of land were purchased so that eventually the parish facilities encompassed the full two square block area. In 1955 the school and convent, erected at a cost of $250,000 were opened and school enrollment was 324 students. The Sisters of St. Benedict served as administrators and educators for the school, providing an excellent Catholic education for the youth.

On March 17, 1968 the feast of St. Patrick, the first Mass was held in our current church building. It was built at a total cost of $609,375. Formal dedication of the church by Bishop Thomas Gill occurred on June 16, 1968. Fr. Milner retired as pastor in July 1973 after 30 years of faithful service to the parishioners of St. Ann Parish. Due to decreased enrollment, the parish school was closed in 1988. The Puyallup Indian Tribal Schools leased the facility in 1993 for three years until their facilities were constructed in the Puyallup Valley. In 2002 the Catholic Community Services used the building for Phoenix Housing, their program to serve the homeless families of the area.

Subsequent to Fr. Milners’ retirement to his native Ireland, pastors and assistants were assigned for a much shorter period of time. Fr. Thomas Phelan served as pastor during the formation of parish councils and commissions. Fr. Sean Heneghan succeeded Fr. Phelan as Pastor. On November 14, 1987 a celebration of mortgage burning took place with former pastors Fr. Milner, Fr. Phelan and Fr. William Slate present. In July of 1992 Fr. Heneghan directed the collaboration with Sacred Heart Parish to form a pastoral unit.

During his time the following priests faithfully served our pastoral unit: Pastors Sean Heneghan and John Kohler, Parochial Vicars Dan Chiezy, Emmanuel Iweh, Dominic Nguyen, John Nwanze, and Vince Peterson. The Benedictine Monks of St. Martin’s Abbey also assisted with occasional weekend coverage for Masses. Fr. Thomas Phelan will always be remembered as the pastor who organized a parish council and a finance council with representatives elected from various areas within the parish boundaries.

The Korean community shared the St. Ann facility from 1985 to 1992. The Samoan community joined our faith community in 1995. In July 1996 St. Ann, St. John of the Woods and Sacred Heart became a parish cluster under Fr. Vince Pastro. July 2006 Fr. Tuan Nguyen was assigned to the cluster and served during the period of the inclusion of Visitation Parish. Parochial Vicars serving during that period were Fr. Poao Saena, Fr. Gilberto Mora-Tapia and Fr. Brian Dolejsi.

From July 2008 until 2010 Holy Rosary and St. Joseph Parishes joined the regional cluster. A new team of Parochial Vicars were assigned. They were Fathers Cal Christiansen Jacob Maurer, Poao Saena and Gilberto Mora-Tapia. In 2009 the Vietnamese community joined the St. Ann faith community. In July 2010 Fathers Francisco Cancino, Leonardo Pestano, Armando red and Nicholas Wichert were assigned to serve the six regional parishes with Fr. Tuan until June 2011.
In July 2011 the cluster was once again reduced to the regional three parishes of St. Ann, St. John of the Woods and Sacred Heart with Fr. Tuan as pastor and assigned by Parochial Vicar Fr. Francisco with Fathers Dave Gese and John Koehler helping out occasionally. In March of 2013 Fr. Paulo Laga was assigned as a Parochial Vicar to assist Fr. Tuan.

Our multi-cultural community will necessitate compromise and change for all, but with the acceptance of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of St. Ann, the new faith community will flourish and extend the Kingdom of God for His greater honor and glory.