By Sara Kraft
PLATTSBURG — “It is with great joy we gather here,” stated Father Joseph Totton, Pastor of St. Ann’s Parish in Plattsburg since early July. On July 26, the Church celebrated the feast day of Saints Joachim and Ann, the parents of Mary, and grandparents of Jesus. Moreover, St. Ann Parish celebrated a significant anniversary, 150 years of existence. St. Ann in Plattsburg was named in honor of Mary’s mother and the parish chose to gather on her feast day to give thanks for all the blessings St. Ann has bestowed upon the church. To celebrate this special occasion, seven seminarians joined in celebrating the Mass for the feast day.
The history of St. Ann’s Parish is so rich – it is 150 years of grace being bestowed through God’s sacraments. Parish veterans spoke of the sacrifices of their ancestors in the parish and their gratitude for their help in passing on their faith like St. Ann, not just to their children but to their grandchildren.
In 1866, Fr. Christopher Linenkamp first began to visit the parish at regular intervals. Prior to that, priest visits were infrequent. A frame building was built in 1867, thirty feet by fifty-two feet, which cost around $2000. When it was no longer used for a church, it later became the Stage Theater Building. In 1884, Fr. Denis Keily came to Plattsburg and purchased land at 7th and Maple to build a new church. The church was completed in 1888 at a cost of $6000 and is still used today. Eventually the entire block was purchased, and St. Brendan School was built in 1896 along with a convent. St. Brendan School closed in 1939 due to the Great Depression.
After the school closed, parishioners remember attending a three week summer school taught by the nuns from Atchison. “We learned to memorize our prayers and played baseball,” recalled 70 year old parishioner Daniel S. III. “The nuns would play with us. There were a couple windows broken up because of it.”
In 1929-1930, a new rectory was built for $12,000. The rectory is still being utilized today after a complete renovation to the interior in 2008. In 1968, the former convent and school were torn down, and were replaced with the current parish hall and parking lot for $45,000. Restrooms were added to the back of the church in 2010, and in 2011, the Narthex and gathering space renovation was completed.
St. Ann was the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus, explained Fr. Totton. While we do not know much of her and husband Joachim’s lives, according to tradition they were both elderly and advanced in age when Mary was born. St. Ann was thought to be barren. In this way, she prepared the world for Jesus’ miraculous conception.
In our own families, grandparents typically pass on to their grandchildren their family values, traditions, and stories. St. Ann’s example should remind us of the fact that our legacy goes beyond simple stories. “On my first weekend in Plattsburg,” Fr. Totton said, “I met parishioner Paul Broderick, whose family had settled in this area shortly after they arrived here from Ireland. He now farms the same land that his family has been farming for over 160 years. I was astonished by the longevity and rootedness of one family to live in the same area for so long, but the more I reflect on it, it was not only the knowledge and skill of agriculture techniques that had been passed on over eight generations, but also the Catholic Faith which they had brought with them from the Emerald Isle and which had sustained and nourished them spiritually during that time. About a week later, I conducted the Funeral Mass for another member of that same family who had come into the Catholic Church when she married in to the family and not only embraced the Faith, but imparted it to her own children. Though this should not have come as so much of a surprise, I found it refreshing given the often transient nature of families in more suburban parishes with a far shorter history.”
Just as their ancestors sacrificed for their parish, parishioners in recent times do as well. Parishioners remember Charles and Judy Plummer, owners of a painting business, repainting the turquoise and pink interior of the church a lovely brown. Despite Judy being diagnosed with cancer in the midst of the project, they finished the project before Judy’s death in 2012. Clearly, the significance of St. Ann as patron showcases the parish’s belief in sacrificing not just for the moment, but in order to pass on the values they hold dear to the next generation. The result is a beautiful blending of both new and long-standing parishioners.
“Though many current parishioners can trace their roots to the founding of the parish, I am also edified to see them blend with families who have more recently discovered the serene setting of Plattsburg as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life,” stated Father Totton. “This is true even of young(ish) professionals who (may) work in Kansas City, but are carving out homesteads to raise their families closer to the land. All-in-all, I see a great appreciation for God’s creation which is provided by the unique setting of farms and fields.”
After 150 years the people of St. Ann are not content to rest on their laurels. They are committed to passing the Faith onto the next generation.
“The best part of St. Ann’s is daily Mass and the Eucharist,” stated Richard Hon, parishioner of St. Ann’s for 16 years. “I am hoping my grandkids see the next 150 years.”