1937 1955 1980’s – 1990’s 2003 2004 ST. ANNE’S TODAY
The automobile giant Henry Ford, Sr. built a copy of the Ford chapel in Dearborn, MI here in Richmond Hill. Mr. Ford financially maintained the chapel for the students at the high school for daily worship and for a nondenominational service on Sundays for the whole community. After Mr. Ford’s death, the property was sold to the local paper company and the church was not used any longer for worship.
At the time, a very small community of about 30 catholics, notably the Miner family, lived in Richmond Hill. Having no church of their own, they traveled 17 miles to Savannah each Sunday to attend Mass. This distance imposed a burden on them. Aware of the difficulties, Bishop Francis Hyland, then Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta, made arrangements for the Mass to be offered each Sunday at the Justice Courthouse in Richmond Hill. He also took an interest in the beautiful Ford plantation chapel. Learning that the plantation was to be sold, he wrote to International Paper Company to let the new owners know that the Diocese would be interested in purchasing the building. Three or four years later the chapel did become the property of the Diocese, made possible through Gilbert Verney. The newly renovated mission chapel of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was dedicated on June 1, 1955. The parish was initially very small, only about five registered families and a handful of Catholic soldiers from Hinesville. However, it began to grow.
A new Colonial Style parish hall was constructed with meeting rooms, classroom space, a kitchen and a small living space for the resident priest. In 1987, St. Anne’s was raised to Parish status under the leadership of Fr. Douglas Clark. The community and St. Anne continued to grow. In 1992, Fr. Herbert Wellmeier began his residence in our community. In 1995, due to the need for a long-range growth plan, a committee was established and a four-phase development plan was reached. The plan included providing adequate living quarters for the priest, purchasing additional property behind the Parish Life Center with additional meeting, classroom, and kitchen space. The plan also included plans to modify the church with additional seating capacity. Father Wellmeier launched the Growing in Grace expansion project in 2001. The only modification to this long range plan has been the intention to build a new church, rather than modify the existing structure. We are now pursuing options for construction of a new St. Anne Church to continue to serve our ever-growing community of faith.
In January 2003, Fr. Joseph Smith joined our parish. His exuberance and energy have added new dimensions to our parish. The once small catholic community that began in the courthouse had grown to include nearly 800 families. This is an exciting time for us and for Fr. Smith. It is a time of growth in size as well as in spirituality.
Holy Family Hall was built in October 2004 to provide parish office space, classrooms for our religious education programs, and parish social events. However, due to the rapid growth of our parish, we now celebrate most of our Masses in Holy Family Hall because of the limited capacity of the church to accommodate our growing numbers. As we look to the future, with the approval of Bishop Boland and support of our Diocese, we embark on a journey to build a new St. Anne Church that will accommodate our present needs, and the needs of the generations that will follow us. We give thanks for all God’s blessings, and our strong family of faith at St. Anne. We celebrate our faith as we grow together in grace, faith, love and family.
Recently, our St. Anne Catholic Church has been recognized as one of eleven historic sites on the Coastal Bryan County Heritage Trail.
1980’s – 1990’s
ST. ANNE’S TODAY