St. Ann Catholic Church - Bonner, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 46° 52.125 W 113° 52.404
12T E 281019 N 5194587
Quick Description: The third St. Ann church to be built in Bonner, MT., this one opened to its first mass on September 27, 1986.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 11/9/2014 2:15:06 PM
Waymark Code: WMMVM5
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Dorcadion Team
Views: 0

Long Description:
The first St. Ann Catholic Church was built in Bonner in 1905 serving some 40 Catholic families, mostly French Canadians who worked at the lumber mill in Bonner. Land for the church was donated by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which bought the mill from W.A. Clark, who initially built the mill. A part of this 1905 church still remains to the rear of the present church.

A second church was formally opened on Jan. 28, 1940 and on January 2, 1985 was destroyed by fire. The third, this church, was erected on the same spot with the first mass being held September 27, 1986.

A more complete history of the parish can be seen below.

St. Ann

History of St. Ann Parish

The Mission Years: 1905-1938
The first of three St. Ann churches in Bonner, Montana, was built in 1905 to serve some 40 Catholic families, mostly French Canadians, who made their livings at the local lumber mill. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company donated the ground for the church, which was designed by Missoula architect A.J. Gibson. A portion of that earliest church remains standing in 2012, flanking the present church and used for storage by Bonner School. Father Julian Loiseau from St. Francis Xavier in Missoula directed the construction, and for the first three years St. Ann was attended by Jesuit fathers from the Missoula parish. In 1908, St. Ann was attached to St. John the Baptist parish of Frenchtown, some 20 miles to the west of St. Francis. There were probably at least three reasons: St. Francis, Missoula’s lone Catholic parish, was being stretched to capacity; the French language bound Frenchtown and Bonner; and Father Lionel LeGris had a car and knew how to use it. LeGris, a big man, drove to Bonner from Frenchtown on a regular basis for more than 15 years. He preached in French to families with names like LaForge, Cyr, Boileau, Beaulieu, Doucette, Dufresne, and Gauthier.

There was talk in the early 1920s of St. Ann becoming its own parish, but on Aug. 24, 1923, Bishop John Carroll of Helena notified Rev. J.J. O’Kennedy of Missoula’s new church on the south side, St. Anthony, that he was attaching to that parish “the mission of Bonner and the stations Bonita, Clinton and Potomac.” Rev. Denis Meade, Father A.J. Harrington or Father James O’Brien came to Bonner each week from St. Anthony to celebrate mass. Most weddings were held at St. Anthony. Funeral masses were said at St. Ann and the remains taken by train to Missoula for burial. Priests from St. Anthony served St. Ann on a weekly basis for 15 years.

A Parish of Our Own: 1938-1985
By 1938, Rev. Denis Meade had his hands full. His St. Anthony parish had grown extensively on Missoula’s south side, which included the state university. Meade asked to be relieved of St. Ann. The Helena Diocese made the separation on Oct. 1, 1938, and appointed Father John J. Connolly administrator of St. Ann.

Under Connolly’s direction funds were raised for a bigger, better church. Ground was broken June 10, 1939, and the first mass held in the basement hall of the uncompleted church on Oct. 28 of that year. William Soucie was construction foreman, and the building committee consisted of Soucie, chairman Ben Rae, George Cyr, Armand Dufresne, William Leibel and Peter Willey. The main floor was completed just in time for Christmas, 1939, and Bonner’s second Catholic church was formally opened on Jan. 28, 1940, with High Mass said by Father Connolly. In April, ground was broken for an adjacent modern living quarters for the pastor, and Bishop J.M. Gilmore, who drew up the plans, formally dedicated both church and rectory on Aug. 25, 1940. Father Connolly moved in a couple months later from a boarding house across from St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula in October.

Soucie had motivation to finish the church. On Aug. 10 he married Jeannette LaForge in the first wedding at the new St. Ann. On Sept. 2 Jeannette’s twin sister Genevieve married John McClellan in the second.

Fire, resurrection and the rest of the story: 1985-2012
A guard from the Champion International mill across Highway 200 noticed flames at the church just before 3 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1985. Firefighters from Missoula Rural Fire soonhad the fire under control, but the altar from the 1939 church was burned and the sanctuary and hall were destroyed.

After months of discussion it was decided to demolish the old building and rebuild from scratch. Rud Jennings chaired the St. Ann building committee, which also included Jo Labbe, Shirley Cuplin, Fritz Thibodeau, Al Ployhar and Don Householder. Our Savior Lutheran opened its doors to Sunday Catholic masses, and footings were poured on April 1, 1986. The first mass was held Sept. 27, 1986, although construction was not yet complete. Five children received First Communion on Oct. 5 and the first pot luck was held that day. The church was formally dedicated on Dec. 7, 1986, by Bishop Curtiss, Father Morley and eight area priests.

In November 2012, St. Ann is a parish of 94 families.
From St. Ann Parish

Type of Church: Church

Status of Building: Actively in use for worship

Date of organization: 1/1/1905

Date of building construction: 4/1/1986

Dominant Architectural Style: Modern

Diocese: Diocese of Helena

9015 Highway 200 East
Bonner, MT USA

Relvant Web Site: [Web Link]

Associated Shrines, Art, etc.: Not listed

Archdiocese: Not listed

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