St. Ann Parish in Warsaw will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 26.
An open house will begin at 2 p.m. at St. Ann Church, 30455 W. Dam Access Road.
The Rosary will be prayed at 2:30 p.m.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight will offer Mass and confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on three parishioners at 3 p.m.
A meal will be served after Mass. All are welcome to attend. Please confirm reservations by Sept. 1 at stannwarsawmo.org, or contact Deb Blair in the parish office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 660-438-3844.
From humble beginnings
The late Leo I. Porter Sr., longtime St. Ann parishioner, called Warsaw, Missouri, “the heartbeat between Harry S Truman Reservoir and the headwaters of the Lake of the Ozarks.”
St. Ann Parish isn’t quite as easy to describe.
“There’s no book on a place like this,” a pastor stated nearly four decades ago. “We are mostly strangers who have come from somewhere else.”
But once they arrive, they become part of an eclectic family that was once very small.
Chris and William Hirsch arrived in Warsaw in 1855 to open a meat market, bringing their Catholic faith with them.
They were the only Catholics in town at that time.
Nearly a century later, Monsignor J. McCaffery, vicar general of what was then the Diocese of Kansas City, wished to build a Catholic church in every county.
On Feb. 10, 1944, the diocese bought a lot in the original town of Warsaw from Walter J. Button for $600.
To prepare the community for what was to come, Bishop (later Archbishop) Edwin V. O’Hara of Kansas City sent priests to Warsaw to do some street preaching.
Among the young preachers was Father Michael F. McAuliffe, future bishop of Jefferson City.
Ward J. Krudwig of Lebanon, Missouri, was contracted to build Warsaw’s first Catholic church at the northwest corner of Jackson and Bolivar streets in 1945.
The Catholic Extension Society of America provided $5,000 of the cost.
When completed, the wooden-frame building measured 30 by 60 feet. Eight pews were adequate for the eight men, 12 women and five children who made up the congregation.
Bishop O’Hara dedicated the church on March 3, 1946.
Precious Blood Father Urban Landoll offered the first Mass in the church a month later.
“The first Mass was said in a shell of a building resembling a cow shed, no heat, concrete floor, 7 am Mass only,” parishioner Kathleen White recalled in a letter.
Over time, this tiny mission church came to be affectionately known as “The Sheep Shed.”
Father B.J. Walton was appointed regular pastor of the Mission of St. Ann in May of 1946.
His residence was in Windsor, about 30 miles away. He had no car, so he travelled by bus.
Fr. Walton’s resources were somewhat limited. He did not have a housekeeper. His rectory was unfurnished. The church was heated with a wood stove.
The Ernest Hirsh family took care of their pastor whenever he stayed overnight in Warsaw.
The men of the parish would take turns building the fire in the church stove each Sunday.
Fr. Walton taught John William Hirsch, the only young boy of the parish, to be an altar server.
Fr. Walton organized the Ladies Altar Society in 1946. All altar necessities were bought or made by the good ladies.
Church members purchased a gas stove for the church and installed it under Fr. Walton’s supervision on Dec. 31, 1947.
That day was very snowy and cold. While trying to return home to Windsor, Fr. Walton got lost in the snowstorm and died.
Part of a new diocese
Father Joseph Lorenz was sent to Warsaw to serve as temporary pastor until Father James Holmes was appointed pastor in June of 1948.
Father John F. Hamilton became pastor in December 1950. He organized the first vacation Bible school for Catholic children in Warsaw. He became extremely ill and was taken to the hospital in April 1952.
Newly ordained Father James A. Schwartz then served the parish for two months until Father Walter J. Pilecki became pastor.
St. Ann became part of the newly formed Diocese of Jefferson City on July 2, 1956.
Father A.J. Brunswick of the Missionary Society of the Precious Blood was appointed pastor in January 1958.
A new rectory next to St. Ann Church was completed in 1966.
St. Ann officially became a parish on Nov. 1 of that year, with Fr. Brunswick as its first resident pastor.
He had been living in Cole Camp and serving as pastor both of Ss. Peter and Paul and of St. Ann for several years. However, due to the growth of St. Ann, he was relieved of his duties in Cole Camp.
He retired in 1972 due to ill health, having served in the area for more than 30 years. He died May 10, 1974.
Precious Blood Father Donald J. Green was appointed St. Ann’s new pastor on Nov. 3, 1972. He had previously served as pastor of Cole Camp and two missions.
Fr. Green died suddenly of a heart attack in the rectory on April 25, 1974, just after returning from Mass. He was 50 years old.
Precious Blood Father Joseph Jakubiak was appointed to succeed him on July 31 of that year.
Fr. Jakubiak was pastor when the St. Ann Parish Pastoral Council was formed in 1978.
The original wooden church underwent many changes over the years.
It was remodeled in 1958 with the addition of an overhead garage door to allow people standing outside to view Mass.
The addition of the east half and the basement more than doubled the church’s capacity in 1961.
The church interior was improved and completely remodeled in November 1979.
That same year, the Truman Dam was completed, creating Truman Lake and an influx of tourists and retirees.
A new parish hall was completed in the fall of 1984.
Knights of Columbus Jay Harris Council 8620 was chartered March 23, 1984, with 37 members. Louis Harshner was the first grand knight, with Mike Harris, son of Jay Harris, serving as deputy grand knight.
Precious Blood Father Trenneth Meyers arrived in July 1985, his first time as pastor, remaining until July 1988.
Precious Blood Father William Miller succeed him in January 1989.
Over the next three years, Fr. Miller began addressing the need for a larger church.
A new home
Succeeding Fr. Miller in 1992 was Precious Blood Father Dennis Schaab.
The Catholic community in and around Warsaw continued to grow, especially during the tourist season.
Fr. Schaab suggested the possibility of building a new church, and he recommended a study of the area.
Based on the findings, the parish bought a 10-acre site on the Dam Access Road west of Warsaw in the summer of 1993.
Architectural plans were completed in November 1994, approval was given in March 1995, and construction began on Oct. 30.
Bishop McAuliffe dedicated the new St. Ann Church on Nov. 16, 1996, as part of the parish’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The new church had seating for 340 people, with a large hall seating 250 people for dinner.
The St. Ann Parish family was intensely involved in the building of the new church, with parishioners donating 7,200 hours of volunteer labor.
The Warsaw Knights council received the International Church Activity Award (1996-97) for the members’ work on building the new church.
“I enjoyed my time there. The church had good leadership,” Fr. Schaab recently told St. Ann parishioner Lisa Kelley.
He spoke fondly of the parishioners who dedicated time and resources to build the current church and rectory.
“The church was built by the contributions from lots of men and women of the parish,” he stated.
Knights’ Memorial Masses started in 1998, honoring all deceased members of Jay Harris Council 8620 and the Ladies Auxiliary.
The parish paid off its debt for the new church in November 2003. A “Burning of the Mortgage” celebration was held the following February.
Precious Blood Father Thomas Albers served as pastor for a year, followed by Precious Blood Father Keith Branson from 2007-12.
Parish life and the parish community continued to grow under his leadership.
The church bell got a new look, a canopy was added over the church door, and a new metal roof was installed.
Fr. Branson was the last of the Precious Blood Fathers to lead St. Ann Parish.
He recently told parish secretary Deb Blair that one of his first impressions of the parish was as a seminarian.
“I came down to a community gathering hosted by Fr. Dennis, who cooked,” he recalled. “After the meal, we all took a long walk across to the Visitor’s Center and then over the Dam to the construction site where we met some of the parishioners working on the new church.”
He pointed to two things he especially loved about living in Warsaw: “the beautiful scenery and all of the beautiful people of the parish, especially the great people who were on the staff.”
Father Michael Murphy became pastor in July 2012, serving until June 2014.
Father Callistus Okoroji, a missionary priest of the Diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria, was appointed administrator of St. Ann and Ss. Peter and Paul in 2014.
Succeeding him from 2017 to July 2021 was Father Alex Ekka, a missionary priest of the Diocese of Jashpur, India.
Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jashpur visited the parish on July 1, 2018.
Fr. Ekka provided steady leadership through the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a great time during my stay in Warsaw — great views, great scenery, great people and great food,” he recently told a parishioner. “Warsaw will always be in my heart.”
Deacon Christopher Wickern, a permanent deacon from Sedalia, was appointed to assist the pastor of St. Ann and Ss. Peter and Paul in August 2019.
Father Benjamin Nwosu, a missionary priest of the Diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria, became pastor on July 4, 2021.
He is looking forward to celebrating this year’s significant milestone with his parishioners and continuing to lead souls ever-closer to Christ.