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SAINT ANN'S CHAPEL

 

 

St. Ann's ChapelAbout Us
Welcome! St. Anne Chapel has been a mission of
Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral for
nearly a century. We are located on Gallows Hill
in the heart of Frenchtown in the downtown area of
St. Thomas.  Our chapel is an evangelical
outreach to the people of Frenchtown as we
worship and encourage each other in the faith as a
community of believers. Our commitment to liturgy,
sacraments, pastoral care, education and prayer
becomes the embodiment of Christ in his kingdom. 
 

Our Origins
Father John Guillo came to the United States Virgin
Islands from Wayne, Michigan, in 1918. Speaking
French fluently, he developed an enduring relationship
with the settlers of Carenage on St. Thomas. Knowing
that the community was of the Catholic faith, it became his mission to bring these
non-practicing members back into the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. The people of
Carenage were a humble, impoverished group. Cognizant of their appearance and stature
among locals, the French settlers developed self-segregation behaviors to avoid
embarrassment and taunting. The settlers of Frenchtown needed a place for devotion
and Father Guillo wrote to the Rev. Joseph Schneider, the Redemptorist Provincial of
the Baltimore province in Maryland, for permission to construct a church. Not only was
permission granted, but a sizable donation was sent to begin the project.
Mr. James Boschulte donated the land to the Roman Catholic Diocese of the Virgin Islands.
Plans were drawn and preparations were made following the formal announcement
on April 21, 1919. The church would be perched on the pinnacle of Gallows Hill, a site
used to hang criminals. Work began in 1920 under the advice of one Mr. Pettigrew,
the architect.

In the interim, worship was conducted in a school, a small, wood framed house at the foot
of the property. The primary rock composition on the hill was andesine, which had to be
blasted and excavated by hand. Twelve feet had to be unearthed from Gallows Hill in
preparation of a foundation. Much of the work was generously donated by the people of
Frenchtown, with the blasting conducted and supervised by the United States Navy under
the tenure of Lt. Phillip Williams. Necessary equipment and tools were loaned from the Navy,
which was establishing a sound military base on the island. The erection of the structure
began on March 1, 1921. Mr. Emanuel John, the contractor and Mr. Hennessy, chief mason,
worked diligently towards its completion. However, on April 19th of the same year, Fr. Guillo
was transferred to a parish in Boston, Massachusetts. Fr. Paul Dugal would eventually take the
lead. The church was the product of toil and sweat of men, women and children of Frenchtown,
everyone contributing by carrying cement, water and sand during their free time. Fr. Dugal
was no stranger to hard work; a competent carpenter, he assisted in building the first altar
and benches.

The faith of the people in the little town was rekindled when the church was dedicated in honor
of St. Anne, the patron saint of fishermen, on December 25, 1921, at a 9 a.m. Mass. Fr. Dugal
initiated an outdoor procession on the Solemnity of Ss. Joachim and Anne. It became an annual
event at the church, furthering the interest and awareness of the French settlers. Appointed
to a new parish, Fr. Dugal was soon replaced by Fr. Guillo again, who remained in service to
God and the people of Frenchtown for six more years. Fr. Leo St. Lawrence came in 1931 and
became dedicated to people, their way of life, and the new church. He initiated the purchase of
a life size statue of St. Anne which currently stands overlooking and protecting the fishermen and
their families.

During his tenure, a side altar was made and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady
of Perpetual Help, the building was lengthened, a sacristy was added and a new entrance was
built. Fr. St. Lawrence's commitment and dedication instilled further confidence and loyalty in
the French community. Fr. Arthur Finn continued the work of the Redemptorist Fathers and
established the first boys choir at St. Anne in 1935. Many in the French village followed the
Lord's path by entering the Roman Catholic ministry: Alma Baptiste, Clement Danet, Francelia
Greaux, Marguerite Greaux, Anatalia Magras, Alberto Olive, Alphonse Olive and Theresa Olive.

Almost 90 years later, the St. Anne Chapel community is far more mixed. We are black and
white, Hispanic and Filipinos, West Indians and mainlanders. We celebrate our differences
in a simple little chapel that recognizes we are all the family of God. Our Masses are usually
in English, but are often bilingual. We have a monthly Mass in French and celebrate Filipino
holy days with Mass in Filipino dialects. One of our most joyful annual celebrations is our
annual patronal procession, carrying the image of St. Anne and her child, the Blessed Virgin
Mary, to the bayside, where the priest does a blessing of boats. Come join us!

Preparing for our 90th anniversary
St. Anne Chapel is one of the oldest houses of worship in the Virgin Islands that is still in its
original structure. We are preparing for the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the
first Mass celebrated in the chapel on Christmas day 2011. We will have special activities
between now and then in anticipation of our big day. However, we are facing several large
challenges.

Interior design
In April 2010, we installed an antique French Gothic altar, reredos, Lady shrine, baptismal
font and wall paneling. They are so classic and reverential that they have inspired us to move
forward with remodeling. We are looking to install new windows, pews, an ambo and
presider’s chair and more in time for the 90th anniversary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
     
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