On Sunday, July 25, Bishop Kevin W. Vann celebrated Mass at St. Anne Church in Seal Beach in commemoration of the parish’s centennial. Bishop Vann was joined at Mass by Monsignor Michael Heher, pastor, Father John Shimotsu, parochial vicar, Father Edward Jablonski, retired from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Father Robert Vidal, pastor emeritus and Deacon Gary Muncho.
After Mass, Bishop Vann and the other clergy members joined 160 St. Anne’s parishioners for a 5 p.m. fish dinner in the parish hall. There was a second fish dinner seating at 7 p.m. for an additional 160 parishioners. The two dinner seatings raised more than $5,000 for the benefit of Diocesan Seminarians.
HISTORY OF ST. ANNE’S
St. Anne Catholic Church began one hundred years ago when a small mission church was established in Seal Beach in 1921 by Father Thomas Morris, pastor of St. Matthew’s in Long Beach. Mass was first celebrated there in a temporary building, a grain warehouse, on Electric Avenue near Main Street. Bishop John Cantwell, the bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles, appointed the Reverend Austin Fleming as its first pastor in 1921.
Throughout 1922, Father Fleming, who was both a parish priest and a carpenter, began the construction of a new church on property purchased in Seal Beach. With the support of local parishioners, plus a generous Chicago woman who donated $1,000 and asked that the parish be dedicated to Saint Anne, the small church was erected at 317-319 10th Street. In time, the parish grew to 97 members, 38 of which were under 18 years old.
When the new Archdiocese of Los Angeles was established in May of 1936, Father Christopher Bradley was appointed pastor of St. Anne’s. When the parish began to outgrow its little church, Father Bradley traded the two lots on which the church stood on 10th Street for two lots across the street, where the present church stands today.
The building was completed at the cost of $6,000, and on August 22, 1937, Archbishop Cantwell dedicated the new St. Anne Catholic Church at 340 10th Street.
Nearing the end of World War II, Father Thomas O’Sullivan became pastor of the parish. During his 15 years in that role, he bought five more lots south of the church, providing the only private parking lot of any size in town. By July of 1944, with the establishment of what was then known as the Naval Ammunition and Net Depot, crops of new homes and a shopping plaza were built in Seal Beach. When Father Dominic Daly arrived at St. Anne’s in 1958, Seal Beach and nearby Huntington Beach were home to major aerospace installations, causing substantial residential development.
In 1959, Father Louis Pick arrived at St. Anne’s. As a seasoned Navy chaplain, he continued with more parish improvements, including the installation of the bell tower. And with the increasing demand for pastoral services, the old rectory was remodeled to double its size.
Father William Diamond’s 10-year tenure began in 1962. A year later, as construction began on the nearby community of Huntington Harbour, St. Anne’s experienced an ever-increasing pace of growth. Seven adjacent lots were purchased, and a new parish hall was built in 1966, expanding the parking lot to 60 spaces.
The Diocese of Orange was established in 1976, with William Johnson its first Bishop. When Monsignor Michael Collins arrived at St. Anne’s in 1980, he emphasized religious education and assigned Sister Sam Settar to the new program. In 1987, he sponsored the start of the Knights of Columbus at St. Anne’s. Monsignor Collins retired in 1987 but stayed on in retirement to assist the subsequent two pastors, Father Patrick Doherty (1987-1993) and Father Robert Vidal, who arrived in 1993.
“Father Bob,” as he is fondly known, has always cared deeply for his growing flock. As the parish grew to about 700 families in 2007, he continued the improvements of the parish, including the renovation and earthquake retrofit of the parish hall (2002) and church (2007). During his stewardship, he implemented the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, increased the community involvement of the Knights of Columbus and started a new Woman’s Guild. His was the longest service of all the parish priests, and still leaves a deep spiritual and temporal mark on St. Anne’s.
In 2011, Monsignor Michael Heher was appointed by Bishop Tod Brown as the 17th and current pastor of St. Anne’s, where he fosters the spiritual, pastoral and working operations of the parish. Father Bob continues to be of service to the church as Pastor Emeritus.
With his upcoming retirement on December 31, 2021, Monsignor Mike will complete the tenure of 17 pastors during one hundred years. The parish has grown to 830 registered parishioners, and this dynamic, engaged and generous parish community looks forward to the designation by Bishop Vann of the next pastor to serve at St. Anne’s as it begins the start of its second 100-year history.