St. Ann Church History
Father Farrell 1908
Father Francis Hopp 1908-1909
Father George Schoenemann 1908-1909
Father Anthony Dean 1909-1909
Father Thomas Hanrahan 1909-1913
Father Joseph A. Powers 1913-1934
Father Victor Studer 1930-1934
Father D'Arcy Nadon 1933-1934
Father J. Francis Dietz 1934-1944
Father Ferris Petros 1944-1960
Father Werner Hackert (Administrator) 1960-1961
Father John Vasko 1961-1964
Father Bernard Hawkins 1964-1965
Father John Filyz 1965-1966
Father Anthony Lang 1966-1968
Father Frederick Anzivino 1968-1972
Father J. Humphrey 1972-1973
Father Leo Pleban 1973-1984
Father Robert Bruce 1984-1989
Father John Schmidt 1989-1995
Sr. Maureen Smith (Administrator) 1995-2000
(Fr. Jeff Mickler, Fr. Matthew Roehrig, Fr. Tim Chenevey, Fr. Tom Fogarty)
Father Leo Wehrlin 2000-2004
Deacon Ralph Chase (ordained) 2001
Father Thomas Dyer 2004-2011
Father Matthew Mankowski 2011-2012
Father Joseph Witmer 2012-2013
Father James Korda 2013-2014
Father Thomas Dyer 2014-2021
Very Rev. Msgr. Lewis Gaetano - Canonical Pastor 2021
Father Patrick Manning - Sacramental Minister 2021
Father Peter Haladej - Associate Pastor 2021 - present
Father G. David Weikart 2021 - present
Saint Ann Parish History
Before 1908 the entire Catholic population of Sebring had to attend church in Alliance by streetcar if they were serious and responsible about their obligation to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. However, Father Farrell, pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Alliance, did come to Sebring during the week for a non-Catholic mission held in the village town hall for all residents.
Reverend Hopp succeeded Father Farrell, vespers and benediction were said on a Sunday afternoon for the first time in Sebring. Finally, a great day came for the residents of Sebring; Father Hopp was going to say a Mass in the small pottery town. On March 18, 1908, Father Hopp celebrated the first Mass ever said in Sebring in the Knights of Pythias Hall.
Father Hopp carried out his missionary work for almost seven months until Bishop Farrell sent Father Schoenemann as resident pastor. Father Schoenemann lost no time in wondering what to do.
To acquire some sort of place where Mass could be celebrated was his first assignment. After looking over the small town, he decided on a small building that was formerly a butcher shop. Renting the shop, he equipped it as well as he could for an abode of our Lord. The former butcher shop and first Catholic Church of Sebring was located on Seventeenth Street between Pennsylvania and Oregon Avenues. The assignment proved too difficult for Father Schoenemann, however; and he resigned January 4, 1909, because of ill health.
January 10, 1909, saw a newly ordained priest taking charge of the parish for a short time. Father Dean, the new priest, quickly won the love and respect of the entire parish; he could get the people to do anything for him simply by asking for help.
Unfortunately, Father Dean was permitted to stay only one month, for the Bishop took him from Sebring on February 10, 1909 and sent Father Hanrahan to Saint Ann Parish. Reverend Hanrahan, a zealous and thorough worker, soon had the people loving and helping him. Doing the routine work of running a parish well, Father Hanrahan always was looking ahead for the benefit of the small Sebring parish.
By July 30, 1909, he had purchased four lots costing eleven hundred and fifty dollars. A donation of eight more lots by one of the manufacturers (F.A. Sebring) was made through his influence. Reverend Hanrahan, looking into the future, hoped that someday Sebring would need a bigger church and later a school. Father Hanrahan began his work. Men who are now termed “the old faithful” of the parish donated their services, teams of horses, excavators, wheelbarrows, shovel, even their hired men. Men who could, by trade, lay bricks, built the foundation with the labor of younger men of the parish. Finally, a great day for the Sebring Catholics came – the laying of the cornerstone. The Chancellor of the Cleveland Diocese, Reverend T. G. O’Reilly D. D., was in charge and Father Mylott preached on Truth. Priests from all over the neighboring parishes and a band from another town, the Knights of Columbus from Salem, the Catholic Men’s Benevolent Association. Although it rained all morning, in the afternoon the sun finally shone on a day never-to-be-forgotten in Sebring.
June 19, 1910, was a wonderful day for the members of Saint Ann, even though their new church was not yet completed; the first Communion class in the history of the parish received our Lord. Mass was said at 8:30 a.m. for thirteen boys and six girls; a renewal of the baptismal vows came in the afternoon. July 30, 1920, the last Mass was said in the converted butcher shop. The next day, July 31, 1910, Reverend Hanrahan had the joy of celebrating the first Mass in Sebring’s church, which was crowded with people from Sebring and surrounding communities.
One of Father Hanrahan’s special facts was impressing upon the single people their obligation to support the parish to the best of their ability, a lesson which the young people under his residence as a pastor never forgot, one which is often forgotten in most parishes today. On Reverend Hanrahan’s second anniversary, he decided that he would have a Solemn High Mass for the people of the parish. The first Solemn High Mass celebrated in Sebring, it was the last said for nearly twenty-five years.
On March 5, 1911, the Stations of the Cross were blessed with Father Hanrahan officiating at this solemn ceremony. Soon the people had given enough in special collections to acquire a statue of the Blessed Virgin and one of Saint Joseph. They were blessed on April 16th and May 7th, respectively. The people of Saint Ann welcomed May 28, 1911, with great joy as the date for the first Forty Hours’ devotion in the little parish. Five priests from nearby parishes participated in the devotions.
On the following June 27 1911, came the first Catholic wedding in the new church, that of Mary Maley and Thomas M. Woods. Nearly two months later, on August 2, 1911, Bishop Farrell came to Sebring, on his first visit for a confirmation class of thirty-two. During the following year of 1912, the only important occasion noted was the G.A. R. memorial services held in the Church on May 26. No important events occurred until August 3, 1913, when Reverend Hanrahan preached his farewell sermon before departing for Salem on August 6, 1918.
A new pastor, J. A. Powers, came to Sebring on August 6, 1913. Father Powers’ pastorate lasted for seventeen years, and during the time no records of Saint Ann’s history were made, although the church mortgage was paid off during his assignment in Sebring.
From then on no one seems to know for certain just when anything related to church events was done. About 1921 the new parish house was completed. A large and beautiful house, it was far grander than the church by which it stood.
The particular habit for which the people, young and old. Catholic and Protestant, will always remember Father Powers was his strolling along the spacious porch in the evenings, a big cigar in his mouth. About June 10, 1930, he left Saint Ann.
For two weeks substitute pastors were sent, until on July 2, 1930, came a God-send to the parish in the person of Father Victor P. Studer. The very first day of his arrival, he had six Catholic women come into the parish house to help clean and four young boys to help him carry bookcases and his personal belongings into the house. By the end of that afternoon, Reverend Studer had acquired twelve servers where only one had been used before. Catching the electric thrill of his personality, the parish began to hum with activity. A priest who could never rest, Father Studer loved to be outside with his people helping them. A portion of the debt for the house was paid and remodeling of the church began.
Soliciting funds from the parish by door-to-door canvass, he cared not whether the people had been to church in the last fifteen years. Before Father Studer came, sixteen pews had sufficed for the Sunday congregation attending Mass. When he had been at Saint Ann a year, two Masses would not accommodate all the people even though there were now twenty-seven pews.
Reverend Studer built a tower on the church, begged a bell from Holy Name Parish in Cleveland, and made the property one of the most attractive in town.
At his best with the young people of the parish from three to thirty, Father Studer organized a ball team that won tri-state fame, built a playground for the children and dug a cellar under the church for a hall to hold card parties and plays. Changing the sanctuary, he also begged a new altar, and, finally, purchased two statues-one of Saint Ann, one of the Sacred Heart. He interested three boys enough in the vocation of the priesthood that they left for religious schools. Bernard Hawkins joined the Sacred Heart order, in Shelby, while George Green and Joseph Woods left for the Josephium. Later George Green left the Josephium and entered the Sacred Heart School but decided he was not suited for the priesthood. Joseph Woods attended ten years and then later became an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The beloved pastor became ill September 1933, and never returned to Saint Ann Parish. After a long and wearisome illness, he died April 8, 1934, and was buried April 11. People for Saint Ann willingly traveled one hundred miles to Saint Paul in Norwalk, Ohio, to attend his funeral. Almost the entire parish went to pay their respects, even if they could not go to the funeral. The articles in the Universe Bulletin about him were headed “The Children’s Pastor Dies.”
From September 1933 until August 22, 1934, Saint Ann was served by the White Fathers. Father D’Arcy Nadon, W. F., made himself well liked and tried to do his best while at Saint Ann. A lovable personality just back from Africa, where he had already spent twenty years of his life. Reverend Nadon returned to Africa to the regret of the parish, but they were overjoyed to welcome the new pastor. Father J. F. Dietz, a former seminary classmate of Father Studer. Father Dietz came from Colorado and arrived in Sebring on August 22, 1934. Although Father Dietz was not in good health, he carried on the work of our Lord remarkably well.
During the fall of 1933, Father Dietz first organized the Saint Ann Holy Name Society.
During the Second World War the people of the parish did a great deal of Red Cross work by making dressings, feeding the boys, and giving them a warm send off to world wide conflicts.
Then on May 16, 1944, Reverend Dietz died; a Requiem Mass was held in Saint Ann Church, and he was buried in Crestline, Ohio.
Two months after the loss of Father Dietz, July 16, 1944, Father Petros came to Sebring, Ohio, as pastor of Saint Ann Church. A very godly man, he was loved and respected by all. Under his direction the Holy Name Society was reorganized in 1954. He loved children and could name every youngster on sight. Father Petros was noted for always having candy in his pockets for the children of the entire neighborhood. Through his personal and monetary efforts, he was always on hand to help a needy family in trying times. Father Petros scrimped and saved sixteen years before he announced to the members of the parish that he was ready to build a new church and that all the funds needed were on hand.
July 29, 1959, Father Petros contracted Leonard S. Friedman, architect, to commence work on the drawings and specifications for the new church. The plans and specifications were completed and the project was put out for bidding. Bids were received December 3, 1959, and the contract was awarded December 21, 1959, to Paul A. Kintz Construction Company.
Two of his wishes were not fulfilled before he died September 8, 1960. He wanted to give dinners in the church hall for the priests in the area and he also wanted to give a dinner for all the people of the parish at his own expense.
As stated earlier in the history of the parish, the original bell came from the Holy Name Parish in Cleveland and then was transferred to the old wooden church. On the day Father Petros died, this bell was installed in the tower of the new church and was sounded in respect to his death. Father Petros was the last person whose Funeral Mass was said in the old church, which had served its congregation for fifty years, too small to hold the now greatly increased number of Sebring Catholics, Father Petros’ dream of a church was soon to become a reality.
On April 18, 1960, the old frame church was moved to the back of the lot to make way for the modern church.
The first marriage in the new church united Barbara Mueller and Robert Shea on November 26, 1960, even though the church was not completed. Mrs. William Davis was the first person to have funeral services in the new and third Saint Ann Church.
Our church, a beautiful, modern structure, is an attractive asset to the community of Sebring. The beautiful interior of the church contains statues which were originally in the old church. The communion rail and self-supporting altars, costing about $4200 were cut from a solid block of cold spring granite from the quarry at Cold Springs, Minnesota. The cross above the main altar, made of solid walnut, is sixteen feet long; attached is the five-foot linden wood, carved corpus in natural color, made in Germany. The eight stained glass windows and the entrance window, costing about $4900, are hand blown, antique glass stained by a method over four hundred years old. Over a thousand hours of labor were necessary to execute the stained-glass work. These windows represent these eight different scenes from the life of Christ:
Jesus with Children
The Crowning of Thorns
The Decent of the Holy Ghost
St. Pius X
All the limestone used in the church’s construction came from quarries in Indiana. The laminated arches and the wood deck are of western cedar, which makes a very effective ceiling. The interior walls of the church are covered with vinyl wall covering that is estimated to last for twenty years.
The new Saint Ann Church was the first church in the Youngstown Diocese to be completely air-conditioned.
After the death of Father Petros, the Youngstown Diocese assigned Reverend Werner Hackert, from Alliance, as an administrator to oversee the completion of the new church. Under the direction of Father Hackert the first annual festival got its beginning. Reverend Hackert’s stay in Sebring was short, due to his death on January 4, 1962.
In June of 1961 Reverend John Vasko was placed in charge of the Sebring Parish. Father Vasko came to your parish from Saint Stephen of Hungary Church in Youngstown, Ohio, and with him may added services for the conveniences of the people of the parish. The remodeling of the parish house was completed with the addition of two rooms and a garage. A council of the Knights of Columbus was organized in 1962 under the direction of Father Vasko.