Redemptorist Tradition Continues

Fr. John Schmidt and Fr. Patrick Keyes with Fr. Dan Nascimento, pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset

(San Francisco, USA) Five priests of the Denver Province carried on a long-standing Redemptorist tradition and preached the 110th Novena to St. Anne on July 18-26. Fathers Patrick Keyes, John Schmidt, Lamar Partin, Eugene Batungbacal and Aaron Meszaros preached on the theme “Teach Us to Pray” at St. Anne of the Sunset Church in the Inner Sunset District of San Francisco. Our own Fr. Don MacKinnon and the late Fr. Tony Slane both graduated from St. Anne School. “Dad always said that the District was called ‘Sunset’ because in the summer, especially, the sun only came out in time to set,” Fr. Don remembered.

Back in 1885, the American Redemptorists conducted the first California mission in Los Angeles. The next year they headed north to San Francisco, and were welcomed at St. Patrick’s Church downtown. In that year, the St. Louis Province was offered St. Boniface Parish, but begged off for lack of manpower. There were only 48 priests in the whole Province, and 10 were in California for those missions.

The Redemptorists had established a presence in the city and a reputation for exceptional preaching by 1907, the year Fr. Joseph J. McCue, the first pastor of St. Anne’s, introduced the Novena to St. Anne. The Jesuits preached the novena for a couple of years, but the pastor commissioned the Redemptorists in 1910.

Parishioners gather around Fr. Eugene Batungbacal and a relic of St. Anne

“The Redemptorist connection with St. Anne was known and celebrated throughout North America, and St. Anne of the Sunset was known as the St. Anne-de- Beaupré of the West,” Fr. Don explained. “San Franciscans were very pleased with that affiliation.” Before World War I began in 1914, the novena was so popular that people came all the way from Sacramento – an almost 90-mile trip on today’s interstate highways. It was the biggest event in San Francisco in July. Nearly 100,000 people followed the San Francisco Municipal Band in procession for 20 city blocks to the parish.

Participation has waned over the ensuing decades, but confreres have faithfully returned to St. Anne of the Sunset every year. “This year approximately 500 people participated in the three services held throughout the day,” Fr. Patrick said. “The parish still has many Irish, who have participatedmin the novena for years, but the majority of parishioners are Filipino, Chinese and Latino. It was a rich culturally diverse experience for all of us.”

Kristine Stremel (Denverlink)