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St. Ann’s Catholic Church, with its 150-year history, among Archdiocese closures

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Posted at 9:37 PM, May 30, 2024

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore Catholic church recently celebrated 150 years of history. But now, it doesn't know how many more birthdays it will have, if any.

Saint Ann's Catholic Church learned it would be among a list of city and county churches to close. Last week, the Archdiocese announced the final list.

Bobby Jackson, a longtime parishioner, told WMAR the church's story: 19th-century Capt. William Kennedy was caught in a horrible storm at sea. He prayed to God and promised that if he was saved, he would open up a church.

In the 1870s, on 22nd Street and Greenmount Ave. in Baltimore, Captain Kennedy kept his promise. He's still buried at the church.

"Their bodies are now right in the center aisle of the church, he and his wife, right there, Captain Kennedy," Jackson said.

In 2024, a sign along the church's entrance is unmissable: "Save Saint Ann From Closing." Its steeple reaches high into the East Baltimore sky, a rock in its stretch of Greenmount for 150 years, and a predominantly black Catholic church.

Its parishioners do significant work socially, spiritually, and charitably.

"I've worked with the Social Justice Committee on a few issues. We're the group that created this initiative to send 4,000 letters to Pope Francis urging him to name the first six African American candidates for sainthood," Ralph Moore, a parishioner since 1994, told WMAR.

"We serve a lot of good things in this community, services for the people. And if this is not here for our people, what will be here for our people?" Jackson asked.

St. Ann's is headed for closure, one of Baltimore's dozens of churches marked to close by the Archdiocese.

"It was very angering, very disappointing, and it didn't make any sense," Moore added.

"It was like losing your home and your family," Dorothy Horton-Brown, a parishioner, told WMAR.

Parishioners at St. Ann's and from St. Wenceslaus and St. Ignatius are slated to merge with St. Francis Xavier, a historic black Catholic church built in 1863, a little over a mile away from St. Ann's.

Some of St. Ann's parishioners tell WMAR they'll go to the new parish, some won't, and some aren't sure.

The Archdiocese maintains citywide closures were necessary, not only because of deferred maintenance costs to the buildings but also because only a fraction of church attendees at the archdiocese's mid-20th century height still attend mass each Sunday.

"I have heard speculation connecting future sales of properties to supporting the bankruptcy settlement," Archbishop William Lori said in a prerecorded video message last week. "This is just not true. During implementation, some properties will be repurposed, while some will be sold. Proceeds from any building sale will remain in the parish and follow the people to the newly-formed parish."

"The people in the neighborhood who want to be fed know we're here. And it's a loss to those of us who have come here every Sunday and then some," said Moore.

Parishioners, many of whom have attended the church for decades, are working on ways to stay open, urging the Archdiocese to reverse the decision, even making direct appeals to Pope Francis.

Until then, they'll pray the edict to close won't be final and that Captain Kennedy's promise carries on.

"We've been serving the community for 150 years. And we are praying that we can continue to serve the community. And feed God's sheep as He called us to do," said Mary Sewell, a St. Ann's parishioner.