The Parish of Saint Ann seeks to carry out its mission to make the Church present within Peoria’s Historic South Side and to welcome the Father’s children home through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It is a mission ever ancient and ever new which began here in 1881, when Father Friedrich Von Schwedler and his twenty-six parishioners organized the Parish of Saint Boniface. Leo XIII was gloriously reigning as pope, Bishop John Lancaster Spalding was the learned Bishop of Peoria, and James Garfield was the President of the United States.
In 1892, when Father Friedrich Von Schwedler returned to his native Germany, Bishop John Lancaster Spalding asked the Franciscan Fathers of Saint John the Baptist Providence in Cincinnati to take charge of the parish. Upon their arrival, the Franciscan Fathers found a congregation that was cordial, zealous, and rapidly growing. So in 1894, the current property was purchased on the corner of Antoinette and Helen Streets.
That same year, the cornerstone for the new Romanesque-Bysantine styled church was laid at the cost of $33,455.85 with a floor plan three times as large as the original parish church. The new church was soon dubbed the “Cathedral of the South Side” with handsome cupolas and crosses at the top which soon became an inspiration to the thousands of motorist who drive on South Jefferson Street each day.
But in 1967, this South Side landmark was nearly lost in a devastating fire which ravaged the parish church of Saint Boniface. Nobody could quite believe what happened, and many people wondered if the parish church would be rebuilt.
During that time, the people wept, worked, and revived their spirits, until on April 27, 1969, a united parish again opened the doors to all for worship and to missionary service to the South Side neighborhood.
Bishop Franz of Peoria commented on that day of Saint Boniface’s rededication that “renewal does not mean to make Christianity more worldly. It does mean to make the world more Christian.” The rededicated church was a successful blend of both old and new.
In 1995, Bishop John J. Myers discerned it was time to merge the Parish of Saint John with the Parish of Saint Boniface. It was a difficult merger, but it too would become another successful blending that gave rise to a magnificent new parish, the Parish of Saint Ann, a new and yet also a historic parish gathered together by the Holy Spirit “to go out to all nations, to teach, and to baptize.” Father Horvath, a former pastor of Saint John and the first pastor of the newly united Parish of Saint Ann, said that this new change was a “time to take another step in the history of the church on the South Side.”
Today, we continue stepping forward on our missionary journey within Peoria’s Historic South Side accompanied by Our Lady and Good Saint Ann. God wants a vibrant parish here in the South Side, so He might continue through us to welcome His children home.