By Jonathan Farrell
Residents and visitors of the Inner Sunset District can’t miss the coral-painted Romanesque steeples of St. Anne of the Sunset Catholic Church on 14th Avenue, between Irving and Judah streets. Adjacent to it, with its huge parking lot, is St. Anne School, which will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in February.
“It’s unique, unlike any other school,” Principal Tom White, said. He oversees the school with students from pre-K through the eighth grade.
The school has always been part of his life
White grew up in the neighborhood and attended St. Anne. So did his mother, his father and several of his relatives. Even his grandchildren are students there, now. He has been the principal of St. Anne School for more than 28 years.
While White had taught and been an administrator at other schools in the Bay Area, he said being a part of St. Anne is an honor he cherishes. He admitted the years he has been at St. Anne have flown by.
St. Anne of the Sunset Catholic Church was founded in 1904, back when the Sunset neighborhood was known as the “outside lands,” and was made up of sand dunes extending out to present-day Ocean Beach. The first church, a small wood-frame structure that seated up to 450 people, was built in 1905, but was later destroyed by the 1906 earthquake.
For a little history on St. Anne herself, according to the church’s website, “Saint Anne is the grandmother of Jesus. As grandmother of Christ and mother of Mary, Saint Anne soon became the patron of married women, and for childless couples a special aid in obtaining children. According to legend, she was married three times, first to Joachim, then, after his death, to Cleophas, and finally to Salomas. This detail of the ancient story inspired young women to turn to her for help in finding a husband. In the languages of all European nations, young women implored her: ‘I beg you, holy mother Anne, send me a good and loving man.’”
Msgr. William O’Mahoney laid the cornerstone for St. Anne School in 1919. The school opened its doors in 1920 with 222 students enrolled. The Sisters of the Presentation administered the school. They were chauffeured from their Motherhouse at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street until 1925 when a convent was built for them.
Their teaching and administration maintained the school’s academic standards and reputation until the order left St. Anne in 2004.
“It’s still a vibrant and faith-inspired school and community,” White said, even as most of the teachers who staff the school today are laity.
“A gala dinner is planned for Feb. 1,” White said. “We anticipate to sell all tickets by mid-January and ask that those who tend to procrastinate not wait.”
The following day, Feb. 2, there will be a Jubilee Mass at 11 a.m.. The Sisters of the Presentation and Bishop Daniel Walsh (a St. Anne alumnus) will be in attendance. White expects it will be a time for alumni and former staff to visit and share recollections and memories.
“People will be coming in from all over to share in the reminiscence,” White said.
The current student body of St. Anne is painting a commemorative mural and there will be an open house, inviting all visitors to view the school’s history on display, highlighting each of the decades from 1920 to the present.
There will also be raffles for a cruise, a vacation and more. For more information, visit http://stanne.com.