In the mid-1950’s, the Most Reverend William D. O’Brien, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, Illinois, and President of the Catholic Extension Society, donated $5,000 in memory of his mother, Anne O’Brien, for the construction of a Catholic Church in Ruskin. This gift, combined with an anonymous donation from a woman in Bartow, Florida, of twelve acres of land on the corner of U.S. 41 and 11th Avenue N.E., brought the dream of a local church within reach. Pledges from several devoted charter parish members augmented these two gifts,and construction on a new church began in March of 1956.
On May 20, 1956, thirty-three people (the original “living stones” of the Parish) led by Fr. William Dodd of Saint Peter Claver Church in Tampa celebrated the first mass at Saint Anne Catholic Church, Ruskin. Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley of St. Augustine officiated at the Dedication Mass for the church two months later on July 22, 1956.
For the first five years, the Parish was without a Pastor and Mass was celebrated by priests from the surrounding area. In 1961, Fr. Norman Hardy was assigned as the first Resident Pastor, followed in 1967 by Fr. Antonio Diez. Under the direction of now-Monsignor Diez, a larger, 400-seat church, a parish center and administration offices were added to the property.
In 1973, Fr. Christopher Fitzgerald, I.C., replaced Msgr. Diez as Pastor, and served for fourteen years.During that time, the parish center was completed.
At least fifteen religious sisters have served the Parish of Saint Anne since the early 1980s. They were involved in education, migrant ministries, and varied spiritual support activities.
Under the direction of Sister Sara of the Diocese’s Catholic Charities, the Catholic Mobile Medical Unit was introduced and continues to this day to provide medical services to the migrant population.
In 1987, Fr. Edward Lamp was appointed Pastor and continued in that role for the next ten years, during which time the Parish continued to grow and prosper. The next two Pastors, Fr. Timothy Uniac, C.R., and Fr. Norman Choate, C.R., each served the Parish for three years.
Arriving as Pastor in 2003, Father John McEvoy assumed the leadership of the Parish at a time when enrollment was approximately 500 families and the South Shore area was experiencing unprecedented growth. After a feasibility study estimated that by the year 2012 the Parish enrollment could reach 3,000 families, the Diocese gave its permission to build a new church. Father John supervised a capital fundraising campaign during Saint Anne’s Golden Jubilee year in 2006 to raise the funds for a new house of worship that would seat 1,300 people. The current building, a tribute to all those parishioners who generously contributed their time, talent, and resources was dedicated on February 14, 2009, with Bishop Robert N. Lynch officiating. At that time, Parish enrollment was at 1,300 families.
The Parish of Saint Anne, Ruskin, continues to anticipate the needs of this expanding community and to fulfill its mission to create a “legacy of faith and hope for future generations.”