St. Ann Parish has a long history and a rich heritage beginning with a donation of land from the family of Madame Anne Lucas Hunt, who inherited a sizable portion of land at the death of her brother, Charles Lucas. Their father, Jean Baptiste Charles Lucas, who had been attorney to the King of France, had emigrated to the United States and served as a congressman from Pennsylvania. In 1805, he was appointed by President Jefferson to serve as land commissioner of the Louisiana Purchase Territories. It was he who named the area Normandy, because the terrain reminded him of his home country. His son Charles had an opportunity to purchase 1150 acres in this area, which he willed to his sister Anne.
In 1854, Madame Lucas Hunt donated funds and ten acres of land to the Jesuit Fathers on the condition that they “attend to the congregation and open a school for the children.” A small temporary chapel built in 1855 was succeeded the following year by a larger frame structure, named in honor of St. Ann, the patron saint of Anne Lucas Hunt. Father Peter DeSmet, S.J., the famous missionary to the Oregon Territory was at this time at his home base in Florissant. He was appointed the first pastor of St. Ann Church. He served in this position for two years, during which time he supervised the construction of the stone church. Then he headed west again to resume his missionary work.
In 1858, Fr. Adrian Van Hulst, S.J. succeeded Fr. DeSmet as pastor. He lived at St. Louis University and traveled by horse & buggy to celebrate the Sacraments at St. Ann on every Sunday and holy day. He enlarged the church to accommodate the large congregation in 1872, and served as pastor until 1880.
By the 1940’s the stone church could no longer hold the burgeoning population, and the construction of the present church began in 1949. The auditorium of the school was converted into a temporary chapel in the interim. The original stone church was torn down and its stones became the retaining wall around the present structure.
1860 marks the oldest burial in St. Ann’s Cemetery. St. Ann’s Parish was administered by the Jesuits until 1889. The Passionist Fathers were then given the administration of the church, as they had just built the monastery at Lucas and Hunt and Natural Bridge. They administered the parish until 1948 when the St. Louis Archdiocese assigned diocesan priests to the parish. Monsignor Fred Sprenke was named the pastor.
The cornerstone of the present church was laid Nov. 26, 1950, with Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter officiating. The first Mass was offered in the new Church on October 6, 1952, and with proper ritual and ceremony, St. Ann Church was dedicated by Archbishop Ritter. Msgr. Sprenke served as pastor until his death in 1971. He was succeeded by Fr. Robert Ottoline who was followed by Fr. John Vogler, Fr. Richard Neumann, Fr. James Edwards, and Fr. William Kempf.
Fr. William Kempf is the current pastor.