Located on South Main Street, across from Kennedy Park in Lizzie’s Borden’s Fall River, is this magnificent Catholic Church built by French Canadian immigrants in the early 1900’s. It is one of the iconic skyline structures immediately recognizable upon the Braga Bridge approach to Fall River.
This structure was put on the National Historic Register of buildings in 1983.
St. Anne’s Parish was founded in 1869 when there were about 500-600 French families in the city. The Church was founded in 1894. In 1900, Fall River had a population of slightly more than 100,000 people, of which nearly 40,000 were French. The surge of French Canadian immigrants at the turn of the Century came from the agricultural crisis in Quebec. They had a profound influence in the labor, language and culture. Even by the 1930’s, Fall River still kept sort of a French flavor, and even today one comes across more French and Portuguese names in its local politics, legal profession, and many of the middle class businesses.
French Canadians rose to prominence in Fall River, including Edmund P. Talbot, Fall River’s Mayor from 1923-1926 and again from 1929-1930. Past Mayor Edward M. Lambert, Jr. is Franco-American. Ties to church and community is what kept the former mill workers (including the Portuguese and Irish) to remain in Fall River while most of the founding families split when the hard times hit. Now the French Canadians and those from the Azores are the weavers of a restored tapestry to Fall River’s rich history. Their hands are no longer on levers and pulleys and spindles, but their fingerprints are all over what is left and plans for what will be.
Little known to tourists and passing visitors (mostly because it’s not advertised in city brochures) is the below ground level Shrine to St. Anne within the Church. One has to know where to enter: an unmarked outside door on the north side. According to Fall River “Officer Dave” whom I met at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, the Church at one time opened up this space for the homeless. In short order there were thefts, vandalism and even a death. The space had also become a safe haven for illicit drug use. So the parishioners had to re-think that whole be-kind-to-those-less-fortunate thing when it came to free and easy 24/7 access to the Shrine of St. Anne.
The subterranean Shrine is open most all hours to the general public. It is spacious with a number of “exhibits, as I prefer to call them. The Shrine of Mother Theresa is astonishingly realistic from all angles.
I forgot what or who this was supposed to be. I just remember it striking me as rather creepy.
St. Anne was Jesus’ maternal grandmother – although you won’t find that in the bible.
Candles for prayer.
After you delight in the “Shrine Exhibit”, just down the road at Globe Four (really Five) corners, at Globe and South Main is one of the best secrets in town. You can get the best soft serve ice cream anywhere, right here, in this little French Canadian nieghborhood.