By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
The original plan was to hold a dinner and reception to celebrate the 100th anniversary of
St. Anne’s Parish in Kimball. That would be Sept. 13, 2020, and the plan was to include this celebration in the annual parish festival that weekend.
But along came COVID-19 and all plans were turned upside-down. So the committee set about moving to Plan B: a celebration in accordance with restrictions that would protect all participants. The committee continued to pore over old parish council minutes in order to compile a six-page history of the parish.
After months of canceled events for the St. Cloud Diocese, Bishop Donald Kettler about a month ago approved the parish’s revised plans and also agreed to come. So, on Sunday afternoon, July 26, Bishop Kettler, current priest Fr. James Statz, and five former parish priests con-celebrated a special Mass inside the sanctuary. Preceding that was a gathering outdoors, with Bishop Kettler praying a blessing on the new bell tower and on the outdoor statue of St. Anne. Parishioner Tom Ehlinger served as emcee for the outdoor program that also included a ceremonial ringing of the original church bell, by the bishop and priests, as well as by Matt and Mary Lindberg and their three children, who all had a part in building the bell tower.
The bell itself is significant because it likely had been cast for the St. Anna parish, in 1888, near Watkins. In June 1894, a tornado destroyed that log-cabin church. The bell had been stored on a farm nearby until 2011 when it was donated back to the church and an outdoor platform was built for it. On June 29, 2019, the bell was forced off its base and stolen in the dead of night; but the bell fell off the thieves’ trailer near the intersection of Highway 15 and County Road 44 in Kimball and the bell was saved. Although damaged, it was repairable, and the bell was stored in a local garage until the new, much taller bell tower could be constructed for it. Returning the bell to its new tower coincided well with the 100th anniversary celebration.
The St. Anne Parish was incorporated Sept. 13, 1920. Land was purchased for $2,500, and a building was put up for $2,200. The first Mass in the new basement church was held Dec. 12, 1920; it was the funeral Mass for Mrs. Carl Hunt. The first wedding there was held May 10, 1921; it was for Frank Zitur and Amelia Knaus. The home next to the church was purchased for $5,700 and it would serve as the rectory.
During the Great Depression, St. Anne’s became a mission of the Paynesville church for about three years.
Land for a new church/school was purchased in the early 1950s for $8,000. Construction began in May 1964.
St. Anne’s parochial school was open for five years, and was forced to close in 1970. Three Sisters of Notre Dame had been assigned to St. Anne’s to teach grades 1-6.
In April 1969, the sanctuary was renovated after the Second Vatican Council: the communion railing was removed and the altar brought closer to the people. James Zahler built the altar, tabernacle column, and the celebrant’s and servers’ chairs. The church was renovated again in the fall of 1979, at a cost of $146,964, and the roof was insulated for another $37,000. The newly renovated permanent church was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Jerome Hanus in July 1980.
Ground was broken for a new rectory just south of the church in April 1992. Construction cost $100,316 and the former rectory was sold to George and Mary Johnson who lovingly refurbished it.
In October 1992, the Tony Bollman family donated the Blessed Virgin Mary statue on the church grounds. In 2013, Skyler Schiefelbein landscaped around the statue as part of his Eagle Scout project.
In 2003, St. Anne’s parish was twinned with St. Wendelin’s parish in Luxemburg. St. Nicholas parish was added to the mix in 2007. St. Wendelin joined with another parish in 2009, and St. Anne’s was twinned only with St. Nicholas after that.
In 2014-15, the church’s main front doors and the doors into the sanctuary were replaced with much larger, wooden doors, allowing for handicapped access, and facilitating the passage of caskets. The door project cost $70,000.
Fr. James Statz is the current priest at St. Anne’s parish. He arrived in 2017. In July 2020, the St. Cloud Diocese restructured its parishes because of a shortage of priests. St. Anne’s is now part of the Holy Saints Community ACC (Area Catholic Community) where five parishes – St. Anne’s in Kimball, St. Wendelin’s in Luxemburg, St. Nicholas in St. Nicholas, Holy Cross in Marty, and St. Mary Help of Christians in St. Augusta – share two priests,
Fr. Statz and Fr. Matthew Crane.
St. Anne’s parish produced three sisters: Sr. Rita (Cyprian) Kunkel OSB, Sr. Francetta
Kunkel SSpS, and Sr. Mary Padua Unterberger SSND.
Fr. Donald Wagner is the only home priest from St. Anne’s. He was ordained in 1987, and his first Mass was at St. Anne’s in Kimball. Fr. Wagner continues to serve in the St. Cloud Diocese.