Perched atop one of the many hills of Sturbridge, in the area known as Fiskdale, stands the little church of St.Anne, beautiful in its simplicity.
In the 19th century, many Irish and French Canadians were forced to leave their native lands because of famine or lack of employment opportunities. Many of these immigrants came to Fiskdale to work in the Fiske textile mills. To provide for their spiritual needs, two churches were erected, both, coincidentally, in 1883. St. Anne Church for the French speaking families, St. Patrick of course, for the Irish. The two operated separately until 1887, when they were combined into one Parish.
St. Patrick Church no longer exists, except in the hearts and minds of parishioners old enough to remember its presence on Route 20. Moved to the hillside above St. Anne's when it was declared unsafe for public gatherings, it housed a precious collection of Russian Icons until it was necessary to demolish the structure. Now, a small building on the grounds has been remodeled and is graced by St. Patrick Memorial Chapel, and contains the beautiful stained glass window depicting St. Patrick, as well as some of the original pews and other artifacts from the original church.
St. Patrick Church
Original St. Anne Church
St. Anne Church has quite a different history. In 1879, Monsignor Elzear Brochu, a Southbridge pastor in failing health, pledged to St. Anne that if he were to regain his strength, he would propagate her devotion by building a shrine in her honor. He did recover his health, so he purchased the land and had the present St. Anne Church constructed in 1883. He predicted that great wonders would be worked there. The first claim of a cure in 1887 started an influx of pilgrims which has continued to this day.
Today, thousands of visitors still make their way to St. Anne Shrine. There is a feeling of peace and tranquility along the cool, shaded paths of the wooded hillside grounds. Inside St. Anne Church can be found the shrine to St. Anne where crutches, braces and other memorabilia bear witness to the many who have experienced healing from God through the intercession of "Good St. Anne."
St. Anne Church Today
St. Anne/St. Patrick Parish is unique in that it combines an active parish community with the beauty and legacy of a treasured shrine.