St. Ann’s was the first Catholic Church established in Midland. Missionary priests had come from Stanton since the 1880s to offer the Masses in Midland and finally the cornerstone for a church was laid on October 26, 1896. Located on the northwest corner of Texas Avenue and Dallas Street, the tiny church was built of Pecos sandstone and a few hardy families.
The oil boom of the late 1920s brought a boom of new parishioners. On July 8, 1933, St. Ann’s was formally named as a parish of the Diocese of Amarillo. The church building was enlarged and the Catholic Extension Society donor stipulated that its name be changed to “St. George.”
In 1937, Fr. Edward Harrison, OMI, acquired a block of land at 2000 West Texas Avenue and the parish began to develop in its current location. As the congregation expanded, they purchased the chapel at Midland Army Air Field and moved it to the corner of West Texas Avenue and M Street. Opening in October, 1948, the name of the parish reverted to St. Ann’s.
St. Ann’s School was begun in 1950, staffed by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. It now serves over 370 students. For those not attending Catholic School, the Parish School of Religion (PSR) has for many years provided formation in the faith. There are currently about 500 PSR students and many dedicated volunteer catechists.
Fr. Thomas J. Kennedy, OMI, became pastor of St. Ann’s in 1951; he is remembered for his Irish charm and his significant leadership in the parish. People responded generously when he announced the construction of a new church building. It was dedicated on December 9, 1959 and is still seen as modern and beautiful in its design today. Fr. Kennedy retired in 1970.
The people of St. Ann’s have always been actively involved in their parish, school and community. Many family-oriented activities, small Christian communities, service clubs, and study groups engage the parishioners. Birthright was established by St. Ann’s parishioners; the parish also has a partnership with Santisima Trinidad parish in Honduras. St. Ann’s Family Fair is an event for the whole city.
Three other parishes have been established in Midland, and St. Ann’s remains strong and growing; there are currently 1265 families on its rolls.
Donna Repman shares her history of St. Ann’s and Midland
Over one hundred years ago, things were quite different here in West Texas. From what I have read, before 1880, you might have seen Mr. Medlin killing antelope for meat and gathering and stacking buffalo bones for shipment to Chicago or Mr. Garrett’s flock of sheep grazing where downtown Midland is located now. At this time the population was 21.
By 1885, more people arrived and Midland County was created. The 43 residents wrote a letter to the State Legislature asking them to continue the frontier military force protecting the area from Indian raids. The city of Midland was organized later the same year.
What really helped Midland grow was the Texas and Pacific railroad laying their railroad tracks through West Texas. Settlers began to arrive. A railroad box car was parked near our Main Street crossing. It served as the train depot, post office and general store. At that time the name was changed from Midway to Midland.
In the late 1800’s, three German Carmelite friars in Kansas felt a strong call to bring the Catholic faith to faraway West Texas. The railroad was offering very cheap land at that time. The priests boarded a train and went as far as the tracks had been laid; which happened to be a spot 20 miles from Midland – now known as Stanton. The priests set up two tents and said Mass on August 15th, the feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and named the place Marienfeld or “Field of Mary.”
In 1884, they built a permanent monastery there and began training young men for the priesthood. The walls were 3 foot thick and this location is now a Texas Historic Landmark. The condition of the monastery has deteriorated and is unusable. The people of Stanton are trying to raise money to restore it.
By 1886, the priests wanted to take the faith to other parts of the West. Midland was one of their first stops. Families moved into this area during this time but there were very few Catholic families. One of the first Catholic families was the Browns. They traveled to Midland in a covered wagon… The priest was always welcome in their home where Mass was offered to the small Catholic community. Now they didn’t have to make a trip to Stanton to attend church.
In 1892, the Catholic families purchased some land on Texas Street, not too far from downtown. Four years later with the generous donations of the small congregation, they built the first church in Midland for a cost of $500.00. It was named St. Ann in honor of the mother of Mary. For many years the priest from Stanton would come to Midland to offer Sunday Mass.
My Mother and Dad moved to Midland in 1930. The oil boom had brought more Catholic families to West Texas. By 1933 there were 550 parishioners in Midland so the parish formed with its own resident priest. By then the church was overcrowded. They needed money to enlarge the church and the man who donated the money said the church name must be changed to St. George’s. This is where I attended Mass, Novenas, Forty Hours, Missions, went to Confession and made my first Confirmation. Our friends, the Dorseys lived in the house on Baird Street. It is now a Midland historical place. I can remember sitting in the kitchen when my mother and I visited. I loved to go to another friend’s house near there because they could put a bucket down a hole in their kitchen counter and draw water from their well. I thought that was really neat. Our house had regular plumbing.
When I walked to St. George’s for catechism, I would pass the Pliska’s Blacksmith place on Texas Street and peek in to look at them working on metal.
During the month of May, we children had our Lady’s crowning outside by the church with a Maypole dance in her honor.
By 1947. St. George’s church was too small to house the growing congregation. The property purchased in 1937, ten years earlier, was designated for the new church. During the Second World War, we had a large military base where the airport is located now. This was the world’s largest bombardier training school in the world. After the end of the war, the church purchased the Army Air Field Chapel and moved it to Midland. Now there were two churches; one church for the Spanish speaking parishioners and the other church to serve the English speaking parishioners. It also went back to its original name of St. Ann’s.
My husband and I were one of the first couples to be married there in 1950.
Very soon after the church was finished, plans for a school were started and a school was built. People began praying for some sisters who might staff the school. On the last day of a Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Patterson, New Jersey, agreed to send sisters to West Texas to start a school. I can still remember the exciting day that five sisters arrived on the train. We sat on the church lawn and had ice cream and visited with these wonderful sisters.
There was also a convent built for the sisters and it was located where our rectory and parlor are now. In 1953, a second story was added to the school and a new chapel to the convent. Mr. McClintic, a non-Catholic and very good friend of one of the parishioners, donated a half block of land which was known as “McClintic Field.”
A home across from the church had been purchased from my friends, the Freetags, and was converted into a rectory and church office. It has been torn down since then and we have the lovely new Murphy Center.
By 1960, the enrollment at St. Ann’s School was 725 with two grades for every class. Sister had 50 kindergartners in the morning and 50 more in the afternoon. She wasn’t much taller than they were, but she had them all well trained. Of course she admitted she made use of their Guardian Angels.
All eight of our children were baptized at St. Ann’s and were blessed to attend the school as they grew in size, knowledge and spirituality. Now I am blessed to have grandchildren going to St. Ann’s school.
I always wanted to go to a Catholic school but that was limited to three months in the fifth grade when my father was ill in California. Later my dream was fulfilled when I went to a Catholic girl’s college in Kansas and in San Antonio.
The sisters remained at St. Ann’s for twenty two years. How sad it was to bid them “goodbye” after all the wonderful work they had accomplished.
Our first Family Fair began as a barbeque and ice cream social beside St. George’s church over fifty years ago.
The church family grew to more than 700 in 1950. In 1959, our membership was 2,205. Plans were made for a bigger church. The church we now have was built and dedicated in 1959. It was built in the shape of a cross with the altar area very visible. The original green and white marble was brought from Italy, as were the statues. We had a beautiful gold altar rail with ornamental baskets of loaves and fish. Originally there were two side altars and a baptismal room in the front. The choir was upstairs and the Cry Room was where the choir is now. In 1989, the changes in the church were made; the altar rails were removed, side altars taken out, choir and Cry Rooms changed. Although changed, it is still beautiful and from this Mother church has sprung three other beautiful churches; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of San Juan and St. Stephens.
Seven young men from our parish have become priests to minister the sacraments as our early German priests did so many years ago. Please remember the sacrifices our early founders made and ask them to give us their enthusiasm to spread our true faith.
By Donna Repman