For nearly 100 years, Viatorians have continued a devotion to St. Anne through a

Fr. James Fanale, CSV, displays St. Anne relic. Daily Journal/John Dykstra

Fr. James Fanale, CSV, displays St. Anne relic. Daily Journal/John Dykstra

nine-day novena that culminates on her feast day, July 26.

Viatorian priests have run the historic St. Anne Church — located in tiny St. Anne, IL and site of the nation’s original shrine — since 1920 and as a result, they have faithfully continued the tradition started by its French Canadian founders.

Former pastor, Fr. Arthur Landroche, CSV, carries the relic of St. Anne during a novena, circa 1940s

This year’s version will be the 137th edition of the novena and it comes exactly 145 years after a relic of St. Anne arrived at the parish from Canada.

For the last 21 years, Fr. James Fanale, CSV, has been caretaker of the novena. As pastor of St. Anne’s, he has organized the novena and welcomed worshippers to the parish each July.

Photo credit: Daily Journal/John Dykstra

Each day of the novena, a special Mass is said with prayers, a reflection — by Fr. John Peeters, CSV, and Fr. Fanale — and a litany to the saints is offered.

It culminates on the feast of St. Anne, with a whole day full of activities, from a morning reflection offered by Associate Marilyn Mulcahy, an outdoor anointing Mass, children’s activities, followed by a procession with the relic through the surrounding neighborhoods, and a closing Mass that night.

“People still like the concept of a devotion to St. Anne,” Fr. Fanale says, “because she’s an older person and a grandmother. They find comfort that someone knows their aches and pains and the difficulties in life they have.”

photo credit: Daily Journal/John Dykstra

Fr. Fanale concedes that hosting the novena every year is a major undertaking for his small parish but one they feel called to carry on.

“This is a place of grace, where many have found peace and healing,” Fr. Fanale adds. “What a wonderful intercession she is for all us who have come to St. Anne, with the sense that she knows just where we are in our lives. With the tender brush of her hand, we are her much loved children.”