St. Ann Shrine
History and Background of the St. Ann Novena
For more than a hundred years, St. Louis Catholics have been holding devotions to St. Ann,
mother of Mary and grandmother to Jesus. During the nine-day novenas, attendees honor St.
Ann with special prayers dedicated to her. Many pray for her to intervene on their behalf, with
special requests such as improved health, the cessation of violence in our city or the safety of
family members in the military.
Devotion to St. Ann in St. Louis began in the St. Ann Church on the corner of Page and Whittier
in 1903 with 3 days of special prayers to St. Ann prior to her feast day. Fr. James I. Douglas
inaugurated the first semi-annual novena in 1926. The numbers of people attending the
devotions grew from 30 in the early days to a peak of more than 5,000 in the 1940s. During
that time, young women would attend in great numbers, hoping that their prayers seeking
the intercession of St. Ann would keep loved ones safe during the war. During the highest
points of popularity, eleven Masses were scheduled for each day of the nine-day event.
The year 1992 brought a merger of St. Ann’s Parish with Visitation Parish. Relics and other
devotions were carried to the new home of the Shrine on Taylor and Evans. The original St.
Ann statue with part of its marble stand is at the entrance to the lower chapel in the All Souls
Mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery.
St. Nicholas Catholic Church is in its 152nd year of serving the Catholic community in
downtown St. Louis. In 2016, its members welcomed former parishioners of Visitation-St. Ann
Shrine Parish, which closed following the 2016 Novena to St. Ann. The St. Ann Shrine was
relocated to St. Nicholas Catholic Church at the corner of 18th and Lucas Streets in the
summer of 2016. There were former parishioners of Visitation-St. Ann Shrine Parish who
followed “the grandmother of Jesus” and adopted St. Nicholas Catholic Church as their new
church home. St. Nicholas Parish has resumed the annually scheduled Novena from July18
through July 26.
Novena worshipers have shared some of the special blessings received. Here are a few
responses as to why some have come to the Novena over the years:
- “I have been coming for a long time. I started to come to pray for the conversion of my family,
which has happened.”
- “The novena helps me during the year. I believe in the healing.”
- “I came since during the war. We thank God for the miracles he has given us over the past 40
years. We are Episcopalians.”
- “My wife prayed for me when I was in the service. Now I am praying for my family.”
- “I came last year and am now a devotee of St. Ann’s.”