Our History - 1951 to 1993: "Building Up the Kingdom of God"
During the years of the Second World War the growing Catholic population of Porterville made Father Dillon aware of a pressing need for a new and proper church to replace the temporary chapel, which was still in use after eighteen years. Steady reduction of the parish debt made the new church a possibility. Fund raising began and in 1951, and Raymond Muller and Joseph Menne were appointed cochairmen of the building committee. Architect Lawrence Voile of Los Angeles was chosen to design the new church. The plan chosen was of modified Spanish-Mission architecture, abutted by a forty-three foot bell tower at the south front.
Ground was broken during the first week of November 1951 and the new church was dedicated by Most Reverend Aloysius J. Willinger, C.SS.R., Bishop of Monterey-Fresno, on October 5, 1952. One of the noteworthy features of the church is the Italian marble altar. Over the altar is a masterpiece of art, a three quarter life size hand can/ed crucifix from the famed Tyrol studios. The reredos (carved designs surrounding the pillars) were designed by Ray Ruggieri of San Francisco.
During his pastorate at Saint Anne's Father Dillon received the honorary title Monsignor. In 1964 transferred to Saint Marys Parish in Delano. Father Joseph Balker, a native of Pennsylvania, became the next pastor of Saint Annes. He was ordained April 30, 1944 at the Josephenum Seminary in Worthington, Ohio. One of the first major decisions the new pastor made was to purchase fourteen acres of land, including a small house, at Newcomb and North Grand Avenues on the west side of the city. This was a move made with great courage and vision for the future of Saint Anne's, which would see explosive growth in the years ahead.
Father Balker served until 1970 when Father Julian Prieto was assigned as pastor. Father Julian was not able to assume the duties of the far-flung parish and after 40 days Father Martin O'Connell arrived as pastor. Tragically Father Martin died of a heart attack before the year was out and Monsignor Joseph McGoldrick assumed the pastorate, serving until 1972. Monsignor Harry Eggert served as pastor from 1972 to 1976, Monsignor Maurice Lahey served as pastor from 1976 to 1980, Monsignor Anthony Herdegen served as pastor from 1980 to 1982 followed by temporary administrator Father Paul Devine who served from 1982 to 1983.
Father Ronald Swett served as pastor from 1983 to 1987. Eventually honored with the title of Monsignor, he speaks of his time at Saint Annes as among the happiest he has known as a priest. During his pastorate Father Swett began an active and successful youth ministry program, inaugurated a parish sacrificial giving program, purchased the house at 348 North F Street and the house that would become the Pre-School, and brought a new spirit of cooperation to the community. During this time Father Angel Gonzalez and Father Jean-Michele Lastiri served as assistants.
Father Anthony Janelli succeeded Father Swett as pastor in 1987 and served until 1993. Father, now Monsignor, Janelli continued the trend of the previous administration by expanding the parish ministry program and establishing an active pastoral council. During his pastorate a fund raising program was begun which led to the much needed repair and remodeling of the convent, installation of central air conditioning and heating in the school, the purchase of a new church organ, and purchase of the house at 340 N. F Street. It was the work of the pastoral council during this time that the Twenty Year Vision Plan" for Saint Anne's was compiled. The vision planning process involved all interested members of the parish.
The Vision Plan defined the physical needs of the parish and provided a time line along which those needs should be met. The plan foresaw a new priest residence and a new church for Terra Bella as priority needs that should be met between 1993 and 1997. The Vision Plan" set 1997 as the target year for beginning of a fund raising drive for a new, larger church in Porterville. The Vision Plan was adopted as an official guideline for the parish by the pastoral council in union with the pastor.