The new St. Anne Catholic Church doesn’t look new. And that’s the idea.
The edifice, located close to the Martha-Mary Chapel on Ford Avenue, has brick that looks handmade and doors that seem weathered. It’s designed to reflect the kinds of churches that would have been present in Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 1800s, said Father Joseph Smith of St. Anne.
“This building is designed almost timelessly,” he said.
And the design details do not stop there for the new church, the opening of which will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday with a Mass of dedication and consecration. About 1,000 people are expected for the Mass.
Smith said the edifice is the first new Catholic church built and dedicated in the Savannah area since 2005.
Saturday’s Mass brings to an end a journey that started years ago, Smith said. Planning for anticipated growth was ongoing for years, but the recession of 2008 hampered those plans.
Membership, however, did not stop growing. Today, Smith said, the parish has about 1,000 families totaling about 2,500 people. On an average Sunday, among all the services over which he presides, there can be 1,300 attendees. The old Ford Avenue church can hold about 200 people, so nearby Holy Family Hall has been used for services.
Church members looked at churches across the South, with groups of people going to churches that hold from 600 to 1,000 people. Church leaders also held plenty of town-hall meetings to get input and meet with builders.
What the parishioners did not want in their new church was ambiguity.
“They didn’t want to drive by and guess which one of the buildings was their church,” Smith said.
The outside, with its faded brick and 85-foot steeple, is eye-catching. Once inside, there’s even more beauty and evidence of intricate planning.
The statues in the church are hand-carved from linden wood, hand-painted and come from northern Italy. The solid-brass tabernacle weighs almost 350 pounds and was made in Europe. There are also 19th-century antique chairs from England that were donated by Smith’s family.
“It connects elements of the past with elements of the present,” he said.
The pews are made of Canadian red oak from a company in Nebraska that also made other items, such as altar pieces and the baptismal font.
Also, there are buttresses that reflect the depth of the walls and a dedicated choir loft.
Project Superintendent Bruce Davidson of R.W. Allen said St. Anne is the fourth church he has worked on and that except for rainy weather, its build went smoothly. Smith said the building is designed for the addition of a pipe organ.
While there are no specific plans for the old church, Smith said the parish plans to maintain and use it.
“It’s a treasure to us and the community,” he said.
In fact, the old church is an important part of the overall design of the St. Anne campus. When people leave the new church, the Ford Avenue church will be the first thing they see, Smith said. And the new edifice’s palladium windows and arches mirror the English architecture of the old church.
An open house with tours at the new church will be held at a later date, Smith said.