As Margaret Lisle, a lifelong parishioner of St. Ann Church and a 1963 graduate of St. Ann School, walked into the newly opened St. Joachim House next door to the St. Ann campus this past August, it was bittersweet.
The small cottage-style home on 52nd Street, which was built in the late 1920s, belonged to her maternal grandparents who were the first owners of the home until their death in the late 1940s. Then, in 1957, when Lisle was 8 years old, her parents purchased the house, and it remained theirs until it was sold following her mother’s death in 1990.
“Growing up in that house, it’s the same feelings that are in Miranda Lambert’s song ‘The House That Built Me,’” Lisle said. “There are certainly a lot of memories in that house. It was a good house.”
And although some of the updates, both since her family sold it in 1990 and the ones in recent months as St. Ann prepared for it to become the St. Joachim House, have made parts of the home unrecognizable, she said the finished product is “lovely,” having seen its newest state when Father Michael Fye, pastor of St. Ann, blessed the home upon its completion in August.
The home was purchased by St. Ann Church in August 2021 with the help of parishioner Debra Waters, a realtor for Benchmark Realty, in order to prepare for the growth to come as their centennial year came to an end and the next 100 years began, Father Fye said.
The need for St. Joachim House
The purpose of the St. Joachim House is to provide additional space for the growing St. Ann community to gather for one-off events such as the RCIA Christmas party or meetings of the dozen community apostolates or faith formation and liturgical ministry groups.
“I want to change people’s expectations that classroom settings are where the faith is learned about or practiced,” Father Fye said. “It’s about moving away from classrooms to your personal home life and your personal relationships. By having a literal home, it gives a different feel.”
“You talk differently when you’re sitting on a couch,” Waters added. “The depth that you can go to in your spiritual life when you have a ‘home-type’ setting to connect in is greater.
“We can all grow in Christ because we all have a place where you can breathe,” she added. “That’s the power of a house.”
And Mandi Pitt-Reed, pastoral assistant of St. Ann who is also a 2001 graduate of St. Ann School, said it only contributes to the “homy” feel that St. Ann, as a community, already provides.
“St Ann’s reason for existing is to radiate Christ and provide a home for generations,” Pitt-Reed said. “There was a lot of discussion of what we’d do with this space (after it was purchased), and I’m so glad that we ended up doing what we’ve done with it.”
The house will also host meetings of the Catholics in Recovery Group, which helps those suffering from addiction by offering support and helping them deepen their relationship with Christ. It’s a nod to the legacy of the late Father Philip Breen, who was pastor of St. Ann Church from 1990-2015.
“Father Breen, when he was here, was very open about his recovery from alcohol addiction, and he’s the one that brought Al-Anon on campus for family members of alcoholics,” Pitt-Reed said. “It’s something we need to acknowledge as a Church, that people struggle with addictions. … It’s just a nice continuity that St. Ann could be a place where folks know that they’re accepted no matter what their background is, no matter what they’ve been through, and I think the Catholics in Recovery Group meeting here is a really nice contribution to that legacy.”
Preparing to become St. Joachim House
After the purchase was complete in late 2021, Father Fye called upon St. Ann parishioner Julia Warren to lead the efforts of cleaning and decorating the home, which she did with the help of Waters and nearly two dozen St. Ann parishioners. It was a task that was overwhelming at first, Warren said, but came together with prayer to the Blessed Mother.
And once she had one piece of furniture to get things started, it all began to come together through donations from parishioners, yard sales, thrift stores and pieces from the church basement.
“We didn’t have a budget, so there is a lot of love and creativity that went into this house,” Warren said. “This is St. Ann’s family that brought this together.”
“It really had God’s hand on it from beginning to end,” Waters added.
It helped that not a lot of cosmetic work had to be done either, she said, as the kitchen was recently renovated, the walls had fresh paint, and the hardwood floors were well kept. Additionally, Waters’ husband, Richard Waters, was on-hand to help hang blinds and artwork and replace the door locks and indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures.
Having a theme to the decorations came easier, too, once they settled on calling it the St. Joachim House in honor of the husband of the parish namesake, St. Ann, and the father of the Blessed Virgin. Sts. Ann and Joachim’s feasts are celebrated together on July 26.
As parishioners enter the home, they are greeted with a 42×28 portrait of St. Joachim by Catholic artist Tracy L. Christianson, which was purchased from Portraits of Saints.
“It’s a great way to make St. Joachim more visible in the parish,” Pitt-Reed said. “I hadn’t been in the house until they finished decorating it. I was overwhelmed with how comfortable the space felt and just how right it felt.”
Lisle said she was pleased with the home’s chosen namesake, too.
“I always thought that the house should be the ‘Mitchell House’ for my grandparents, but it was one of my cousins who was on the committee that fixed up the house that came up with the St. Joachim House and that’s just perfect,” Lisle said. “We have St. Ann, Mary’s mother, and now we have Mary’s father. I’m very pleased with that. It’s very appropriate.”