In the late 1930s, there were just nine Catholic families in Naples. Since the closest parish was in Fort Myers, vacationing priests and priests from neighboring cities came to celebrate Mass each week in the old Naples Theatre (a site now occupied by Marissa’s shop on 3rd Street South) and later in the Solarium of Naples Hotel near the Municipal Pier (now a parking area for the Third Street South shopping district).
As the number of families increased along with Naples’ explosive growth, the Archdiocese of St. Augustine approved construction of Collier County’s first Catholic church. Named for the young deceased daughter of a founding parishioner whose patron saint and namesake was St. Ann, Saint Ann Church celebrated its first Mass on Palm Sunday, 1950. The original church is now used as the Parish Hall.
The need for a parish school soon became apparent. In 1956, Pastor Timothy Geary opened Saint Ann School to provide a Catholic education for the 100 families of the parish. While construction of the school’s initial buildings progressed, the Sisters of St. Joseph held classes in the choir loft of the church, under the giant banyan tree next to the church, and in the parking lot. During inclement weather, classes were also held in the Naples Hotel. The completed 8-classroom building (on the site of the new Middle School and Administration buildings) welcomed the school’s 140 students in September 1957.
As Naples continued to develop, the parish and school expanded. The existing church building was dedicated on March 14, 1970. In 1975, two new classrooms and a library were added to the school. In 1984, the school added the Gymnasium and in 1987, a science laboratory. In 1991, the church building was renovated and expanded to its current state.
With an enrollment of 350 students in 1996, the school began an ambitious program to build and upgrade campus facilities. The parish Convent was remodeled into new Parish Offices in 1999. The Saint Joachim Chapel and new 20-classroom Elementary School building were completed in the fall of 2000. In August 2001, the new Media Center and Administration buildings opened and in June 2002, the new Middle School building was completed. The Saint Ann Jubilee Center was complete in January 2006. It houses a gymnasium, cafeteria, auditorium, and meeting facilities.
Today, Saint Ann School, one of 16 schools in the Diocese of Venice, has an enrollment of about 330 students while Saint Ann Parish is the spiritual home for more than 2,000 registered families.