Fifty years ago St. Anne’s Chapel was an abandoned school house. Now in 2012 the old school house is a thriving mission church of St. Joachim, Madera currently under the direction the Oblates of St. Joseph and Father Carlos Esquivel OSJ. The first Mass at the chapel was on April 7, 1962. The Chapel is preparing to celebrate the 50th
anniversary on Saturday, April 14 in Knowles, California. The celebration will begin at 3:00 p.m. with a social time followed by the blessing of the new St. Anne’s statue and grotto at 4:15, Mass at 4:30 p.m. with dinner following.
In the late 1800’s the town of Knowles was a thriving community due to the granite quarries operating in the area and the close proximity to the town of Raymond known as the “Gateway to Yosemite”. As the community grew, a larger school was needed so the founder of the town of Knowles and the President of the Raymond Granite Company, Fred K. Knowles, donated 4.3 acres to build a larger school. The school had three classrooms, two storage rooms, and a basement with restrooms and storage. The school continued to serve the community into the 1930’s with 60 students attending grades 1 through 8. In 1942 the Raymond and Knowles school districts were consolidated and the Knowles School was closed.
In 1959 John Alexander, President of Cold Spring Granite Company and Raymond Granite Company visited the area on a business trip. He was concerned that the community and the company employees had no where to worship and remarked that the abandoned school house would make a suitable church. Ironically Alexander had previously conversed with Father Dominic Albertelli, O.S. J. (Oblates of St. Joseph), pastor of St. Joachim, Madera, about this very issue and Father Albertelli made it known that he was interested in the opportunity.
Mr. Alexander researched the property further and discovered that the ownership had reverted back to Mr. and Mrs. Herb Buchenau. Once the Bucchenaus knew of Father’s interest, they donated the property and the building to the Diocese of Fresno. Father Albertelli was granted permission by Bishop Willinger to proceed, and the idea of St. Anne’s Chapel began to take place.
On Sunday, January 8, 1961 Father met with local Catholics about the conversion of the school to a Chapel. Over the next 13 months Father, with the aid of John Alexander and the workers from Cold Spring Granite Company in Minnesota, worked diligently to convert the school to a Chapel. On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1962 St. Anne’s Chapel was blessed by Father Mario Buttini assisted by Fathers John Grossi, Albert Marzani, and Lupe Sanchez. After the blessing the first Mass was celebrated. The Chapel received a great gift from Father Fabian Wegletner of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota in the form of a full set of vestments, altar linens, altar boy cassocks, and a complete set of Stations of the Cross from the Brothers Chapel of old Saint John’s Abbey.
Numerous additions have been added to the Chapel over the years. The altar was originally a library table designed and made by Raymond Granite Company of Sierra with white granite and weighing 5750 pounds. It was installed in the chapel in 1963. The baptismal font shows St. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and is from the old St. Joachim Church, Madera, along with the stained glass windows.
The community invites all former parishioners and their families to join the St. Anne’s Chapel community to celebrate the 50th
anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. with social time at 4:15 p.m., dedication of the St. Anne’s statue and grotto, at 4:30 p.m. with Mass followed by dinner. For more information visit the website www.stanneschapel.org
. or call 559-676-3370.