Years before New Mexico became a state, the Catholic community in Tucumcari was already committed to training their children in the way of the Sacraments. Priests bringing the Sacraments to Catholics in Tucumcari were Father Halterman from Puerto De Luna, Father Lammert from Bueyeros, Father Splinters from Chaparito, and Father Tomassini from Tiptonville near Ft. Union.
These courageous men of God rode horseback, covered wagons or buggies, facing the harsh elements, marauding groups of highwaymen, Indians and outlaws to keep the faith alive in the unsettled Llano Estacado railroad town known as Six Shooter Siding.
Mass was celebrated in private homes and later in the Crystal Theater on the corner of Aber and Second streets, better known as Tucumcari Motors. It was used for various fundraising events for the construction of a church. When it burned to the ground, Mass was moved to the courthouse and the jury room was used as the confessional.
Archbishop Pitaval administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to the first class in 1909. He appointed Friar Jules H. Molinie as interim priest. Friar Molinie, a Frenchman as many Catholic priests were at that time, was born in 1878 and ordained in 1905. He came to Tucumcari and purchased a small parcel of land. He stayed with the Francisco Gutierrez family, and in 1909 he contracted with Mauricio Campos to build a church on the same land, which he sold for a small fee. The adobes used in construction cost $21 per thousand for new adobes and $10.50 per thousand for used adobes.
Godfrey Funk was the contractor and Royal Prentice was the unofficial architect and supervisor for the project. Because many parishioners volunteered materials or labor, the total cost of the first Catholic church in Tucumcari was $15,000.
In January 1910, Archbishop Pitaval assigned Friar Molinie as the official permanent priest at St. Anne's, a name chosen by "Padre Julio" in honor of the blessed Mary's mother and his own mother, Anne.
The first mass was celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, 1910. Later a house was built west of the old church and used as a rectory and parish center. The next expansion was construction of a convent when a group of Franciscan sisters came to Tucumcari to set up a hospital. They taught school in a small building south of Hammond Hall. In 1923 the Dominican sisters, more educationally oriented, replaced the Fransiscan sisters. The parishioners had begun building a school on the present grounds and Archbishop Daeger dedicated the school in October 1927.
The Dominican sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary of Adrian, Mich. were seeking an area with climate suitable for healing nuns with tuberculosis and settled in Roy after their school closed in Nogales, Ariz. They chose to come to St. Anne's and left a lasting impression on many students. The school closed in 1969 and the building is presently used for religion classes and other church functions.
The Rev. Monsignor Arnold Estevelt succeeded Molinie and served until 1934 when ill health forced him to move to California. His father, a physician, trained him as a doctor. Consequently, he gave aid to the poor and sick and the entire community benefited from his vast medical knowledge.
Friar Robert Hammond served St. Anne's from 1934 until 1953. He was responsible for building the rectory and Hammond Hall in 1949 at a cost of $60,000. He made great sacrifices and left the parish with no debt in 1953.
In 1954 Friar Carl Hammer became the pastor and built the new St. Anne's church, holding dedication services with Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne on May 26, 1957. The Rev. John Hallinan came in September and served as assistant pastor.
Other pastors have been Raymond Quinn, Ron Rath, Armando Martinez, Anthony Gallegos, Ignacius Tafoya, Francis Nava, and our own James Vance. Father Gregory Carroll and Father George J. Weisenborn continued the leadership of the parish, beginning renovations of the church in 1980. Friar Augustine Abeywickrema succeeded Carrol. When Friar Virgil Furfaro came, he built a new fence around the schoolyard and helped construction on the footings and (non-existent) foundation of the church. He redid the interior of the rectory and opened up the yard in front of the rectory, making it more inviting. He encouraged small groups to study the litergy ad enjoyed meeting and getting to know all who attended.
The Rev. John C. Daniel, an Albuquerque native, received his ordination and St. Anne's became his first parish. Friar Leo Padget, who had retired from the Navy, began his seminary studies as a Nazarene, converted to Catholicism, and came to St. Anne's where he served for eight years.
The Rev. Friar Hyginus Anuta was ordained on Aug. 30, 1997. He worked in Nigeria for five years before moving to the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa in 2002. On completion of his assignment there, he was assigned to serve at the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. He came to St. Anne's in January 2009.