On August 7, 1908 Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan established the parish of St. Anselm in the newly incorporated town of San Anselmo. The parish extended from White’s Hill in the north, south to Mill Valley, west to Mt. Tamalpais and east to San Rafael.
In the year that followed our first Pastor, Fr. John Eagan, purchased land for the church and rectory ($2,250) and started fundraising and planning to build the beautiful church we use each day for our liturgies. The materials were sent, mainly by rail, to the San Anselmo freight station (now Andronico’s) where they were carried by horse and buggy to the building site. The McLaughlin and Little Construction Co. guided their staff and parishioners who volunteered their time. Even the pastor was known to climb the scaffolding and help out. The cost of the new church was $21,573.78.
On November 22, 1908, the church was dedicated by Archbishop Riordan. His dedication address included “This beautiful edifice will be a great joy and lasting benefit not only to you who are now present, but to many yet to come within the parish.”
We truly feel that his vision has come true. This Church has been a great joy to many. The first child baptized, Harry Anselm Clinch, went on to become a bishop of Monterey, CA. He served as a priest for over 66 years and bishop for 46 years before his death at the age of 94. Through the years we continue to celebrate the Eucharist each day; welcome new parishioners through the Sacrament of Baptism; rejoice with couples as we witness their love through the Sacrament of Marriage; comfort the grieving during wakes and funerals. There is seldom a time when our church is empty; many stop by in the course of the day to offer a prayer in thanksgiving, bring their concerns before the Blessed Sacrament or just sit and take advantage of the quiet presence of Our Lord.
The call to share and spread our faith, especially with children, prompted the second pastor, Fr. William Cantwell, to establish our school. Groundbreaking took place in 1924. The Sisters of Loretto traveled from Kentucky to staff the school. The school was officially dedicated on August 17, 1924. The parish absorbed the cost of tuition for all the children. The high school was built in 1926 by moving the parish hall (in two sections) to the schoolyard. In 1931 the Great Depression forced the closure of the high school. However, in 1935, the high school reopened. The creation of Marin Catholic, although a benefit for the county as a whole, resulted in the permanent closure of our high school.
Additions to our facilities included the Gymnasium, built in 1959. A major addition to the parish facilities took place in 1993 when the Mc Donald Center was built. It houses the Kindergarten, Conference Room (used during the day as the school math room), library (used at night as a meeting room) and principal’s office. It replaced the building that used to house our Religious Education office and the Rummage Rack, a thrift store operated by parish volunteers for the benefit of the parish.
The parish facilities grew because of the many activities of our parish. Our school currently has 270 students enrolled, our Religious Education program 160. A visit to the school site on a weeknight may find CYO basketball/volleyball in the gym; YLI meeting in the library; an adult education program in the conference room and perhaps a scripture study group meeting in the teachers’ lounge. Parish organizations include: Parish Finance and Pastoral Councils, Adopt-A-Family, Altar Society, Brown Bag Lunches, Cursillo, Dinners for the Homeless, Grief Ministry, Food & Clothing Drives, Guatemala Mission, Health Ministry, Helping Hands, Little Rock Scripture Study groups, Liturgy of the Word for Children, RCIA/RCIC programs, Social Justice, Social Ministry, Spiritual Growth Committee, St. Vincent de Paul and YLI. In addition, we have Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Altar Servers and choirs (adult, children, schola), who assist in the weekend and holiday liturgies. On a regular weekend, there are over 50 liturgical ministers, in addition to the priest, choirs, and musicians, serving the needs of the parish.