During the 1940s as the boundaries of Newport pushed northwards toward Llantarnam, the size of the Catholic population grew so much that need arose for a place of worship outside of the centre and to the north. Public transport links from the northern territories of Woodlands, Malpas Park, Claremont etc. were very infrequent so Mass provision was made around host venues.
The late 1940s & early 1950s saw the Catholic population of the area follow then Chaplain, Canon Richard Handford, to nearby St. Joseph’s Convent for Mass. The congregation would often spill over onto the veranda, and baptisms were held in an upstairs room. Mass was eventually offered in the Army T.A. Centre on Malpas Road, then at Malpas Court School until the building of St. Anne’s church on Oliphant Circle in 1961. St. Anne’s was initially served by the clergy of St. Mary’s.
The parish was founded two years prior to the building of the church in 1958. Father Tom Donovan was entrusted with the construction of the church and hall. During this period he resided in a room at the nearby St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, now St. Joseph’s Convent. When Fr. Desmond Mullin was appointed Assistant Priest, he and Fr. Donovan moved into a flat at 18 Rees Close.
As the church was being built, parishioners would leave Mass at the nearby Malpas Court School walking past the construction site known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Malpas”. The church was initially dedicated under the patronage of Our Lady under that title by Monsignor P F Gavin, Vicar Capitular of the Archdiocese of Cardiff. The construction of the church was to be of a light steel frame with non load-bearing brick panel walling and titled roof with an intended capacity of 200. The intention for the church was dual purpose as a place of worship and for secular activities.
Controversy was in the air and there was both priestly and particularly congregational objection to both the name of the church and the intended dual use. Shortly after, in 1963, the church was renamed St. Anne’s as indeed the area had now become well known. The building was also to be utilised solely as a place of worship and a regular Mass schedule was introduced.
Fr. Donovan left the parish in 1970 to be succeeded by Fr. Michael Keegan. Secular and social events were being hosted at various venues including the “Malpas War Memorial Hall”. As the community established itself a youth group was founded and a branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers. With no proper meeting place, the need of a church hall was paramount! However, Fr. Keegan saw a greater need; the church required a larger porch access as problems were being encountered with the manoeuvring of coffins into the church for funerals. The hall had to wait, and was not constructed until 1981, its first use, a commemorative gala dinner to thanks many supporters of the project for their sterling efforts including John Anderson, George Boyd, John Coghlan, Neil Dyer, Ron Evans, Noel Fitzpatrick, Phil Haskins, Graham Maggs, Mike Malloy, P.J. O’Neil, P.J. Searson, Martin Walsh and Ted Williams.
The Silver Jubilee of St. Anne’s was celebrated in the new hall in 1986, after which Fr. Keegan left the parish to be succeeded by Fr. Eddie O’Connell. Fr. Eddie had a very inauspicious welcome, not even a bed on his first evening! His was a cerebral term of office, where education, art, culture and music brought tranquillity to St. Anne’s culminating in the installation of the ‘Picasso’ styled stained glass windows. The windows were completed in 1994 by Caroline McKenzie.
Fr. Eddie’s departure was at the start of the decline in priestly vocations. The tenure of parish priests was growing shorter and cameo period were followed by the appointment of Fr. Pat O’Gorman and Fr. Michael St. Clair.
The final parish priest of St. Anne’s as a parish was Fr. Jimmy Bisgrove. In 2007 Fr. John Kelly arrived in Newport and St. Anne’s became part of the All Saints Catholic parish.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy have always been at the heart of St. Anne’s as the church nestles between the communities of Llantarnam Abbey and St. Joseph’s Convent, Malpas. The work of the founding Sisters of St. Anne’s continues to this day with the care, comfort and devotion of Sr. Visitation and the Sisters who regularly attend the Sunday Mass.
Whilst times have changed, St. Anne’s moves forward into the future in hope.