In rural France in 1816, a newly ordained parish priest, Fr. Marcellin Champagnat, was assigned as assistant pastor to the town of LaValla. His parish included sixty-one mountain hamlets, each home to four or five families. One day, Fr. Champagnat was called to the bedside of a dying fifteen-year old boy. Because of the absence of schooling of any kind, the lad could neither read nor write, and was completely ignorant of the faith he had been baptized into. As Fr. Champagnat prepared the young man to meet God, he knew he had to do something to improve the lot of these children, trapped by their isolation and poverty in a lifetime of ignorance and want.
Although he had no money, no buildings, no approval from Church or State, no books and no teachers, Fr. Champagnat entrusted his mission to God, knowing that, if it were God's work, nothing could prevent its success. In 1817, he recruited two young men who became the first Marist Brothers. He trained them as catechists, and sent them into the hamlets to begin a simple program of education. Despite the hardships and privations of this early group, many others were soon attracted to the idealistic and charismatic Fr. Champagnat.
Soon other parishes were clamoring for the help of the Brothers. Exhausted by his efforts, Fr. Champagnat died at age 51 in 1840. Despite all the difficulties, there were over 200 Marist Brothers at the time of the Founder's death, and within ten more years, there were over 2,000! Today, over 5,000 Marist Brothers work in 73 countries around the world, laboring for the Christian education of youth.
In 1885, the Marist Brothers opened their first North American schools in Canada, and the following year started their first U.S. parish school in Lewiston, Maine. They quickly spread to a number of New England cities, serving the French-speaking immigrants.
In 1892, Br. Zephiriny opened St. Anne's Academy in two brownstone buildings at East 76 Street and Lexington Avenue. Initially a parish elementary school, the program soon expanded to include a two-year commercial course and then a full four-year high school program. Initially conducted entirely in French, the school gradually moved to English-language instruction, and by the turn of the century, the Brothers anglicized the name to St. Ann's.
During the Teddy Roosevelt era, the school briefly took on a military air, with uniforms and a marching band. Boarding facilities were added, and the phenomenal growth of the school began. When the original parish church was replaced in 1912 with the huge present-day Church, the Brothers acquired the old building and converted it as a gymnasium. A purpose-built five story school building was then constructed, and other neighboring buildings were acquired.
Sixty-five years after its foundation, the school enrollment had swelled to 800 in grades one through twelve, and all available buildings were bursting at the seams. Moreover, some of the earliest buildings had deteriorated structurally, and required replacement.
To visit the history page on the website of St. Jean's Parish click here.
Archbishop Molloy, the Ordinary of the neighboring diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, offered the Marist Brothers a six-acre site he had purchased in central Queens County. In 1957, the Brothers moved to the new site, naming the building in honor of Archbishop Molloy. The expanded facilities enabled the school to nearly double its enrollment, meeting the urgent needs of the post World War II baby-boom generation.
Despite the move, many of the hallowed St. Ann's traditions continued as the faculty and students moved en masse to the new site. Today, students are still known as Stanners (St. Anner's), and the school newspaper is the Stanner.
In 1987, the Ralph DiChiaro Center for Arts and Sciences was dedicated, giving the school new facilities, including a theater, computer labs and a biology lab.
Throughout its century-long history, the school has maintained traditions of academic excellence, effective religious education, service to others, achievement in athletics, and great school spirit.