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More than a century ago the Passionists arrived in Scranton to conduct missions and retreats. The people and the local clergy loved them so much; the Fathers were invited to establish the congregation in the diocese.

A plateau of 10 acres, rather high above the city, and known as "The Round Woods", was chosen by the Passionists and by Bishop Michael Hoban. Chosen on the day of the Virgin Mary's birthday, the new home of the Passionist Community was named in honor of Saint Ann, Mother of Mary. From July 17-25 the Passionists prayed a nine-day novena to St. Ann to ask her blessings, as was their custom.

On March 25, 1904 Mass was celebrated at the Monastery for the first time by Bishop Hoban.Commanding a splendid view of surrounding hills and valleys, the Round Woods became a great attraction to people near and far, and the beginnings of a strong new parish began forming.

Disaster struck on the morning of August 15, 1911 when a coal mine subsidence seriously damaged the monastery. The priests continued their ministries until two years later when another major slide caused them to evacuate. Mining experts predicted a huge collapse would carry the Monastery to the east.

On July 28, 1913, two days after the Feast of St. Ann, amid earthly grumblings and flying coal dust, the priests and laity knelt in solemn prayer throughout the night. At daybreak they were startled by a tremendous rumble, followed by deafening silence. What was supposed to have been a giant slide, turned out to be two huge boulders moving into place underneath the building: Those rolling boulders closed the great fissures, making the Monastery grounds more solid than ever.

St. Ann's Novena began in November, 1924 with just a handful of people requesting the rector of St. Ann's Monastery to have a weekly novena honoring St. Ann. They knew that the priests, brothers and seminarians had their own novena services in the Monastery Chapel. The Rector appointed a young priest, Father John Joseph Endler, C.P., to hold services for the people in the Monastery parlor. Within a few weeks and with the addition of extra devotions each Monday, the parlor was not large enough to hold the number attending the Novena devotions. A large tent was provided by the Scranton Fire Department which was used for services for the next few months. It was evident that larger accommodations had to be provided and a simple wooden structure was erected near the front entrance to the Monastery. This held about 200 people. The crowds continued to increase. Finally, it was decided to build a church.Ground was broken in 1927 and the finished church was dedicated on April 2, 1929. Such was the beginning of St. Ann's Shrine and St. Ann's Novena. It could certainly be said that the Novena actually began in the hearts of the people as so many devotions begin. It was the faithful of the area who requested the Novena. It was their spontaneous response to it that brought about the huge crowds that have attended over the years. It could be said that it was really St. Ann working through the hearts of the faithful.

From the beginning, the steadily growing crowds, particularly at the Solemn Novena in July, resulted not so much from promotion by the Passionist Community as by word of mouth of the devotees of St. Ann. Over the years there were continuous reports of miracles happening through the intercession of St. Ann. During and after World War II, a great number of families moved from Scranton to other areas to find employment. Very many of these people continued to return to St. Ann's Shrine for the annual Solemn Novena in July. This marked the pilgrimages from many parts of the United States and Canada. It also explains why devotion to St. Ann became a tradition for countless families.Repeatedly, one hears people remark: " My mother took me to St. Ann's when I was a sick child.The doctor had given up. I haven't missed a novena since." At other times you can hear a mother introduce her child as "My St. Ann's baby."Then she will tell you that she and her husband prayed for years for a baby and finally St. Ann answered their prayers.Still others say, "I don't remember why I began the Novena.I was probably looking for some favor.I have no idea now what favor I wanted and have no idea whether I received it or not.But it doesn't matter.I know I would never miss my Novena." THIS IS TRULY A PEOPLE'S NOVENA. It was born in the hearts of the faithful and it continues to thrive because of their great devotion.

Devotion to St. Ann and the Novena is truly an important part of the spiritual life of so very many people in this area and beyond. On the Feast of St. Ann, there are groups of pilgrims that come from surrounding towns on foot. A group from Dunmore leaves home at 4:00 A.M. and walks 3 miles to the Shrine for the 6:00 A.M. Mass. Groups from Pittston gather together at midnight to walk the 8 miles to the shrine and arrive around 3 A.M. That gives them ample time for making the outdoor Stations of the Cross and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the first Mass of the day at 4:30 A.M.These groups are predominantly young people who will tell you that their parents and grandparents began these traditions years before.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation remains an important experience for the faithful devoted to St. Ann. During the Solemn Novena, the Passionist priests at St. Ann's are joined by the Passionists from other monasteries and a large number of Diocesan priests who willingly participate in this important part of the people's pilgrimage to St. Ann.

In addition to the large crowds attending the Novena, thousands more have been part of the Novena and Mass through radio and television, starting back in the 1940's.

In negotiation of this inspiring tradition of pilgrimage and duration, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II declared St. Ann's National Shrine to be a Minor Basilica on October 27, 1997.