Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Immaculate Conception (Lapeer)

In the early 1800s, the first French missionaries to visit Lapeer called the area “la pierre”—“the stone”—in reference to the rocky bed of the Flint River. Irish-American Catholics began to settle in Lapeer County during the 1830s. At the time, the faithful could receive the sacraments only when a missionary priest was passing through and Mass was occasionally celebrated in family homes.

Catholics were slow to settle in Lapeer partly because, like much of the nation, many settlers had a strong anti-Catholic bias. In 1844, a visiting missionary priest, Fr. Laurence Kilroy, was pelted with stones. Despite difficulties, Fr. Kilroy sought out any Catholics living in the area. He encountered many non-Catholics who were moved by his “untiring zeal and Christian charity” and were thereby converted to Catholicism. Nevertheless, Fr. Kilroy left Lapeer, convinced that Catholics should not settle there, and went east to St. Clair

On August 17, 1859, Fr. DeCunic, a Flint priest, persuaded Alvin Hart, founder of Lapeer, to procure property for the site of a Catholic church. Hart provided a small parcel of property on the northern boundary of the village of Lapeer on the top of a hill where, today, Calhoun and Oregon Streets meet. As Catholics were viewed with suspicion and not particularly welcome in Lapeer, this location was chosen purposely to keep Catholics on the outskirts of town.

Jerry Sullivan led the construction efforts and, by October of 1860, much of the frame was finished. However, due to the Civil War, construction was delayed. In October of 1864, Fr. John Busche, a 25-year old German missionary, was appointed pastor to the people of Lapeer. The congregation originally chose the patronage of St. Martin but eventually selected Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was one of the first churches to bear that title after the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated by Pope Pius IX a decade earlier. The first Mass was held in the unfinished church; congregants improvised with boxes and boards because there were no pews at first.

Fr. Busche oversaw the completion of the first church, finished in 1866, and ministered to Catholics in nearby villages. He organized the faithful in Imlay City and Davison, where he built mission churches and purchased land for cemeteries. Fr. Busche also led many converts to the Faith. By 1880, according Fr. Alonzo Nacy, who grew up in Lapeer, half of the parish was comprised of convertsConstruction on the current, fieldstone church began in 1895 and finished a decade later. It stands a mile south of the previous church, in what is now called Piety Hill Historic District

Fr. Francis Kelley served as pastor at the turn of the 20th Century. In 1924, he was consecrated as the second Bishop of Oklahoma City. He died in 1948 and, two years later, Immaculate Conception Parish established a K-8 school named in honor of him.

Bishop Kelley Catholic School remains active today and is the only Catholic school in Lapeer County.

Nearby churches such as St. Joseph the Worker in Lake Orion and St. Augustine in Richmond are also built from fieldstone.

The interior of the church features a barrel vault ceiling, pointed arches and Corinthian columns.

The parish rescued a 7,000-pound marble altar from a closed New Jersey church and installed it at Immaculate Conception in 2013.

St. Peregrine relic and statue in the east transept; St. Jude statue and relic in the west transept.

The St. Jude statue was transplanted from a now-closed Detroit church and is believed to be the one that Danny Thomas prayed before, leading to his successful acting career. In thanksgiving, Thomas established St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The parish allows Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church, at the Sacred Heart altar.

Immaculate Conception celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014 and there are currently about 2,100 registered parishioners today.

The Lamb of God is depicted in the center of a large set of windows in the west transept.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit is depicted in the east transept windows.

Stained-glass windows in the nave all follow the same geometric pattern with variation in colors and symbols.

The Jerusalem Cross is inlaid in the floor of the church, in front of the altar.

Fr. Joseph Tuskiewicz has been Associate Pastor for over a year. Fr. Brian Hurley, previously at St. Anthony in Temperance, arrived as pastor at the beginning of July. They are assisted by Deacon Joseph Hulway.

A Marian grotto and memorial for the unborn in between the church and rectory.

Drone video of the church exterior (with music).

Immaculate Conception Parish also ministers at St. Louise Chapel in Metamora, seven miles south of Lapeer.

Immaculate Conception also manages Mt. Loretto Cemetery, two miles south of the church.

Many of the graves date back to the late 19th Century and early 20th Century.

For more info: parish website + school website
More about the altar: The Michigan Catholic + The County Press
Another blog post: Blog Your Church

Thursday, June 28, 2018

St. Robert Bellarmine (Redford Twp.)

Cardinal Mooney canonically established St. Robert Bellarmine Parish on June 26, 1953, with Fr. George T. Stromske as founding pastor. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, July 12, 1953, with 185 in attendance. In the next several months, the congregation quickly grew to 800 and the parish needed a permanent church. They bought land on the border of Redford and Livonia, at the corner of West Chicago and Inkster Roads, that was previously owned by the Daughters of Charity as an alternate site for the Sarah Fisher Home.

The cornerstone of the church was laid on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1954, and Msgr. Walter Hardy led the ceremony. Construction was quickly finished and the first Mass was three months later, on July 18, 1954. On the same day, 50 children received First Holy Communion and a parish school was established the same year.

Like many parochial schools, St. Robert Bellarmine struggled with declining enrollment and increasing debt in the 21st Century. They planned to merge and form a regional school along with St. Genevieve in Livonia, St. Damian in Westland, and St. Raphael in Garden City. Those plans did not come to fruition and all four schools closed after the 2014-2015 academic year.

St. Robert Bellarmine clustered with St. Hilary and St. John Bosco in 2012. St. Hilary closed in 2014 but the other two remained clustered. Last year, a transition team began the long-term planning process for the cluster. A recommendation was made that the two parishes merge to form the new parish of St. John XXIII, effective July 1, 2018. It is likely that one of the two churches will close soon.

The two current pastors, Fr. Richard Osebold and Fr. Richard Leliaert, respectively, will both retire shortly.  Fr. Leliaert has been pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine since 2006 and has been granted senior priest status at the age of 77. Bishop Emeritus Walter Hurley will be administrator and assisted by Fr. Gregory Piatt.

The Paschal candle and baptismal font stand in the middle of the nave; a bust of the namesake at the back of the church.

St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary at a side altar; BVM and child Jesus stand in a niche behind the side altar.

St. Jude, St. Joseph the Worker, and the Good Shepherd in the same niche.

Most of the windows are clear, with the exception of eight stained-glass windows behind the altar.

More info: parish website + Detroit Free Press

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

St. Anthony of Padua (Temperance)

The cornerstone of St. Antony of Padua Church was laid n July 4, 1907, but there were three delays before construction could start. Once construction began, the edifice was finished in seven months under the director of Fr. Alphonse Bertele, Pastor of St. Joseph in Ida

The first Mass was in the church basement on November 24, 1907 and the first Mass in the sanctuary was the following Christmas. Fr. Denis Needham was the founding pastor and led the 87 founding families.

A statue of the namesake stands in front of the rectory. Another statue, in memory of World War II veterans, stands in front of the former parish school.


Large, painted Stations of the Cross have faded over the course of decades.

A Perpetual Adoration chapel, built in 1989, is located in between the vestibule and main church.

A large stained-glass window was installed in the vestibule for the parish's centennial.

A baptistery stands in the vestibule between the church and parish office. The baptismal font likely stood at the back of the church at one time. Another statue of St. Anthony stands near the baptistery.

Fr. Brian Hurley was installed as pastor in 2006 and served two terms. He will soon be installed as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Lapeer and Fr. Robert Slaton will become administrator of St. Anthony.

Stained-glass window above the central door.

The stained-glass windows here are almost identical to those at St. Joseph Church in nearby Ida. The windows in both churches were likely created by the same fabricator.

The church has a vault ceiling with many arches throughout. Much like the Stations, murals behind the altars appear to have faded over time.

The Deposition of Christ overlooks the main altar. A baldachin with the Descent of Holy Spirit covers the main altar.

The Immaculate Conception and St. Anthony with Child Jesus are depicted at side altars.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Thérèse stands in a niche.

Our Lady Help of Christians, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and St. Joseph stand in another niche.

The parish manages St. Anthony Cemetery, located three miles east of the church.


For more info: parish website + The Michigan Catholic