About Our Parish

Our roots as a Catholic community are the outgrowth of the efforts of early Jesuit missionaries of the 1600’s. Frs. Marquette and Nouvel traveled the Michigan wilderness in service of the Chippewa, Iroquois, Ottawa, and Huron Indians as well as early fur traders. Fr. Nouvel’s journal indicates that he celebrated the first Mass on the banks of the Saginaw River on December 3, 1675.

ST. JOSEPH CHURCH, the first Catholic Church in the Saginaw Valley, was founded in the winter of 1850. Two other churches existed in Bay County: the Methodist Indian Mission Church in Kawkawlin (1847) and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Frankenlust Township (1849).

Roman Catholic missionaries began regular visits to the Saginaw Valley as early as 1829. Other visitors included Fr. Kundig, Fr. Louis, and Fr. Peter Kindekens, the vicar general, who encouraged the construction of the first church building. The growing lumbering and fishing industries attracted many French-speaking Canadians who settled in the area north of Woodside and on the westside of the Saginaw River in the “Banks” area. By the 1880’s, almost 90% of the area population consisted of French-speaking Canadians.

Work began on the building of the Church in the winter of 1850-51. The settlers were familiar with “raising” homes and barns. They went into the woods to fell the trees and square the timber, and helped with the construction of St. Joseph Church. The men were few, none were rich, and most had families to support… but they built the church.

Work progressed slowly. In 1852, under the supervision of the new pastor, Fr. Schutjes, the church was completed.  The church measured 72’ long with 40’ frontage, and a steeple and belfry were added.

Fr. Schutjes was the pastor of the entire Saginaw Valley and had to alternate weekends for Mass, dependent on weather and travel conditions. He had no rectory, living with any family that would give him lodging. Fr. Schutjes was a great asset to the developing churches in the Saginaw Valley since he had good command of several languages, skills that served the arriving families well since they were a mixture of nationalities.

Within six years of its founding, St. Joseph was serving 2,000 Catholics and by 1868, that number rose to 7,000. The congregation quickly outgrew the little church. Only one-eighth of the congregation could be accommodated. A decision was made to build a larger church that would accommodate other nationalities of the area in addition to the French.

The second St. Joseph Church/School combination was erected in 1880 by the new pastor, Fr. Medric Thibodeau on the corner of Second and Grant. It had classrooms for 400 students and provided a residence for the Dominican Sisters who arrived in 1882. It was the largest church in the Saginaw Valley.

Fr. F.J Roth became pastor. A decision was made to build a larger church and to continue the school. Work began on the third church building on Third and Grant Streets that was completed in 1906 at a cost of $65,00. It was consecrated totally debt free on March 19, 1911, the feast of St. Joseph.

ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST CHURCH - The Essexville/Hampton Township areas also began flourish in the 1850’s. Most settlers were of French-Belgian, Dutch, or German influence. Fishing and lumbering were the first occupations but later transitioned to farming as the primary industry. 

The Dutch community made a request for a church to serve the Flemish speaking Catholics living in Essexville since residents had to walk five to six miles each way to attend Mass.  The dream of a new church came true on August 31, 1884 when the cornerstone for St. John the Evangelist Church, a mission of St. James Parish, was laid by Bishop Richter.  The two-story structure was built as a combination church and school on the corner of Hudson and Pine Streets with Fr. Byrne as the assistant pastor.

It became an independent parish with the assignment of Fr. Cornelius Roche as pastor. His first task was to build a rectory which was completed in 1888. Fr. Roche died on August 8, 1900 and Fr. Kinney acted as interim pastor. Bishop Richter asked the Norbertine Fathers of De Pere, Wisconsin to minister to the parish since they could speak Flemish. Nine Norbertine pastors along with more than 30 associates served the parish over a time span of 81 years.

A new church was built in 1892 to accommodate the growing parish community. In 1917, the church was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. A new church, dedicated in 1919, was erected on the same sight. This structure stood until 1988. Time had taken its toll on the church building, and after much discussion and planning, construction of a new structure began in 1987 and was dedicated in the Spring of 1988.

In 1889, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids come to St. John to teach. They built Holy Rosary Academy which opened as a girls’ boarding school in October of 1896 but burned in 1904 as a result of arson. It was rebuilt in Bay City. The Dominican Sisters continued to serve the parish and school until July 2000. 

Catholic School education was an important part of this parish’s history. In 1925, a new elementary/high school was built. In 1950, a new grade school that housed first through fifth grades was opened, and in 1957, the school on the corner of Hudson and Main opened to serve fifth grade through high school. The last senior class graduated in 1968 as a result of the formation of All Saints High School. All eight elementary grades were moved to the former high school. The school continued to serve pre-school through fifth until June of 2014 and the merger into All Saints Elementary School.

The history of ST. NORBERT CHURCH began around the turn of the twentieth century when several Catholic families settled in the Munger area and felt a need for a church in their midst. The Norbertine Fathers from St. John Parish in Essexville came to attend to the spiritual needs of that area. An interesting mix of nationalities came together in those early days – Hollanders, Belgians, French, Poles, Slavs, and Germans. In 1902, Norbertine Fr. Bresson, the pastor at St. John, Essexville, organized a mission in Munger.

Fr. Martin deLang was appointed pastor of the new mission in June 1904. In those early days, there was no rectory so the pastor worked out of the St. John Office and resided with a family in Munger. Holy Mass was offered in the Merritt Township Hall until the church was built. The cornerstone was laid in 1906 and the church dedicated in July 1907. The name of the church – St. Norbert – was chosen by the people.

In August 1908, a new pastor – Fr. John Crielaers – was appointed. The Norbertines gave up the mission and in April 1910, Bishop Richter of Grand Rapids established St. Norbert Church as a parish. Construction began on a rectory in 1910 and a school was built in 1924. The Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids were the teachers for the school from 1924 through 1931 and 1939 through 1971 while the school was open. Building began in 1948 on a new rectory with the existing rectory being turned into a convent for the sisters.

In 1949, the school and parish began to have serious difficulties with wells running dry. Eleven wells were dug in 1949, but a deep, sustaining well was not found on the property. Creative methods had to be undertaken to provided water for the parish. In 1951, Fr. Hafner solved the problem through the creation of a huge reservoir with the assistance of Michigan State Extension Services. This unique arrangement attracted attention from persons throughout the state. With the completion of “Hafner Lake,” the pastor was able to raise the level of the parish grounds and improve landscaping all of which added to the beauty of the parish site.

During the summer months, many Spanish-speaking migrants came to work in the sugar beet and potato fields. In 1948, Catechism classes were offered to the children of these migrants by personnel of the Migrant Apostolate, usually seminarians. In 1952, a full day of school was organized at St. Norbert School where the migrants’ children were taught reading, English, spelling, arithmetic, and Catechism. Enrollment reached 180 in 1961. This 

was an important ministry to the children whose parents traveled for work six months out of the year. The program continued through the 1960’s.

In 1960, at the direction of the Bishop, plans were drawn up for a new church to replace the old which was facing many structural issues. Also, the congregation had increased, outgrowing the old facility. The process was speeded up when the tower of the old church fell to the ground in May 1964. The cornerstone for the new church was laid in October 1964 and the church was completed in 1965. The last of the debt on the church was paid off by December of 1973.

In 1996, St. Norbert shared its pastor, Fr. Jim Carlson, with St. Elizabeth Parish as part of a pilot program. Sr. Tereska Wozniak came on board as the pastoral associate for both parishes.

MERGER & AND BEYOND…

On July 1st, 2014, after several years of planning initiated by the Diocese of Saginaw, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, and St. Norbert Parishes merged to form St. Jude Thaddeus Parish. The name for the new parish was chosen through a vote over two weekends in which parishioners were able to choose between several initial names that surfaced. After the merger, St. Joseph and St. Norbert were designated Churches for Occasional Use which meant no regular weekend Masses would be held at either parish but weddings and funerals could still be held at either location. St. John the Evangelist Church became the Parish Church site and all weekend Masses were held at the St. John the Evangelist Church site. In addition, parishes offices were located in the St. John the Evangelist Church Parish Office. It was decided that Mass times would be 4:00 on Saturday and 8:30 and 10:30 on Sunday.

Fr. Dale Orlik who had served as sacramental minister at St. Joseph parish for _____ years and at St. Norbert for one year was appointed pastor of the newly merged/formed St. Jude Thaddeus parish.  Following guidelines set by the Diocese of Saginaw, a parish Pastoral Council was created consisting of four representatives from each of the three merging parishes as members. In addition, five Commissions were created, each with representatives from the three merged parishes. The Commissions are: Finance Commission, Christian Service Commission, Faith Formation Commission, Liturgy & Worship Commission, and the Stewardship Commission. The Pastoral Council and the five Commissions meet at 6:30 p.m. with a Pastoral Council representative attending each commission meeting. The representative reports back to the Pastoral Council which meets after the individual committee meetings. A summary of the key points discussed at the meetings is placed in the bulletin ten days after the meetings.

 

SALES & BEYOND…

In March of 2018, the sale of the St. Joseph Church complex was completed. The church, school, and gymnasium were sold to two investors whose plans in part include the remodeling of the school to create 13 housing units for low income families. Plans for the rest of the complex are not yet know.

With the sale of the St. Joseph Church complex, the Adoration Chapel was moved in July 2018 to the All Saints Church Chapel on Columbus. The St. Joseph Food Pantry was closed and supplies, equipment and funds were distributed to existing Food Pantries that will serve the needs of the families previously cared for by the St. Joseph Food Pantry.

It should also be noted that the former rectory for St. Joseph Parish was sold to Holy Cross Services and is being used for a substance abuse recovery program.

In June 2017, the St. Norbert Parish Complex was sold to the “Close to Home” organization. Thus far, the rectory has been remodeled and six full-time patients are being cared for at that site. Plans for the rest of the complex are still tentative.  Upon the sale of the complex, the Christmas Creche 

was given to the Munger Lutheran church. A thoughtfully written thank you letter was received from the pastor who expressed a wish that the entire community of Munger will continue to enjoy the beautiful manger scene.

Most of the religious artifacts of both St. Joseph and St. Norbert Church complexes have been placed in storage. Some have been sold or were donated to parishes in need but most will be saved to be included in any future restorations of St. John Church.

 

 
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