Michigan, Catholic Church in
MICHIGAN, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
One of the north central states of the United States, admitted to the Union in 1837 as the 26th state, Michigan
is composed of an upper (northern) and a lower (southern) peninsula, which are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, spanned by the great Mackinac Bridge, opened in 1957. Four of the five Great Lakes form a part of the boundary of the peninsulas. Lake Michigan separates the two peninsulas, forming the southern boundary of the upper and the western boundary of the lower. Lansing is the capital, and Detroit is the largest city. The Catholic population of the State of Michigan is 2,226,881 or 23 percent of the total population of 9,526,685 (as of January 2001). They are organized in seven dioceses: the Archdiocese of Detroit and the six suffragan sees: Grand Rapids, Lansing, Marquette, Saginaw, Gaylord, and Kalamazoo. At the beginning of the 21st century there were 803 parishes and 52 missions served by 1,090 diocesan priests, 403 religious order priests, 308 permanent deacons, 148 brothers, and 3,006 sisters. The state had two free-standing seminaries, seven Catholic colleges or universities, 26 Catholic hospitals, 54 Catholic high schools, and 296 Catholic grade schools.
Early History. The beginnings of the Catholic Church in Michigan date from the 17th century. In the fall of 1641 the French Jesuits Charles Raymbaut and Isaac Jogues visited the Chippewa Indians in the area later called Sault Sainte Marie in northern Michigan. Thirty years later, with headquarters at St. Ignatius mission, James Marquette, Gabriel Druillettes, and other Jesuits cared for the area surrounding the Straits of Mackinac that link Lakes Huron and Michigan. By 1679, when Robert Cavelier de La Salle and Louis Hennepin, OFM, explored the St. Joseph River and built a chapel at its mouth on Lake Michigan, priests had visited almost all parts of Michigan. Detroit itself was colonized in 1701 when Antoine Cadillac arrived from Montreal, Canada, on July 24, bringing with him a Franciscan and a Jesuit. A primitive chapel was built within Cadillac's Fort Ponchartrain, and resident priests served as chaplains. In 1708 construction of a church was begun; the parish register of St. Anne's received its first entry on July 17, 1722, signed by Rev. Bonaventure Liénard. During the following decades Jesuits, including Armand de la Richardie, arrived in Detroit for work among the native people, while the Franciscans continued to minister to the white settlers.
The surrender of Montreal to the British in 1760 marked the influx to Detroit of its first Protestant element, Irish, Scotch, and English traders, soldiers, and merchants. It also presaged a change in ecclesiastical jurisdiction for the missions of the area, which until then had been under the bishop of Quebec, Canada. With the independence of the 13 English colonies and the establishment of the United States, Rome named John Carroll prefect apostolic (1784) and then first bishop of Baltimore (1789), with authority over all Catholics in the new republic. Detroit raised the American flag in 1796, at about the time that St. Anne's received Rev. Michael Levadoux, the first pastor appointed by an American bishop. Two years later, Levadoux welcomed as assistants two Sulpician confreres, Jean Dilhet and Gabriel richard, the latter succeeding to the pastorate of St. Anne's in 1802. Richard opened a seminary, a school for Native Americans, and an academy for girls. On Aug. 31, 1809, he printed the Michigan Essay, probably the only issue of the first paper in Michigan. He was one of the founders (1817) of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, of which he also served as vice-president and professor.
In 1808 the Michigan Territory was assigned to the new Diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky. When Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget made his visitation in 1818, he erected six parishes in Detroit and resolved the difficulties that had prevented the erection of a new St. Anne's after the old structure had been leveled in the fire of 1805. Although it was first occupied in 1822, the church was not completed until Christmas 1828. To Bishop Edward Dominic Fenwick, who had been named ordinary of the new Diocese of Cincinnati (1821), with jurisdiction over the Michigan Territory, Richard reported in 1826 that there were 7,000 white Catholics in the territory and about 100 African Americans. They were served by eight priests, including Stephen badin at St. Joseph, Samuel mazzuchelli, op, at Mackinac Island and Green Bay, and Frederic baraga in the northwest sector and the upper peninsula. Although the majority of the Catholics were French settlers or native converts, the Irish were trickling into Wayne and Washtenaw counties, and in 1831 Rev. Patrick O'Kelly became their pastor in North-field Township.
Diocese. On March 4, 1827, Leo XII named Detroit a diocese with Richard as its first ordinary, but his nomination was suppressed before the bull erecting the diocese was officially issued (March 20). Apparently, interventions by Fr. Stephen Badin and Fr. Frederic Résé gave Rome pause: the poor financial resources of the Church in Detroit and that Richard had been imprisoned for defamation of character at one time for his excommunicating a local man who had divorced and was living with another woman. This situation of holding back the establishment of the diocese remained until Richard's death on Sept. 13, 1832. Within two weeks, Fenwick also was dead and the Church in Michigan was deprived of the leadership under which it had begun its growth.
Résé. On March 8, 1833, without reference to the action taken by Rome in 1827, Gregory XVI established Detroit as a diocese for the second time; Frederic Résé of Cincinnati became its first bishop and St. Anne's its first cathedral. The diocese embraced the present states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the portions of North and South Dakota east of the Mississippi. By 1838 Michigan's population had increased to 170,000; of these, between 20,000 to 24,000 were Catholics; 3,000, converted Native Americans; 8,000, English, Irish, German, and American; and the balance French. To help care for this flock, Résé had about 30 priests. As administrator of the Diocese of Cincinnati, he had brought the Poor Clares to Detroit in 1833, establishing the first convent and the first school for girls.
In 1835 Most Holy Trinity parish was established for the English-speaking Catholics, primarily the Irish. German immigrants settled in Clinton County in 1836, and within two years a resident priest was assigned to the community that became Westphalia. In Detroit, Rev. Martin kundig was deputed to minister to the German Catholics, especially at the mission that became Assumption Grotto parish. Kundig also organized the Catholic Female Society in 1834 to assume responsibility for the poor and orphans made homeless by the cholera epidemic of 1834. He was appointed the town's superintendent of the poor and directed the county poor house, the infirmary, and the orphan asylum. The orphan asylum, financed solely by Catholic funds, represented the beginning of organized Catholic charity in Detroit.
Lefevere. Disputes with other bishops, mishandling of his oversight of the Poor Clares of Pittsburgh, a possible drinking problem, and unauthorized fund-raising in Europe were reasons for Résé's forced resignation in 1840. He remained bishop of Detroit but spent the rest of his life in Europe where he died in 1871. Peter Paul lefevere, who had come to the Missouri missions from Belgium only eight years earlier, was named coadjutor and administrator of Detroit on July 23, 1841, and consecrated on November 22. During his 28-year episcopate, the diocese emerged from a pioneer settlement to a well-structured community capable of further development. The territory originally administered by Résé was divided first by the erection of the Diocese of Dubuque in 1837,
then Milwaukee in 1843. The upper peninsula was made a vicariate in 1853, and Bishop Baraga established his see first at Sault Sainte Marie and then, in 1865, at Marquette.
Under Lefevere, Detroit's Catholic population increased to more than 150,000, the number of priests to 88, and churches to 80, with much of the growth across the southern tier of the state, in the Grand Rapids region, and around Saginaw. In 1843 five Sisters of the Holy Cross arrived to establish a school at Bertrand, near St. Joseph. In 1844 the Daughters of Charity began St. Vincent's Select School for girls in Detroit and in 1845 opened St. Vincent's, which five years later was moved to a new location and renamed St. Mary's, the first private hospital in the Northwest Territory to care for the mentally ill. In 1860 they opened St. Joseph's Retreat in present-day Dearborn, the first hospital in Michigan, and the second in the nation, to care exclusively for the mentally ill. In 1845, at his parish in Monroe, Rev. Louis Gillet, CSSR, worked with Mother Teresa Maxis Duchemin, and founded the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, one of the few native sisterhoods in the United States. Lefevere introduced into the diocese two other communities, the Religious of the Sacred Heart in 1851 and the School Sisters of Notre Dame the following year. In the same year four Brothers of the Christian Schools arrived to teach at St. Mary's. By 1874 approximately 38 parochial schools were operating in the diocese. The first diocesan regulations were issued under Lefevere, who convened the first diocesan synod in 1859.
Progress was made in Catholic journalism with the appearance on July 23, 1842, of the first number of the Western Catholic Register, the first newspaper under Catholic auspices since Richard's short-lived Michigan Essay. It was succeeded in 1853 by the Detroit Catholic Vindicator, which survived approximately six years. On Sept. 12, 1868, the Western Catholic appeared, in turn succeeded by the Western Home Journal in 1872. Eleven years later the paper was acquired by the diocese and was renamed the Michigan Catholic.
The preparatory seminary which Richard and Dilhet had attempted to establish at St. Anne's in 1804 was destroyed by fire. From 1846 to 1854, Lefevere conducted St. Thomas Seminary, probably in his own home, apparently abandoning it in favor of the American College at Louvain which, together with Bishop Martin Spalding of Louisville, he launched in 1857. Until Sacred Heart Seminary opened in 1919, the only other diocesan seminary was St. Francis in Monroe that operated from 1886 to 1889. In 1885 the cornerstone was laid for SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, for training young men for the service of Polish Catholics throughout the country. A new cathedral, SS. Peter and Paul, had been built in 1848 by Lefevere; he was buried there following his death on March 4, 1869.
Borgess. Caspar Henry borgess, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, was installed as Detroit's third ordinary on May 8, 1870. The 18 years of his administration were marked primarily by a consolidation of diocesan gains. The great influx of German and Irish immigrants found national parishes already established. St. Wenceslaus was organized in 1871 for the Bohemians; in the same year St. Albertus became the first of many parishes to serve the great number of Polish immigrants who flocked to Detroit. St. Aloysius parish in downtown Detroit was established in 1873; it was made the procathedral in 1877, and SS. Peter and Paul was entrusted to the Jesuits, who also opened Detroit College (1877). It became the University of Detroit and in 1963 had the largest student enrollment of any Catholic college or university in the United States. Besides the Jesuits, four other religious communities of men entered the diocese: Franciscans, Capuchins, Holy Ghost Fathers, and Basilians; the Redemptorists returned after an absence of a few years. In 1874 the Little Sisters of the Poor arrived to take up their work among the aging. In 1879 the Sisters of St. Felix came from Warsaw, Poland, and three years later established provincial headquarters in Detroit; in 1936 they moved to nearby Livonia.
In the northwest sector of the lower peninsula, lumber and fertile land attracted so many people that between 1869 and 1883 the number of churches had increased from 13 to 32. In May 1882, the Holy See established the Diocese of Grand Rapids containing 39 counties, all but two north of a line from the southern extremity of Saginaw Bay to Lake Michigan. This reduced the Diocese of Detroit to 29 counties, an area of about 18,558 square miles, with 85 priests, 100,455 Catholics, and 42 parochial schools with 9,832 pupils. The Grand Rapids diocese contained about 50,000 Catholics served by about 40 priests. Ill health caused Borgess to resign in 1887; three years later he died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was buried in St. Augustine's parish cemetery.
The upper peninsula Diocese of Marquette, first headed by Bishop Baraga, saw two fellow Slovenians succeed him, Ignatius Mrak (1869–78) and John Vertin (1879–99), both of whom sought to impose order on a very disparate diocese. Frederick Eis, the fourth Bishop of Marquette (1899–1922), held the diocese's second synod (1905). Henry Joseph Richter was the first Bishop of Grand Rapids (1883–1916). He established the initial institutions of this new diocese, including the Seminary of St. Joseph (1909). His coadjutor, Michael Gallagher, ordained in 1915, succeeded him (1916) until being transferred to Detroit in 1918.
Foley. John Samuel Foley of Baltimore, Maryland, was installed as successor to Borgess on Nov. 25, 1888. During his 30-year episcopate, the Catholic population increased to 386,000, largely because of the great waves of immigrants who settled principally in Detroit to work in the newly established automobile industry. In 1899 San Francisco, the first parish for Italians, was founded, and soon there were churches for the Slovaks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, and Rumanians, among others. In 1900 St. Patrick's Church was named the cathedral and in 1918 retitled SS. Peter and Paul.
Significant developments took place among religious communities. In 1891 the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they opened (1901) Borgess Hospital. The Sisters of St. Dominic, in Michigan since 1877 when they staffed a parish school in Traverse City, chose Adrian, Michigan, as the location of their provincial house (1892) and their motherhouse (1923). In 1910 the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, founded St. Mary's College in Monroe; they renamed it Marygrove in 1925 and two years later transferred it to a new site in Detroit. In 1906 the Cloistered Dominican Nuns established a convent, and the Sisters of Bon Secours their hospital in Detroit. In 1911 the Sisters of Mercy opened St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. When Foley died on Jan. 5, 1918, the diocese had 318 priests serving 246 churches and missions.
Gallagher. Bishop Michael James Gallagher of Grand Rapids was installed as bishop of Detroit in 1918 and immediately addressed himself to the problems of an expanding, polyglot population. Among the 105 new parishes he began, 33 were for Catholics speaking foreign languages. Parish schools more than doubled in number and enrollment. In 1919 Siena Heights College was established by the Dominican Sisters in Adrian; and Nazareth College opened in 1924 under the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1919 Sacred Heart Seminary was founded, with high school and college departments training young men for the diocesan priesthood; the Gothic structure was ready for use in the fall of 1924. Retreat houses were built for laymen and women. The Diocesan Council of Catholic Men was started. A chancery office and a new St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit were erected. Hospitals multiplied: St. Francis, in Hamtramck; Mercywood Sanitarium, in Ann Arbor; St. Joseph's Mercy, in Pontiac; and Mercy, in Monroe. In the 1920s the Dominican Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Discalced Carmelite Nuns, and the Sylvestrine Benedictines established provincial headquarters in the diocese.
During the 1920s the Catholics of Michigan also struggled to protect their right to send their children to Catholic schools. In 1920 and 1924 they fought a state constitutional amendment that would oblige all children to attend public schools. When Gallagher died in 1937, more than 800 priests were ministering to 602,000 Catholics.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids experienced the same growth as Detroit. Edward Kelly, ordained as an auxiliary Bishop of Detroit in 1911, became the fourth bishop of Grand Rapids in 1919 and built many institutions. He was a leader, along with the Marquette and Detroit bishops in successfully defeating the 1920 and 1924 anti-Catholic school amendment campaigns. His successor, Joseph Pinten (1926–40), wisely paid off Kelly's bills, helping the diocese to survive the Depression better than most dioceses. Paul Nussbaum, the bishop of Marquette (1922–35), served while the upper peninsula experienced a serious post–World War I economic decline which has continued to this day. His successor, Joseph Plagens (1935–40), a Detroit auxiliary bishop, faced the added trial of a burned cathedral.
The state ecclesiastical scene changed on Aug. 3, 1937, when Detroit was made an archdiocese with Grand Rapids and Marquette as suffragan sees. The creation of Lansing the next day and of Saginaw on Feb. 26, 1938, raised the number of suffragans to four. Both new sees were industrial cities that experienced great growth, especially after the Second World War. Their bishops were primarily focused on establishing the institutions of a new diocese. Since the late 1960s they also experienced the same urban trials which beset Detroit. Marquette continued to struggle on, seeing under Bishop Thomas Noa (1947–68) a share in the state's postwar boom with the erection of many buildings and ecclesial institutions. After the dynamic leadership of Francis Haas, as the sixth bishop of Grand Rapids (1943–53), this diocese experienced the steady and competent leadership of several bishops up to the present.
The Archdiocese of Detroit, meanwhile, found itself not only a leader in the state hierarchy but a crucial diocese in the Church in the United States. This was more due to the archbishops who held this see than to the diocese itself: Edward Mooney (1937–58; cardinal in 1946), John Dearden (1958–80; cardinal in 1969), Edmund Szoka (1980–90; cardinal in 1988), and Adam Maida (1990–; cardinal in 1994).
Two more suffragan sees were created on Dec. 19, 1970—Kalamazoo and Gaylord. The former has a Catholic population which is a very small percentage of the total population. The latter is serving an increasing resort population.
Michigan's economy in the last quarter of the 20th century experienced many challenges. This meant that the state population, including that of Catholics, did not increase as greatly as the rest of the country. Michigan Catholics successfully defeated a measure which would have allowed physician-assisted suicide in 1998, but twice were defeated in efforts to gain some state financial assistance for their schools (Proposition "C" in 1970 and the Voucher Proposal in 2000). As the Catholic Church in the State of Michigan enters the 21st century, she finds herself an established part of the religious, social, intellectual, and political scene but without the spirit that affected many in the Church as the labor unions, containing many Catholics, developed and exercised their power from the 1930s through the 1950s. The Church in the State of Michigan has experienced many parish-diocesan disputes, especially those based on some ethnic disagreement, and these have continued right up to the end of the 20th century. These have happened despite the suburbanization of many Catholics. The decline in clergy and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council have also seen the tremendous growth of lay involvement, especially professional lay training in theology and pastoral ministry. In all, the Catholic Church in Michigan has seen growth and decay, struggles and cooperation, population shifts and theological disputes, financial crises and stability. The greatest current trial is the shortage of clergy and vocations as the Church confronts the new century.
Bibliography: g. f. ancona, Where the Star Came to Rest: Stories of the Catholic People in West Michigan (Strasbourg 2001). g. b. catlin, The Story of Detroit (Detroit 1926). j. mcgee, The Catholic Church in the Grand River Valley, 1833–1950 (Grand Rapids 1950). j. k. jamison, By Cross and Anchor: The Story of Frederic Baraga (Paterson 1946). p. l. johnson, Stuffed Saddlebags: The Life of Martin Kundig, Priest (Milwaukee 1942). g. michalek, Golden Jubilee: Diocese of Lansing Parish Historical Sketches (Lansing 1987). g. w. parÉ, The Catholic Church in Detroit, 1701–1888 (Detroit 1951). a. rezek, History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, 2 v. (Chicago 1906). l. tentler, Seasons of Grace: A History of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit (Detroit 1990). f. b. woodford and a. hyma, Gabriel Richard: Frontier Ambassador (Detroit 1958).
[m. r. kelly/
f. x. canfield/
"Michigan, Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/michigan-catholic-church
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