A solitary worshiper attends perpetual adoration chapel at St. Joseph Church
Dolores Maillette Recalls Colorful History of Bay City St. Joseph Church
Stained Glass, Perpetual Adoration Chapel, Mary's Rose Garden Highlights
February 14, 2012
By: Dave Rogers
Catholics can attend the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Joseph Church, 1005 Third Street, Bay City, Michigan, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The chapel, to the left of the main altar, was established in August 1987 by Father John McAndrew. The chapel is attended around the clock by devout Catholics from all over the Saginaw Valley. The 25th anniversary of the chapel will be celebrated in August, according to Bonnie Harmon, one of the many volunteers who staff the Eucharistic Chapel.
That's just one of the aspects of the oldest Catholic church in the Saginaw Valley that was the subject of a historical review Saturday at the Bay County Historical Museum.
Despite bad weather, about 10,000 Catholics celebrated when ground was broken June 10, 1906, for the church that is modeled after the famous shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec City, Canada.
The French Canadian connection is appropriate since most early parishioners were of that ethnic group, drawn to Bay City mainly by the jobs available in lumbering.
The parish dates to 1850 when the first church was erected on Washington Avenue on a site now occupied by the Bay Metro Transit Authority's bus station. It is called "the mother parish of the Saginaw Valley."
The present church was completed at a cost of $65,000 and consecrated on March 19, 1911, the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers.
The church was designed by Bay City architects Leverett A. Pratt and Walter Koeppe, who also designed many local buildings including City Hall, St. Stanislaus Church, the Bay City Masonic Temple and the First Presbyterian Church.
Forty four stained glass windows adorn the church, most signed by the donors. Behind the altar are small windows hidden from view that were donated by one benefactor signing them anonymously as "Ami" (friend in French). The windows were restored in 1995 at a cost of $125,000 by Cathedral Crafts, Inc., of Winona, Minnesota.
In 1940, 2,500 men of the Holy Name Society of Bay City met at the Bay County Market for breakfast, following Mass at St. Joseph Church. The formed a 10-block long parade from the church to the market called by The Bay City Times "the largest gathering of men for a religious event in the city's history."
The 151 foot high spire of the church was destroyed by fire caused by lightning March 25, 1987. Fire Marshal Gary McPhee said firefighters had trouble getting water on the blaze because of small openings in the tower.
Judy Jeffers, left, president
of the museum board, introduces
Dolores Maillette at the
Bay County Historical Museum.
Retired public school secretary Dolores Maillette, a U.S. Navy veteran from World War II, presented the history of the church and was joined in recollections by dozens of members of the parish and one former pastor, Sister Maria Goretti Beckman, a member of the Dominican order.
The unusual circumstance of a nun serving as pastor was explained by Sr. Beckman: "When Father (Raymond S.) Fron became sick Bishop Ken Untener asked me to serve as pastor and I was supported by the people of the parish."
Sr. Beckman, 78, is a native of Chesaning who joined the order after becoming a volunteer at the convent at Maple Grove St. Michaels while in high school.
She was presented the Pax Christi Michigan's 2010 Purple Ribbon for Peace award and is a board member of the Bay County Women's Center and the Francis F. Reh Charter School in Saginaw.
The Holy Ghost Fathers served the parish for 107 years, from 1888 to 1995, but departed because of a personnel shortage. "Over the years they supplied 15 pastors and some 60 assistants, and turned the original tottering church, surrounded by a sea of mud and riven by factions, into a beautiful inner-city church serving a vigorous congregation of people united in the faith," according to the Rev. Henry J. Koren, historian of the Spiritan order.
Sister Maria Goretti Beckman,
former pastor of St. Joseph Church,
recently celebrated 60 years
as a Dominican nun.
Notable among the Spiritans was Fr. Francis H. Gres (pronounced Grey), 1900-1932, who was instrumental in paying off church debt, Fr. George Vincent (Vincent G. Kmiecinski), 1928-1959, and assistant pastor Fr. Leonard Tuozollo, who served in the 1960s and was assigned to Harlem, New York, in 1971. Since the departure of the Spiritans, diocesan priests have served St. Joseph, beginning with Fr. Fron.
Sister Gail Addis is pastoral administrator and sacramental ministers are fathers Dale Orlik and Ricky Varner.
Fr. Stanley Trahan, a son of the parish, arrived in 1975 and established Mary's Garden, a picturesque garden with 160 bushes and 60 varieties of roses. Fr. Trahan spent Dec. 10, 1977 in Mercy Hospital anointing the injured from the tragic fire in the Wenonah Hotel that caused 11 deaths, including 63-year-old Anthony Bosco of the parish.
Marthe St. Laurent translated journals in French written by the Holy Ghost Fathers 1905-1915, and historian Dale Wolicki furnished Mrs. Maillette with architectural descriptions and information for the application for listing of the church on the Michigan State Register of Historic Places.###
Community Article 6736
- Feedback From Readers!
On February 13, 2012
at 11:23 AM
thank you for sharing our history
On February 19, 2012
at 09:43 PM
Great story, Dolores. You make Bay City proud, with your writing.
(Editor's Note: Bettie . . . Article was actually written by Dave Rogers . . . Glad you enjoyed it . . .)
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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