CONKLIN — Take three country parishes that are within a 15-mile radius with approximately 500 families. Add two grade schools with approximately 90 students, two youth ministry programs that cover five different school districts, three parish councils and two school boards. Try to run that with five Masses being said between the three parishes on the weekends as well as weekday Masses and working some time at the diocesan chancery office.
Two of the parishes had shared one priest and the other had one of its own. Due to the untimely death of one and the retirement of another it left the three parishes with temporary pastors and substitutes to fill in the for the weekend Masses and other sacramental needs
This was the challenge given to Fr. Fred Brucker when he accepted the first parish cluster in the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
The three parishes are St Francis Xavier in Conklin, St Catherine in Ravenna and St Joseph in Wright. It is forming one of the first parish clusters since the start of the diocesan program “Our Faith, Our Future.”
As Fr. Brucker once said, “Since we are the first to try this, there are no wrong ways of doing it. If something doesn’t work we can change it.”
This is the open spirit this priest brings to the cluster of parishes as their pastor. While each parish still holds its own facilities and identity, we are learning to share now more than ever with a reduced number of Masses on weekends. (four instead of five) and the help of another substitute priest for one Mass occasionally on weekends.
Fr. Brucker has the warmth to make all feel welcome and that we are on this journey together. He has brought together three parishes to fill the needs of the worshiping community.
You could ask him if he enjoys his new assignment and we are sure he will tell you the joys he has experienced in being pastor of three unique parishes in the short time he has been their pastor.
For the three country parishes he serves, he is our hero.
Signed “The Cluster”†
MANISTEE — Bishop Bernard A. Hebda blessed Manistee Catholic Central’s new school chapel at a Mass on Thursday, Sept. 29. Concelebrating the Mass was the Catholic Community of Manistee pastor, Fr. John McCracken, and parochial vicar, Fr. Sylvestre Obwaka, with help from Deacon Joe Ortega.
The chapel was blessed in memory of 1974 alumnus and pastor, Fr. William (Bill) Zwiefka. Contributions came from Fr. Zwiefka, Pat Zwiefka, Mark Zwiefka, family and friends.
The chapel will serve as a designated “sacred space” at the heart of the school.
“The chapel,” said Principal Jan Bigalke, “is a place where students, staff and the community can gather to worship and share — a place where we can spend time in prayer and reflection.”
A special addition to the chapel, following all renovations, was the Tree of Faith that adorns the wall at the top of the chapel stairs. This tree recognizes all of the priests, sisters, principals and administrators of MCC, St. Joseph and Guardian Angels schools. Each of their names is engraved on a leaf. This tree was donated by Ann Albright, in memory of her husband, Norbert, who died five years ago.
Following the Mass, Bigalke, and Mary Krusniak, director of development, acknowledged the generosity of the Zwiefka and Albright families as they reminisced about Fr. Zwiefka’s involvement in the capital campaign and chapel renovation plans.
“We are all very blessed by Fr. Bill’s generosity and support of the chapel renovations and campaign. He loved being part of it all of the months of planning, the focus groups, meeting with the pastors and advisory committee,” said Krusniak.
The priest also was remembered for his loving words, in regard to Manistee Catholic Central School: “When you love something and it’s very, very important to you, you do all that you can to help it, nurture it, to support it. When something is very precious and you love it very much, that is something you want to share.”
Also recognized were Sara Linke, Chuck Owens and Barb Kowalkowski for sharing their time and talents during the renovation of the chapel and many other areas of school enhancements.
The presentation concluded with recitation of the “We Believe Prayer,” written by Fr. Zwiefka:
We believe bringing Christ to our children is what we are called to do.
We believe bringing Christ to our children is the most important duty of our Catholic family.
We believe bringing Christ to our children is the central mission of Manistee Catholic Central Schools.
We believe God always blesses the sacrifices we make for our children and our young people.
We believe we are called by Christ to do this work.
GAYLORD — A conference to examine how best to reach out to Native American Catholics within the Diocese of Gaylord was held at the diocesan pastoral center earlier this month. Funded by a grant from the Black and Indian Missions Office along with gifts to the annual Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), the conference spanned two days. The first day was specifically geared for tribal and church leadership in an effort to reflect on the past and look toward the future. The second day was open to anyone interested in learning more about Native American inculturation and evangelization.
After the smudging of the conference facilities in accordance with the local Native American tradition, the men’s drum group from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians called the 60 attendees together for the first day of the Conference. Highlights of the day included:an inspiring prayer offered by Ray Kiogima of Holy Childhood Parish in Harbor Springs, recognized as one of the most fluent speakers of the Odawa language; a performance by the Woodland Singers, the women’s drum and song group from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians; and a series of information talks. The first was offered by J.D. Gibson, a resident of Petoskey who addressed the topic of “Waking Up the Soul.,” He spoke to the need for putting past hurts behind us and, like Jesus, working harder at forgiveness.
The second presentation was by Simon Otto, a local historian, storyteller, published author and former executive director of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. His presentation focused on the Three Tribes of Michigan: Ottawa (Odawa); Chippewa (Ojibwa); and Potawatomi. He also shared about being raised in the ways of his elders and the struggles and opportunities that entailed.
The third speaker of the day was Fr. James Gardiner, Pastor of St. Luke in Bellaire and St. Joseph in East Jordan. In his early years, Fr. Gardiner was assigned to the Mission Church (now known as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha) in Peshawbestown for five years. He said he learned during that time that in order to evangelize effectively, it was necessary to go to the people, invite them in and incorporate their spirituality into the Mass. His talk was filled with wonderfully touching remembrances of that special time in his ministry.
Rounding out the first afternoon was the keynote speaker for the event, Fr. John Hatcher, SJ. Fr. Hatcher is the director of the inculturation office for the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota after having led the lay ministry and permanent diaconate programs for the diocese. Fr. Hatcher began with a lesson he had learned from the Lakota with whom he has worked for so many years. “I was told that you should never speak until you are invited to… and to smile a lot,” he said.
Fr. Hatcher’s topic for the afternoon centered on the importance of spiritual strength and the realization that Native American people are already very spiritual. The mission of the Church is to bring the spirituality of both Church and tribe together so we can worship Jesus Christ as one. Fr. Hatcher counseled that the only way to improve is to pray harder. Any success belongs to Jesus Christ, not us. He noted alcoholism is counterproductive to spirituality and that the issue must be addressed in order to avoid becoming a “burial society.” (more…)
One of diocese’s newest priests aims to defend the Church in all arenas
By Debbie Oglenski
The Catholic Weekly
BANNISTER — Fr. J. Marcel Portelli, parochial vicar at St. Cyril Parish in Bannister, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Chesaning and St. Michael Parish in Oakley, once defended his faith across the lunch table with co-workers when he worked as a robotics engineer. Now his full-time job is the salvation of souls.
“Serving God and His people are what (priesthood) is all about. Although there are many demands made on priests these days, not all of the demands are of equal importance,” Fr. Portelli said. “Offering Mass, hearing confessions, visiting the sick and bringing others to Christ are at the heart of priesthood. The most important thing I must keep in mind, despite all of the demands made on me, is that the salvation of souls is the highest purpose of the Church.” (more…)
By Lisa Briggs
The Catholic Times
LANSING — More than 100 people filed into St. Mary Cathedral at noon on Saturday, Oct. 22, to celebrate Mass in honor of Blessed John Paul II.
A framed, painted portrait of the pope sat on an easel in the sanctuary.
Bishop Earl Boyea was the celebrant. Deacon Tom Fogle was master of ceremonies at the memorial Mass. (more…)
Project 2o3 annual concert draws bands, teens from around Genesee County
By Lisa Briggs
The Catholic Times
BURTON — A crowd of about 80 Genesee County Catholic teens rushed the stage when members of the band Something Like Forever tossed out glow sticks during the “Instruments of War” concert on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Holy Redeemer Parish, 1227 E. Bristol Road.
The glowing sticks melted into the crowd and the darkness leaving only small parts tucked behind ears or peeking out of pockets. Concert keepsakes, for sure, but more importantly, memories from times spent praising God. (more…)
By Sandra Burch
The Catholic Weekly
BAY CITY — Keynote speaker Mike Wicksall targeted how Catholics respond to others and to God on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Diocese of Saginaw Charismatic Conference at Our Lady of Visitation Church.
Speaking to a gathering of about 40 people, Wicksall, from The Barnabas Message based in East Lansing, spoke in the morning about Catholics going out to evangelize. (more…)
Hemlock parish offers unique way for parishioners to get to know each other
By Mark Haney
The Catholic Weekly
HEMLOCK — Would you be willing to fix dinner for four to seven people, not knowing who those guests would be? Would you be willing to be one of those four to seven guests, not knowing at whose home you will eat dinner?
That people have and continue to answer “yes” to both questions is a testament to the success of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” an annual event put on by St. Mary Parish. This year’s starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the parish center
Thirty-nine join bishop on visits to Europe’s big Marian shrines
By Annette O’Brien
Special to The Catholic Weekly
SAGINAW — Thirty-nine people joined Bishop Joseph R. Cistone and Frs. Richard Jozwiak and Don Eppenbrock Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 9, on a pilgrimage to Marian Shrines in France, Spain and Portugal.
While the 10-day trip included a number of stops and several events, the visits to Lourdes in France, Avila in Spain and Fatima in Portugal were the most significant. (more…)
By Joseph Yekulis
Special to The Catholic Times
C H E L S E A — Launching a new fund-raiser can be a huge undertaking for those involved, but when the event is for the right cause and everyone in town gets behind it, the challenge becomes much less daunting.
Such was the case with the first “Taste of Chelsea,” held on Saturday. Oct. 1, at St. Mary Parish in Chelsea to benefit St. Louis Center; a residential community for persons with developmental disabilities. (more…)