By Pat Maurer
Just a little over a year ago, the Review announced big changes coming for the area Catholic ministries. Those changes are here.
A recent letter from Parrish Priest Rev. Prentice A. Tipton, Jr., announced that on July 1, “St. Cecilia Catholic Church will merge with another parish to form the new, ‘Our Lady of Hope Parish’.”
The new parish will include St. Henry Parish in Rosebush and also incorporate St. Charles Mission in Leaton, according to the formal decree from Bishop Cistone, of the Diocese of Saginaw, in December.
Core teams, each consisting of four members from each Parish, have been working and planning for the changes, which will be done throughout the entire Diocese, since November of 2011. Their evaluation was reviewed by Bishop Cistone, who made the final decision.
Because a low number of vocations to the priesthood in the Saginaw Diocese made it impossible to have priests to minister to 105 parishes, the existing parishes were consolidated into 53 new parishes including Our Lady of Hope.
Since last June, Father Prentice has been minister of the “linked Parishes of St. Cecilia, St. Henry and St. Charles. Father Prentice came to the area from St. Elizabeth’s Church in Reese and St. Norbert Church in Munger near Bay City.
He said, “The path to merger has been a difficult one for our parish communities. The cessation of the regular worship services at our Rosebush and Leaton sites, which have hosted weekly Masses for over one hundred years is regrettably, very painful for our members.”
He replaced Father William James Rutkowski, who had been pastor of St. Cecilia’s for three years and of St. Henry’s and St. Charles’s Parishes for two years. Father Rutkowski is now Vicar General at the Diocese.
“Father Bill” said in April, 2013 that only the Parish name will change. The Church and School in Clare will continue to be St. Cecilia’s and the Rosebush Church will continue to be St. Henry’s and the Leaton Church will stay named St. Charles. Rosebush and Leaton will called “Churches of Occasional Use,” and be used for special events like weddings and funerals and other activities, he said.
As part of the December decree, Bishop Cistone said, “The parish church of Our Lady of Hope Parish is to be St. Cecilia Church in Clare.”
“The next steps,” said Father Bill, “will be the formation of the leadership people of our parishes: clergy and lay people. This is taking place by offering workshops and ‘one-on-one’ assistance by Diocesan Offices to parishes. We have already offered workshops on forming Pastoral and Finance Councils. To further assist in this task, information and training sessions on Evangelization are being offered regionally too.”
“It is just the beginning of a very long journey for us all,” he added, “But it is a journey of what our Christian life is all about.”
St Cecilia Mission Church celebrated its first mass in 1886 and was a part of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Two years later it was moved to the Diocese of Detroit. In 1900 the cornerstone was laid for the very first St. Cecilia Church. The parish cemetery was dedicated ten years later.
After a 1924 fire that completely destroyed the church, in 1925 construction began on a new St. Cecilia Church and by 1929 Father Stanley Morrison became the first resident pastor in 1929.
In 1950 a parish school and convent for the Felician Sisters was constructed. The school eventually grew enough that the Sisters moved across the street. Today the school continues to enroll students in grades preschool to fourth.
St. Cecilia Church became a part of the Diocese of Saginaw in 1971 and in 1988 construction began on a larger church, while the church built in 1925 was renovated as a parish hall. The hall is still adorned with the original stained glass windows. The new church was dedicated in 1989.
St. Henry‘s Parish of Rosebush began in October, 1874 as the Catholic Mission of Vernon. Masses were said originally in Vernon in the homes of Catholic and later were held on a centrally located farm east of the present church.
Construction of St. Henry Church began in 1886 and the dedication and first Mass were held in the new church in December 1887. St Henry’s became an independent parish in 1905. St. Henry’s school building was built by 1915 and opened that fall.
The church burned in 1922 and a new church was built in stages and completed in 1941.
St. Charles in Leaton was organized in 1906 and the little church – 30 feet by 48 feet – was built. By 1919, the building had stained glass windows, a small vestibule and a church bell.
St. Charles was linked to St. Henry’s Church in 1929. New sacristies and a sanctuary were added in 1942.
Father Prentice said, “As we look back on the history of the three parish communities, we realize we have much for which to be thankful. Some remarkable men and women have led us, worshipped with us, sacrificed for Christ and the Gospel, and left us a very rich legacy that we can continue to draw upon in the future.”