The Story of Us
On June 15, 1922 the Most Reverend Michael James Ghallagher, Bishop of Detroit, sent Father John A. Gabriels to Lansing to establish a new Catholic parish. Fr. Gabriels was a native of Detroit and had served as priest at the cathedral for twelve years before being named prison chaplain at Ionia. The boundaries of the new parish would begin at the Michigan Central and Pere Marquette railroad tracks and include all the territory east, including East Lansing, Okemos, Haslett and Bath. A census revealed that 170 Catholic families resided in these areas. Of these, 120 families formed the nucleus of the new parish. Fr. Gabriels requested that the church be named "The Church of the Resurrection" since the Resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of all Christianity. He quoted St. Paul: "If Christ not be risen again, our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain."
A committee of parishioners was formed to assist Fr. Gabriels in selecting a site for the church and school. On July 7, the Haynes property at the corner of Michigan and Rumsey Avenues was purchased for $25,000. This parcel had 162 feet of frontage on Michigan Avenue and a depth of 150 feet. By October, it had already become apparent that additional land would be needed. The parish purchased the adjoining property, fronting 262 feet on Michigan Avenue, from the Thomas estate for $35,000. This property included a stucco house and a four family flat on Custer Street. Over the next few years, six additional pieces of adjacent property were purchased for $38,950. This land would provide ample room for future development.
Soon after the initial purchase, the home on the corner of Rumsey and Michigan was converted into a rectory.
On September 15, ground was broken for a twelve room school which would be used temporarily as a church. Until this building could be completed, the growing parish community gathered together to celebrate Sunday Mass in the parish hall of St. Mary Church, one mile to the west and across the street from the Capitol building.
Three months after the ground breaking ceremony construction was completed, and on Christmas Day, 1922, the people of the Church of the Resurrection celebrated their first solemn Mass together in their new $35,000 church which could accommodate over 700 people. By the end of the year, the following organizations had formed within the parish: the East Side Ladies Club, the Holy Name Society, the Haslett Club, the Bridge Club, Chi Rho Iota, Little Flower Circle, St. Ann's Circle, and the Usher Chiefs. Saturday catechism classes had also begun for parish children.
The need for a school was apparent to all in 1924. The church committee urged the building of a school, but the financial conditions of the parish did not permit such a move. At the beginning of 1926, however, agitation for a school began again. After plans for remodeling homes were abandoned, novenas to the Little Flower were established and were well attended. A drive to raise $50,000 was begun. Within a short period of the time the money had been raised, ten-thousand dollars had come from people outside the parish. The Sisters of St. Dominic of Adrian, Michigan consented to staff Resurrection school. The four family flat on Custer Avenue was converted into an ideal convent, complete with chapel, music room, dining room and several bedrooms.
Church membership had increased to 300 families by 1926. Six classrooms of the school on the first floor and an auditorium on the second floor were completed as the school opened its doors to 350 students in the fall of 1926. Although the highest priority in the school was achieving academic excellence, the cultivation of fine arts was also seen as important. In 1928 the first orchestra was organized. Throughout the parish's history, Catholic education has continued to play an important role. As the parish grew, so did the school. In 1931 Resurrection graduated her first 9th grade class. By 1936, two stores across the street had to be rented so that the high school students would have room for their classes. By September 1938 the school had grown to an enrollment of 552 grade school students and 200 high school students. Seventeen Dominican nuns were teaching at both levels.
The people of Resurrection took time out from their burst of activity to honor their pastor on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest in 1931. A weekly tabloid of Catholic activities and civic events recounted the following: When a certain parishioner was asked why they gave a dollar every Sunday at Resurrection when in the city they had come from was not near as much, they replied, "Well, it is worth a dollar to hear Fr. Gabriels as for it." Fr. Gabriels' theory was that many brillian sermons were too deep for the average individual. Following the example of Jesus, the great parable teller, Fr. Gabriels' sermons were filled with stories and liberally garnished with humor.
In 1934, Resurrection began to reach out beyond the parish. On September 16, at the invitation of WJIM radio, a broadcast of the 11:00 Mass was to be followed by radio Masses on the fourth Sunday of every month. By 1937 they became a weekly event.
The Diocese of Lansing was established in 1937 and Resurrection, formerly in the Diocese of Detroit, became part of the new Diocese. Bishop Joseph H. Albers, former Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati, was the first bishop. This establishment set the area on its own course apart from the life of the new Archdiocese of Detroit.
When school opened on September 10, 1938, it embraced a total enrollment of 750 students in 12 grades. In order to handle the increased enrollment, a portable building was installed on the school grounds with room for two grades. June of 1939 saw the first senior class graduate from Resurrection High School. Ground was then broken for a new high school building consisting a an auditorium and ten classrooms. The new $70,000 high school was dedicated by Bishop Albers in May 1940.
It was also in 1940 that Resurrection's close association with Michigan State University drew to a close. While Reverend Cecil Winters was the assistant at Resurrection from 1929 - 1939, he organized a Newman Club at the university. In 1940, Fr. Winters founded St. Thomas Aquinas as the new parish for East Lansing and the university.
School enrollment in 1944 increased to 875 students in grades K-12. Twenty-three Dominican sisters and five lay staff taught the growing numbers of youth. In the fall of 1948, the first home-school council (PTA) was organized. They responded to the need for a larger convent for the sisters by starting a $200,000 fund-raising campaign. The thirty-room facility was ready for occupancy in 1949. The old convent was then converted for more classrooms.
Resurrection celebrated its silver jubilee in 1947. The twenty-five years since foundation had seen much growth and Monsignor Gabriels was justifiably proud. However, a large part of the Monsignor's dream was yet to be accomplished.
By 1951, 4500 people were worshipping in the basement church at the Sunday Masses. As a result of these crowded conditions, a campaign to raise $200,000 for a new $500,000 church commenced on December 1, 1951. The capital campaign was a success. On October 3, 1952, the new church was dedicated by Bishop Albers. Stained glass windows and an organ were installed later.
May 16, 1956 marked the golden jubilee of priesthood for Monsignor Gabriels. This was a special day of recognition for Resurrection's beloved pastor. He celebrated by planning and carrying out the construction of a new power plant building which also included a meetingroom, a science laboratory and a carpentry shop.
On New Year's Day 1960, parishioners waiting at Mass received devastating news: their Monsignor had died in his sleep. The Bishop's funeral eulogy related: He grew and dedicated himself entirely to his work of laying the foundation of Catholic faith in the parish. He leaves his devoted people a legacy of such faith.
Formal installation of Father Francis Martin as the second pastor of Resurrection was conducted on March 15, 1960. Fr. Martin had been an assistant at the parish and was well known to the parishioners. He began his tenure realizing something had to be done about the crowded conditions not only at Resurrection school, but also at St. Mary Cathedral school. By 1963, two new high schools were being completed. The one closest to Resurrection was to be named after Monsignor Gabriels. After thirty-two years of educational service, final graduation exercises for Resurrection High School were held on June 9, 1963; 102 seniors received diplomas.
Father Martin celebrated his 25th anniversary of prieshood in 1968. In the fall of that year he nurtured the establishment of the first parish council. It was his desire, following the spirit of Vatican II, that the council be the vehicle for achieving full participation of the whole parish in extending Christ's mission. Fr. Martin worked with the various commissions throughout his remaining years of service until his retirement in 1986.
Kenneth Povish, the third Bishop of Lansing, appointed Fr. William Koenigsknecht as the third pastor of Resurrection in the summer of 1986. Under his leadership in 1990, and according to the new code of canon law, the parish council became the parish pastoral council and removed from its agenda the financial concerns which were to be given to a newly-formed finance council. The parish pastoral council could now be more of a visioning body representative of the various groups and ministries.
Fr. K retired in 2011, and was succeeded by Fr. John Fain, who was named the parish's fourth pastor by Bishop Earl Boyea. He served at the parish for one year. Fr. Steve Mattson was named the fifth pastor of the Church of the Resurrection by Bishop Boyea in 2012. Fr. Steve also serves as Superintendent of Schools and Chair of the Department of Education and Catechesis for the Diocese of Lansing. Bishop Boyea assigned Fr. Mark Rutherford as Parochial Vicar in 2012, and, because of Fr. Steve's diocesan responsibilities has significant day-to-day pastoral responsibilities in the parish.
Resurrection Church has been recognized by the State of Michigan as an historical site. A marker was erected in 1991 which highlights the role that Resurrection has played in this community and pays tribute to Monsignor John A. Gabriels.
Today, the people who are the Church of the Resurrection continue to be involved in spiritual growth and ministry in our community and are seeking to fulfill the Mission of Christ in the heart of the City of Lansing. In 2012-2013, along with the entire Diocese of Lansing, the parish prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to "Come!" The preparatory prayer to our diocesan "Come, Holy Spirit" prayer conveyed well the mission and vision that will guide the ministry of the Church of the Resurrection in the 21st Century:
Let us pray that every person within the Catholic Diocese of Lansing will come to know and love our Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way, grow in maturity as a disciple of Christ, become actively engaged in the full life of the Church, and joyfully utilize his or her gifts for the building up of the Kingdom of God and the salvation of souls. Amen.