St. Andrew’s Cathedral

St. Andrew’s Cathedral, southwest corner of Sheldon and Maple Streets, Grand Rapids – A Roman Catholic mission was located by Rev. Frederic Baraga, in June, 1833, on the west bank of the river. Ere this the Rev. Gabriel Richards and other priests from Detroit had visited the Indian villages of this section, but Father Baraga, afterwards Bishop of Marquette from 1853 to 1868, was sent by Bishop Fenwick, of Cincinnati, to establish a permanent mission among the mixed population of that period. It then consisted of the Indian village of the Ottawa tribe, situated about where the L. S. & M. S. round-house now stands, a few trappers, and a score or two of early settlers. The missionary selected a tract of about sixty-five acres on the west bank of Grand river, opposite the head of Island No. 4 (in the later maps No. 3), and there erected a frame building for a chapel, and just north of it a small dwelling. Soon after, a building for church uses was secured on the east side. It stood a short distance above the present site of the Barnard house, near Waterloo street. It was a large frame building, with dormer windows, was originally painted with yellow ochre, and figured prominently in the initiatory efforts of religious bodies. This was begun on the west side, moved across on the ice, and transferred to Father Baraga, but remained his only a year, after which services were held in a rude structure which he, with the assistance of some Indians, built on the west side. In the fall of 1834 he was assisted as rector of St. Andrew’s parish, established in June, 1833, by Rev. Andreas Viszoczky, who succeeded him in 1835 – a Hungarian, whose eminently useful career was here ended by death, 2 January 1853, at the age of fifty-five.

In 1837 Louis Campau built a church for St. Andrew’s parish on the southwest corner of Monroe and Division streets, which was never deeded to the bishop; yet the congregation worshiped there for some time. Later the pastor and flock were sheltered by the chapel of the Indian village, or a small, red school-house on Division street, between Brownson and Bridge streets, or in private dwellings; but in 1847 the bishop sold for $4,000 the lands years before granted by the government for the benefit of the mission, and out of this fund Father Viszoczky bought the Richard Godfrey house and grounds on the southeast corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, now occupied by the Aldrich-Godfrey-White block. The price was $1,500. There a stone church was built in 1849 by Robert Hildon, C. B. White, William C. Davidson and Ebenezer Anderson, the corner-stone being laid June 10. The residence upon the lot became the priest’s residence, and was destroyed at 3 a.m. 14 January 1850, by a fire that proved most disastrous, for the records of the parish perished in the flames, the unfinished church building, which was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Peter Pau Lefevre, 11 August 1850, was somewhat damaged, and saddest of all, the aged mother and the sister of Father Kilroy, assistant priest, were consumed with the house, Father Viszoczky and a male servant having saved their lives only by jumping out of the second story. About 1,860 baptisms had been registered in the books thus lost. From that date for several months their worship was conducted in the largest room of Maxime Ringuette’s house, later known as the Grand River house, on Waterloo street, and this hospitality generously offered by the owner included a temporary shelter for the rector.

The succession of pastors from that time has been as follows: The Revs. Edward VanPammel, rector, April, 1853 to June, 1857; F. J. VanErp, rector, September, 1857 to August, 1859 and associated with him, Rev. H. Rievers, November, 1857 to February, 1858, and H. Quigley, D. D.January, 1858 to February, 1859; F. X. Pourrot, rector, February, 1859 to July, 1860; Thomas Brady, rector, July, 1860 to January, 1862; Joseph Kindikens, rector, January 17, 1862 to December, 1865; B. J. Wermers, rector, December 27, 1865 to October, 1868; James C. Pulcher, rector, October 6, 1868 to spring, 1872, when he built and became pastor of St. James’ church on the Westside; P. J. McManus, rector, June, 1872 until April 22, 1883, when St. Andrew’s became the catherdral of the then consecrated bishop of the diocese of Grand Rapids. It appears that the following have also been assistants: Fathers Pierce, in 1837; Mills, 1837-1838; Boehm, 1838-1839; Lang, 1839; _______, 18__; Kilroy, 1847-1850; DeKuninck, 1850-1853; Montard, 1857-1858.

The present diocese was created 20 May 1882, by brief of Pope Leo XIII, and embraces that part of the southern peninsula of Michigan lying north of the south boundaries of Ottawa, Kent, Montcalm, Gratiot and Saginaw counties, and west of the east boundaries of Saginaw and Bay counties.

The first bishop of the diocese is the Rt. Rev. Henry Joseph Richter, who was promoted to his present office by papal brief dated 30 January, 1883, and consecrated 22 April of that year. Father McManus remained at the cathedral until his death from an accident, 29 December 1885. Other assistants of St. Andrew’s were the Rev. J. F. Lovett, from the fall of 1883 to that of 1884; the Very Rev. C. J. Roche, October, 1884 to September, 1887; the Rev. John Sanson, March 17, 1886 to February, 1888; the Rev. H. Frencken, appointed September, 1887, who now has charge of St. Joseph’s (Holland) church; the Rev. Joseph Benning, appointed in February, 1888; the Rev. Thomas L. Whalen, appointed 24 June 1884; and the Rev. John A. Schmitt, appointed in August, 1889. In 1890, Rev. James Byrne, and the same year Rev. Napolean Poulin; in 1892, Rev. Byrne was transferred to Cascade, Kent county; in 1891, Rev. John E. Troy; in 1896, was transferred to Hemlock, Saginaw county; in the fall of 1893, Rev. Benning was transferred to St. Mary’s, Grand Rapids; in 1894, Rev. Timothy O’Connor; in 1896, Rev. Michael J. Gallagher; in 1898, Rev.O’Connor was transferred to St. James, Bay City, and Rev. Edward Racette took his place and remained until December, 1898, when he was transferred to the Holy Family church at Saginaw. At present, 1899, Revs. Schmitt and Gallagher are at the cathedral; also Revs. Thomas Reid and John Baptiste Abel.

The fine church bell was purchased during Father Wermer’s incumbency. In the winter of 1872-73 the grounds on Monroe street were sold to the late Moses V. Aldrich for $56,000, and the stone of the old church was used for the foundation of the present edifice. Before this, Father McManus had begun the erection of the $15,00 school-house opposite the cathedral, whose chapel on the second floor was blessed by Bishop Borgess 27 March 1874, when the old house was vacated, and here the services were held until the dedication of the new church by the same bishop, 19 December 1876. This fine house of worship and its furniture cost $50,000. It has a seating capacity of 945 in the body of the church and 200 in the gallery. A few years since the residence was bought just south of the parochial school for the teachers – Sister of Charity – who instruct the pupils. More recently two lots were secured just south of the church, upon which the Episcopal residence, costing $15,00, is built. The aggregated value of this church property is about $110,000. From time to time large numbers of its parishioners have been dismissed to organize other congregations, leaving St. Andrew’s present parish bounds as follows: All of this city east of Grand river and south of the Fifth ward, or Fairbanks Street, the north end of the city having been set off in August, 1888, to constitute St. Alphonsus parish.




Bishop 1
Secular priest 78
Priests of Religious orders 12
Total 90
Churches with resident priest 66
Missions with churches 70
Stations 40
Chapels 9
Ecclesiastical students for diocese 45
Academies for young ladies 2
Parishes with parochial schools 45
Pupils 10,383
Orphan asylums 2
Orphans 220
Industrial school 1
Inmates 100
Total of young people under Catholic care 10,600
Hospitals 4
Homes for aged poor 1
Inmates during the year 110
Baptisms 4,074
Marriages 645
Burials 1,220
Catholic Families 17,836

Transcriber: ES
Created: 28 April 2006