165 Years in Grand Haven
As early as 1741, Grand Haven records the names of French missionaries ministering to the area with baptisms being performed at Gabagouache, “Big Mouth of the River,” which we know as the Grand River. Initially, the region’s Catholics were attended to on occasion by priests form Grand Rapids and embraced by St. Andrew’s parish. There is conflicting information as to whether the first church built in 1857 was actually located in Ferrysburg. A mission at Mill Point (as Spring Lake was then known) is also mentioned. Both were served by priests from Muskegon’s St. Mary’s Parish. St. Patrick’s first resident priest was Rev. William Takken who was assigned in 1859. Since there was no bridge across the Grand River, parishioners had to cross by rowboat or use a ferry to attend Mass at Ferrysburg or Spring Lake!
In 1872, the first Catholic Church building in the city of Grand Haven was erected on the site of the church building that was torn down to make way for US 31. Rev. Timothy J. Murphy became resident pastor and was likely the one to name the parish. This church was believed to have been rebuilt from around 1882-1888. The massive old bell was removed from this church and dates back to 1887. It still tolls today, joined by two other bells in the current tower. The building of St. Patrick’s School started in 1916 under Father Daniel J. Hyland’s leadership. Always progressive and forward-looking, he was one of Grand Haven’s first citizens to own an automobile! The school opened in September 1919, when the Sisters of Mercy came to the parish. For several years it accommodated kindergarten through 9th grade. The school was closed in 1969.
While the need for a larger church had been evident for a number of years, the issue was brought to a head when in 1953 the State Highway Department announced its intention to re-route US 31 through the city, and the old church stood directly in its path. Under the leadership of Father Edward O’Hara and supported by parishioners, cash and pledges were raised for $215,445. Temporary quarters were set up in a former commercial garage and Sunday Masses were held in the public high school auditorium (now Lakeshore Middle School). Sadly, Father O’Hara did not live to see the new church completed. On June 30, 1957, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church with Rev. Francis H. Branigan as the pastor. The Family Center was added in 1973, and it, along with the church, was renovated in 1990. In 1975 the food pantry was begun by the Altar Society. In 2012, the Former Eastern Floral shop was purchased and transformed into the Parish Youth Center.
In 1911, St. Anthony’s Church was formed in Robinson Township and became a mission parish of St. Patrick’s. It financially supported the building of the new church in 1955, as well as the parish rectory complex in 1959. In 2012, both parishes merged into the St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish.
Today St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish continues to have an energy which is derived from the parishioners who live their faith through service to others. The parish mission is “Alive in Christ;” the parish vision intro in 2020 is “To inspire every heart to Know, Love, & Serve Jesus Christ.” The parish partners with St. Mary’s School in Spring Lake for preschool through 8th grade education. Since 1995, through the Haiti Parish Twinning Program, it has supported Saints Simon and Jude’s parish, school and medical clinic. Additionally, St. Patrick-St. Anthony operates a community-wide food pantry and job seekers program as well as English as a second language (ESL) classes. It hosts numerous community events and support groups. It provides faith formation opportunities for more than 1,350 people of all ages, as well as pastoral care for those in need.
St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish is grateful for those who have gone before us. Their sacrifices, faith, and service have made the parish what it is today.
Christian Symbols: The use of symbols in Christian art and architecture goes back to the infancy of the church. As the teacher in school employs a blackboard to impress her lessons on the mind of the child, so the church has always employed pictures and symbols to impress the spiritual truths on her children. One example among many is the symbol IHS, which in Latin means Jesus the Savior of Men. St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish has in the band of leaded glass windows high up in the circular sanctuary wall the symbols of the Twelve Apostles.
Our windows in the nave were preserved from the original church. They portray the Joyful & Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.