HOLY NAME OF MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH
320 EAST PORTAGE AVE., SAULT STE MARIE, MI 49783
Holy Name of Mary Church, or St. Mary’s, in Sault Ste. Marie was the first cathedral of the Diocese of Marquette, originally named the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette. Today the people of the parish take great pride in furthering the faith traditions begun by Jesuit missionaries there more than 350 years ago.
Founding: St. Mary’s is the oldest Catholic Church in Michigan. Only two churches in the country are older, in St. Augustine, Fla. and in Santa Fe, N.M.
Sault Ste. Marie’s first permanent mission was started in 1668. Jesuit missionaries had served the people for nearly 200 years when Father Frederic Baraga was named bishop of the new Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette in 1857.
The present structure is St. Mary’s fifth church building. It was constructed in 1881. The present rectory was built in 1922.
Parish School: The first Catholic school in Sault Ste. Marie was started in 1885. The present St. Mary School began in 1937. The elementary school on Maple Street served first through eighth grades for 34 years until its closure in 1971. The school was reopened in 1993 after a 22-year hiatus. The school now serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Prior to 1937, girls in grade school through high school attended the Loretto Academy, opened by the Loretto Sisters in 1896. The Loretto Academy became a co-educational high school in 1945.
In 1971, both the Loretto High School and St. Mary’s Grade School were closed due to financial constraints. The Loretto building was sold to the public school system. Until it was reopened as a grade school, St. Mary’s was the site of a successful religious education program that served seven parishes including those in Sault Ste. Marie, Brimley, Bay Mills and Sugar Island.
Parish Life: In 1968, the people of St. Mary’s had a bell tower constructed that also served as a shrine to the many missionaries who served the church. In 1981, the Tower of History, as the structure came to be known, was given to Le Sault Sainte Marie Historic Sites, which operates the tower as an observation site.
The parish observed the 100th anniversary of the present church in 1981. Bishop Mark Schmitt celebrated a commemorative Mass Oct. 25.
After more than a century in the same church the people were faced with the question of building new or renovating. In the mid-1980s, parishioners voted to renovate and restore their historic church.
From 1985 to 1987, initially due to a furnace breakdown in the church, services were held in the St. Mary school gym. In the meantime, the first part of what would become a three-phase renovation project got under way. Bequests and successful fund-raising efforts made it possible to correct years of wear on the structure and to update the utilities. The second phase of renovations included remodeling the interior space to conform to the new standards set forth by the Second Vatican Council. The restored St. Mary Church was rededicated Sept. 6, 1987.
In January 1996, a third phase of restoration began. Interior plaster and stained glass windows were repaired and the interior was redecorated in the original Gothic-style.
The building was named to the Michigan Register of Historic Places and a marker denoting the designation was erected on the front lawn of the church grounds and unveiled during a May 1990 ceremony.
In addition to supporting extensive improvements to their historic house of worship, the people of St. Mary’s also continue to further their spiritual lives. Active parish organizations and spirited adult, youth and hand bell choirs are part of parish life.
In 2005 St. Mary’s was linked with St. Francis Xavier Parish in Brimley, Sacred Heart Mission on Sugar Island and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Mission in Bay Mills. The linkage with the Brimley parish and Bay Mills Mission was discontinued in 2007, after Theodore Brodeur was assigned there. The linkage with Sacred Heart Mission continues to this day.
Pastors: Fathers R. Chartier, SJ, 1878-1890; L. T. Garceau, SJ, 1891; Peter Hamel, SJ, 1892-1894; Daniel Donavon, SJ, 1895-1904; J. J. Connolly, SJ, 1895-1900; Edmond Rottot, SJ, 1896-1900; R. Chartier, SJ, 1901-1904; Alexander A. Gagnieur, SJ, 1905-1906; A. Webler SJ, 1906-1907; F. Malone, SJ, 1907-1913; E. T. O’Gara, SJ, 1910-1914; John J. Stenglein, SJ, 1914-1934; Raymond G. Jacques, 1935-1941; John T. Holland, 1941-1945; Joseph Guertin 1945-1954; John G. Hughes, 1954; Robert Monroe, 1954-1974; Terrence Donnelly, 1974-1979; Daniel Zaloga, 1979-1981; Theodore Brodeur, 1981-2007; and Sebastian Kavumkal, MST, 2007-.