Catholic Community of St. Jude at 801 North Bridge Street, DeWitt, MI 48820 US - How we came to be The Catholic Community of St. Jude
How we came to be The Catholic Community of St. Jude
Our History. . . .
In early 1967, a group of Catholic citizens from DeWitt requested an appointment with Bishop Alexander Zaleski of the Diocese of Lansing to discuss the subject of a Catholic church for DeWitt. The bishop agreed to consider the idea and referred the matter to his building commission which called upon that group to suggest sites for the church property. The ten acre land site on north Bridge Street was decided upon and the Catholic people of DeWitt enthusiastically began preparations for their new parish.
Prayers, hopes and dreams for a Catholic church in DeWitt were on the way to being realized when the DeWitt area Catholics began to be spiritually served locally by the clergy of St. Therese Parish in 1969. The first Mass was held in DeWitt on September 28, 1969, at the Fuerstenau Jr. High School with Fr. John Shinners, the pastor of St. Therese, officiating. Over 300 people attended this Mass indicating the presence of a growing Catholic community in DeWitt. In addition to Fr. Shinners, Fr. Vincent Kuntz and Fr. Joseph Droste, associate pastors of St. Therese, served the DeWitt Catholics.
On July 1, 1970, the DeWitt community was formally granted the status of a Mission in the care of the priests at St. Therese. In the same year, Fr. Francis Murray became pastor of St. Therese Parish with its Mission in DeWitt. In September of 1970 the official name of the Mission, The Community of St. Jude, was adopted.
On June 30, 1971, the Mission in DeWitt was formally established as a parish of the Diocese of Lansing with the appointment of Fr. Jerome Schmitt its first pastor. St. Jude's Rectory at 409 North Wilson Street in DeWitt, was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ballard in August of 1971. Daily Masses were held at the rectory until 1977. Sunday Masses were held at the DeWitt Middle School until a church could be built.
Morris H. Stein Associates, Inc. was chosen to design the multi-purpose building, now known as the Community Center. Estimated cost was $285,000. On Sunday, August 12, 1973, members of the Community of St. Jude gathered to break ground for their new church building. Fr. Schmitt turned over the first sod on the site at 801 North Bridge Street, across from the DeWitt City Cemetery. Construction was completed in July of 1974. The first Mass in the new church was held on July 14, 1974.
On January 13, 1976, Fr. Schmitt resigned the pastorate and was succeeded by Fr. Michael D. Murphy in February of 1976. During his pastorate the family room of the rectory was converted into parish offices. The daily Mass was then offered in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the church.
On August 14, 1977, Fr. Murphy was transferred to St. Patrick's Church in Brighton, and was succeeded on September 16, 1977, by Fr. David M. Stotenbur. Fr. Stotenbur served as pastor of the parish from September of 1977 through June of 1990. During Fr. Stotenbur’s pastorate the parish name was officially changed from “The Community of St. Jude” to “The Catholic Community of St. Jude”. The four car garage on the rectory site was converted to office space to accommodate the religious formation department.
Fr. Bernard Reilly was appointed pastor in June of 1990. The parish population had grown to 750 families. Edward “Ted” Heutsche was appointed in 1996 permanent deacon to assist Fr. Reilly in the needs of the St. Jude Parish. Deacon Ted is still serving the parish in that capacity.
The importance of expanding the worship space to meet the needs of the growing parish was an immediate project for Fr. Reilly and a parish design committee. After two and one half years of intense study the actual building of a new church was a reality. In July of 1995, the firm of Freeman-Smith & Associates was hired along with architect David Swanson. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new church took place in September of 1995. Construction began in March of 1996. Seating in the worship space accommodates 500 people. The cost of the project was $2.2 million dollars. The new church building was dedicated on February 2nd, 1997, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord by Bishop Carl Mengeling.
Fr. Reilly was reassigned to St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, Jackson in June of 1998. Fr. Daniel Wunderlich began serving the people of St. Jude at that time. Due to illness, Fr. Wunderlich was unable to remain as pastor of the parish. He left his duties at St. Jude on October 25, 1999. He died on December 13, 1999. During Fr. Wunderlich’s illness, Fr. Paul Cummings ministered to the sacramental needs of the parish community. In January of 2000, Bishop Mengeling assigned Fr. Dwight Ezop as pastor to serve the members of St. Jude Parish.
In October of 2002 a house on North Bridge Street was purchased by the parish as a permanent pastor’s residence. The original property on Wilson Street was remodeled providing more office space to adequately serve the demands of a larger parish staff. Remodeling and refurbishing of the original community center building was also completed. Along with more classroom space, a state-of- the- art audio-visual system was installed to serve the continual growth of parish needs. Deacon Terrance Fleming was appointed permanent deacon to St. Jude by Bishop Mengeling in May 2004. Deacon Fleming also served as the parish business manager until his resignation in September of 2005 due to poor health.
Our current staff are: Fr. Dwight Ezop our Pastor, Dcn. Ted Heutsche our Permanent Deacon, Rob Strouse our Parish Operations Manager, Christina Simon our Parish Office Manager, Rosemary Starn our Bookkeeper, Steve Kasperick-Postellon our Music Director, Paul Schroeder our Coordinator of RCIA, Sue Parker our Coordinator of Youth and Family Ministry, Maureen Stockwell our Coordinator of Elementary Formation, Lynda Roof our Elementary Formation Assistant, Michelle Drolett our Religious Formation Administrative Assistant and Duane Thelen provides Maintenance. Terry Humenik, RN, is our volunteer Parish Nurse. And the story of our parish continues. . . .