The mission of the Parish Pastoral Council, as a partner in faith, is to plan and co-ordinate for the spiritual and material needs of the Parish through the various ministries, helping the Parish grow in holiness and promoting life in all its richness.
The very early days …
In 1854, Masses were celebrated in homes of the Irish Catholic people who settled in the Flushing area. Father Charles DeCeumineck, from Saint Michael Parish, Flint, offered Mass in the Peter McCartney home in the fall of 1854. At that time, the Church in Michigan was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Detroit. While the Catholics were under the care of the Saint Michael priests, six different priests served them. It is not known just how often the priests came for Mass in these early days.
The first church for the Flushing Catholic community was located in Hazelton Township, near the corner of M-13 and Coldwater Road. Land was donated by Henry McCartney in 1865, but a church was not built there until 1875. Father Robert W. Haire, the pastor of Saint Michael Church, Flint, (1875-1880), guided the Catholic Community when the church was built. Saint Robert Church received its name in honor of Saint Robert Bellarmine, a very learned and virtuous bishop who prayed that “the erring, grow in love and truth and return to the unity of the church.” He was patron saint of Father Robert Haire, Pastor of Saint Michael’s Church of Flint.
The Bishop of Detroit placed the Catholic Community of Flushing under the care of the pastor at Saint Joseph Parish, in Gaines. Father George O’Sullivan, the pastor at Gaines, cared for the Hazelton mission until 1911. In all, there were five priests from Gaines who came to say Mass in the Saint Robert church. Masses were said once a month, but later the frequency was increased to once a week.
Parish historian, Mr. Ed Frawley contributed these cherished memories:
Helen Londrigan’s parents and grandparents talked a great deal about Fr. O’Sullivan … “They all took turns providing him with food and lodging. She remembers her grandparents telling that he liked his eggs cooked just so and passed the word to other farmers’ wives so that they would prepare the eggs to suit him.”
The pastors of Gaines were well aware of the growth of the village of Flushing. A petition was sent to Detroit Bishop Michael Gallagher requesting that a new church be built there. Among the reasons given for relocating the church was the “promise of electric lights in Flushing in the near future.” In October 1919, Father Thomas W. Hussey, pastor of Gaines, was given permission by Detroit Bishop Gallagher to build a church in Flushing on a lot donated by William Frawley.
Ground was broken for a new church in 1919. This new Saint Robert Church was built of brick, just north of the business district of Flushing. It stood where today’s parking lot is, south of the present church building. Detroit Bishop Gallagher dedicated the new church in 1922. Within a short time a house near the church was purchased for a future rectory (as yet, the priest did not live here.) Father Fillion, pastor at Gaines , was one of the priests who served the Flushing Catholic community. Edward Frawley remembers: “Fr. Fillion went into one of the meat markets in the village of Flushing and asked for a chicken. The clerk wanted to know if Father wished a pullet. He replied that he didn’t care to pull it. He would just carry it in a paper bag.”
First resident pastor …
Father William J. Cunningham was appointed by Bishop Gallagher to be the first resident pastor of Saint Robert Parish, in 1927. Two years later, Father Cornelius A. Bates replaced him, followed by Father Justin Beauvais (Adm.) in 1935 and Father Vincent Ferdinand Alfes (Temp. Adm.) in 1939. Edward Frawley reports: “Mr. McCartney remembers Father Bates as a new pastor in 1929. When the men were setting up tables and chairs and getting the hall ready for the first Feather Party and dinner, Father Bates was stewing about how they were going to get the food and prizes all there on time. The men assured him it would all come in due time and told him not to worry. When the ladies descended on the hall with huge pans of chicken, potatoes, vegetables, salads and desserts all prepared ahead, Father was speechless … That was real old-fashioned teamwork that farmers and their wives were accustomed to.”
Father William J. DesLongchamps was appointed pastor of Saint Robert Parish. Father DesLongchamps had been a part of the Catholic University’s music department, and his love for music resulted in his starting an outstanding boys choir at Saint Robert Parish. Mary Grace Frawley contributed this cherished memory: “Those who were members of Father William DesLongchamps’ choir have fond memories of spaghetti suppers at the rectory. They were informal gatherings of those who helped out with music during the years Father was pastor at Saint Robert. he had an adult choir at the time. There would be generous amounts of spaghetti served along with a delicious sauce that Father took pains to make himself. The table always had a huge bowl of tossed salad and plenty of garlic bread – all of which Father had a hand in. After supper everyone would gather around the piano. Father would play favorite hymns and an occasional popular ballad. All would join in the singing. Later Father coached pinochle games giving tips of how, and what cards to play, to the more inexperienced players. he seemed to take special delight in seeing the novices win and was enthusiastic about the results. Everyone had a wonderful time, and looked forward to the next spaghetti party.”
Saint Robert Parish began to be under the jurisdiction of the newly created diocese of Lansing, and under the first Bishop of Lansing, Joseph H. Albers. Father DesLongchamps purchased a house on Henry Street, and property for a future school.
Fr. Charles E. Jacobs came to Flushing on September 11, 1953 from Immaculate Conception Church in Three Rivers and became pastor of Saint Robert Parish. The first task undertaken by the new pastor was a school for the parish. Following approval of plans by the Bishop to build a nine room school at the corner of Henry and McKinley, a parish drive was organized to raise the necessary funds. Ground was broken January 4, 1954. The house on Henry Street became a rectory, and the former rectory was converted into a convent for the Sisters of Charity, from Cincinnati. The school opened on September 8, 1954, the Feast of the Birth of Mary, Mother of Jesus. There were 200 students in grades 1 to 7. The eighth grade was added in 1955. In June of 1961, a seven-room addition to the school was started. In May of 1962, ground was broken for the present, larger, Saint Robert Church. The new Saint Robert Church was dedicated on May 19, 1963.
There were big things happening at the Vatican at this time: The Second Vatican Council was under way (1961-1965). The 2100 Catholic Bishops met for four years, and issued 16 major documents and declarations, defining the Church’s approach to the modern world, and reforming the Sacred Liturgy of the Church.
Under Father Jacobs’ leadership, the Parish continued to grow. That growth and expansion continued when Father John Fackler and Father Leo Kalinowski came to Saint Robert Parish in 1972. Two new rooms were added to the school, so that, in 1976, kindergarten classes could begin. An Activity Center complex was built and dedicated in 1981. Stained glass windows were installed in the church. At the same time, Father Fackler was overseeing the building of a mission church in Montrose.
Father Vincent DeLorenzo became pastor of the thriving Saint Robert Parish. Father DeLorenzo remodeled the altar area of the church; he remodeled the basement of the church, dividing it into several smaller rooms for meeting, and in 1987 he purchased a house on the corner of Elm and Cherry streets for a new rectory, because the previous rectory was being converted to offices. Father Jacobs, in his retirement, came back to Flushing, to live in a house purchased by the parish, and to help in the pastoral ministry here. He died here on December 10, 1996.
The pastoral leadership, the celebration of the sacraments, and the preaching of the Word of God, continued with the appointment, in 1988, of Father Gerald Ploof as pastor of Saint Robert Parish. Father Ploof organized the Fr. Jacobs Educational Trust Fund, and a fund to air-condition the church. A new roof was purchased for the church. In 1991, Father Robert McGraw became pastor. Father McGraw grew up in Saint Robert Parish, and graduated from Saint Robert School.
Father Steve Makranyi was made pastor of Saint Robert Parish. Since then, the Father Jacobs Educational Trust Fund matured to pay distributions to all educational efforts of the parish each year. The air-conditioning fund provided the air-conditioning system installed in the church, In 1995, a fund drive was launched to buy a new pipe organ for the church and a new heating boiler for the school. Both were installed in 1996. An elevator was built into the church building in 1997, to give disabled people access to the church and the church basement. A 3.6 million dollar addition to the school was completed in 2001, to provide a new library, computer room, music room, science lab and classrooms.
Father Roy Horning was appointed parochial vicar in 2003 and has served as pastor of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish since July of 2004. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan and then entered Mundelein Seminary (Chicago) to begin studies for the priesthood in the fall of 1996. During his training, he completed two internships at St. John the Evangelist parish in Davison, and at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Father Roy was ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary Cathedral, Lansing on June 9, 2001.
St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church Directory, c. October 1999, Olan Mills, Inc.
St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church Directory, c. 1988
Sr. Laura Marie Watson, Sisters of Charity, Archivist, c. April 1989
Written by: Catherine (Cowden) Oostermeyer
Following Jesus is the foundation of building a strong spirituality
Sisters of Charity serving Saint Robert School
Sr. Helen (Angelica) Berghoff
Sr. Mary Eulalie Berger
Sr. Florence Cremering
Sr. Ruth (William Marie) Hunt (1954-55)
Sr. Mary Adolpha Kill
Sr. Peter Stippler
Sr. Adele Marie (Marie Manuleta) Martinez (1956-57)
Sr. Rose Maureen McCarney
Sr. Elizabeth Therese Forton (1957-58)
Sr. Ruth Elizabeth (John Clare) Beris
Sr. Ann Elizabeth Von Hagel (1958-59)
Sr. Stephen Mary Schulte (1959-60)
Sr. Elizabeth Marie Gottmer (1960-61)
Sr. Lucina Connelly
Sr. Fancis Solano McCarthy (1961-62)
Sr. Pauline Roney
Sr. Shirley (Teresita Marie) Dix (1962-63)
Sr. Mary Josetta Boeing
Sr. Charlotte Marie Mollenkoph (1963-64)
Sr. Joseph Elizabeth Pino
Sr. Ann Michele Kuhn (1964-65)
Sr. Anthony Marie Salem
Sr. Joseph Lorraine Coupland (1965-66)
Sr. Marie Vincent Stewart (1966-67)
Sr. Rita Gonnella (1967-68)
Sr. Patricia Ann (Grace Michael) Dempsey
Sr. Marie Helen Ankenbrandt
Sr. Barbara (Barbara Therese) Payne (1968-69)
Sr. Mary (Jeanne Francis) Runler
Sr. Carol Jean (Jean William) Bartling
Sr. Mary Paula Renne (1969-70)
Sr. Rose Martin Morand
Sr. Judith (Louis Ann) Gutzwiller
Sr. Mary Ann (Dominic) Gutzwiller (1970-71);
Saint Robert Parish Associate Pastors
Fr. Urban O’Rourke
Fr. Robert Utrup
Fr. Paul Cummings
Fr. Joe Boudreau
Fr. Matt Fedewa
Fr. James Schmitt
Fr. Benjamin Bonneprise
Fr. James Lee
Fr. Gary Pamment
Fr. Joe Droste
Fr. Robert Mulcahy
Fr. Gerald O’Neil
Fr. Jim Bettendorf
Fr. Ken McDonald
Fr. Leo Kalinowski
Fr. Jason Sigler
Fr. Raymond Kaleciak
Fr. Thaddeus Bozenski
Fr. John Klein
Fr. Joe Martinus
Fr. Bennett Constantine
Fr. Phil Sessions
Fr. Paul Schwermer
Fr. Vincent Van Doan
Fr. Robert Kunze
Fr. Paul Guoan
Fr. Ken Coughlin
Fr. Randall Miller
Fr. Brendan Walsh
Fr. Vincent Bui
Fr. Michael Williams
Fr. Nicholas Ritter
Fr. Louis Ekka
Saint Robert Parishioners ordained to Priesthood
Fr. Max Fisher ordained 1964-Deceased 7/11/83
Fr. Robert McGraw ordained 1976
Fr. Francis George ordained 1987
Fr. William Lugger ordained 1989
Fr. William Wegher ordained 1991
Fr. Nathaniel Sokol ordained 2004
Saint Robert Parishioners ordained to Permanent Diaconate
Deacon Michael Lynch in 1987
Deacon Gerald Butler in 1995
Deacon Dennis Pennell in 2009
Deacon Richard Rymar in 2013.