Mission Statement

We provide a spiritual home for all God’s family and nurture one another through the sacraments and the principles of Catholic faith.

Vision Statement

A welcoming, Christ-centered parish, guided by the Holy Spirit, celebrating prayer, worship, education, and the sacraments as the way of living God’s kingdom on Earth.

Parish Values

We value being a community of Catholic faith in which parishioners…

Parish History

  • Encourage and support a living relationship with Jesus for themselves and others
  • Are guided by the principles of Catholic faith to enrich an adult life of faith in the world
  • Show respect for where people are in their understanding and embrace of the Catholic faith and encourage them to grow
  • Understand and accept that the next step forward in faith is not necessarily the same for everyone
  • Intentionally invite and welcome new faces and new talents to our parish and school
  • Consistently include all who would like to participate in ministry and programs
  • Proactively encourage the development of lay leaders
The Twenties

Writer and Editor: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman
Special recognition to the St. Thomas Historical Commission whose efforts in compiling the Golden Jubilee Book helped us greatly in documenting this 75 year timeline.

The completed Saint Thomas the Apostle Church and School in 1925

This is the story of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, conceived and nurtured by people of simple faith. Gently, as parents who join with God in creation, they provide a place of serenity and peace for the arrival of their offspring. Showered with gifts of love and guided by calm, sure hands, the parish takes those first baby steps into the Roaring Twenties. 1923 In a world adjusting to peace in the aftermath of World War I, Catholic Families living on the south east side of a rapidly growing city make their way downtown to worship at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. Hopes and dreams of having a church near to home are soon realized as Bishop Edward Kelley makes the decision to create a new parish to be located on Wilcox Park Drive, SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1924 On May 8, Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish is canonically established. Ground is broken, and 75 enthusiastic families eagerly await completion of the combination church/school building. Graciously, the Little Sisters of the Poor offer their chapel on Lafayette Avenue for Sunday Mass during construction. Mrs. Oscar Varneau begins the music ministry of the parish by playing the organ for these first Saint Thomas Masses. At the meeting in September in the home of Bishop Kelley, the Women’s Guild is organized. A grateful parish holds a card party and uses the proceeds to purchase Christmas gifts for elderly residents cared for by the Little Sisters. This is one of the first Guild activities, becoming a tradition to be carried on for as long as the work of the the Little Sisters continues in Grand Rapids. 1925 Reverend Aloysisus M. Fitzpatrick, Chancellor of the Grand Rapids Diocese, assumes duties as the first pastor and Mass is celebrated in the new church on Sunday, October 18. The simple, reverent dignity of the new church is evident in the tasteful appointments donated by its members. In addition to the church, which occupies half of the ground floor, the new building also has three classrooms for 63 children who start school in October of 1925. Women of the parish organize a flower guild to provide flowers for the altars. 1926 Fr. Robert W. Bogg, Diocesan secretary, is appointed pastor of St. Thomas following the illness and resignation of Father Fitzpatrick. Ordained in 1924, Father Bogg had been administrator at St. Catherine and St. Francis, Ravenna and St. Francis de Sales, Holland, before coming here. It is a year of “firsts” in the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church. 1927 Choirs are formed in these very early days. At the 8 am Mass, sweet treble voices of school children echo beautiful old Latin and English hymns. The mature blending of male and female adult voices add significant dimensions to the solemnity of the 11 am High Mass. Mrs. S.H. Sichterman is the organist. 1928 Reverend Joseph F. Drew comes to Saint Thomas. His experience as pastor of St. James, Montague, assistant at St. Andrew Cathedral, and chaplain in the armed forces equip him well to minister to the needs of our fledgling parish. 1929 The stock market crash creates unforeseen difficulties, testing the faith of a nation.

The Thirties

Writer: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman

Entering the growing-up years, the steps become more confident, yet the parish needs and receives more support. Nurtured by faith and love, its people enter a new decade, one of hardship and depression, The Thirties. 1930 The parish struggles with debt, but continues its spiritual growth as parish groups develop more fully. 1931 Fred Chinnick and Miss Agnes Douglas continue to provide music at St. Thomas 1932 Another “first” – the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred by Bishop Joseph A. Piten upon the seventh-grade class. In August, Sister Helen Louise Brogger, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Brogger, professes as a member of the Dominican Order. 1933 Graduation day! The first group of student completes eight grades at Saint Thomas School. 1934 The ushers continue to serve the parish in various ways. 1935 The first double wedding in Saint Thomas Church takes place on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. Twin sisters, Rosemary and Rosella O’Connor, marry Clement Huxall and James Hickey respectively. 1936 Despite troubled times, an annual picnic is held at Townsend Park. 1937 The Women’s Guild continues as both a social and fund-raising group. A Past Presidents’ Christmas Tea is held each year on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8. A fall potluck dinner is another annual event. 1938 Circles comprise the Women’s Guild membership, each sponsoring one or more special activities per year to raise funds. 1939 Mrs. Leonard F. Howe begins organization of the Altar Society.

The Forties

Now in its teens, the parish is ready to take risks as it develops and grows physically and spiritually. The foundations of love and trust combine with strong leadership to carry its people through the war years, the Forties. 1940 On July 3, Reverend Raymond J. Sweeney comes to Saint Thomas as pastor. He is no stranger to many parishioners who know 1941 In the rectory at 1436 Wilcox Park Drive, Mrs. Paul J. Hermann begins work as the first parish secretary. Sophia’s sincere, kindly personality creates an efficient, yet warm and friendly place where folks can visit or call. 1942 The houses at 1420 and 1421 Grace Street are purchased for a convent, one of many transactions enabling parish growth. 1943 Several young men from Saint Thomas families dedicate their lives to God’s Work.
-Reverend Edward Eardley, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Eardley, ordained December 8, 1943.
-Reverend Robert Bernard Gillespies, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Gillespie, ordained December 8, 1943.
-Reverend Gregory J. Steigmeyer, CSC, son of Mr. and Mrs. H.F. Steigmeyer, ordained June 24, 1943.
-Reverend John W. McGee, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ivan McGee, ordained March 19, 1943.
The first issue of The Prop Wash is sent out to service men and women from the parish on April 1. Father Gerard Guzikowski arrives to assist at Holy Week and remains until transferred in September. While at Saint Thomas, Father completes a parish census and give support to the youth of the parish helping in The Prop Wash endeavor and countless other ways. 1944 Parish growth triggers thoughts of expansion. Could a land trade be possible with the Holland Home? (Saint Thomas property on Fulton Street for Holland Home garden land on Wilcox Park Drive.) 1945 The house adjoining the school that had been purchased and rented is now converted into a kindergarten under the able direction of Sister M. Adrienne, and later Nancy Corcoran. Negotiations with Aquinas College commence (to purchase land east of the Saint Thomas line). Eventually 4 acres extending from Wilcox Park Drive north to Fulton are purchased for the sum of $5,000. The Prop Wash publishes an Honor Roll with the names and addresses of those from Saint Thomas in service and a Gold Star Roll for friends who gave their lives in World War II. Sister Anne (Sally) Keating, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Keating, enters the order of Sisters of Saint Dominic on September 8. Saint Thomas unit of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is organized. 1946 Newly ordained Father Joseph Wiekeriak begins his pastoral work as assistant at Saint Thomas. Twenty-eight Saint Thomas men begin league play at Ridgemoor Golf Club. 1947 Mr. and Mrs. H.F. Steigmeyer rejoice in the ordination of their son, Reverend Robert C. Steigmeyer, CSC. 1948 Reverend Paul F. Kersjes comes to Saint Thomas as assistant pastor. Another Saint Thomas son begins God’s work as William W. McKnight, son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward McKnight, is ordained on May 22. Miss Anna Schulte and Mrs. Edward McKnight begin a campaign to collect old gold. The response results in the creation of a new chalice, similar to the chalice of Antioch. The gold chalice remains in use for many years at Sunday Mass. A formal Ushers Club is formed that is to become a main force in directing and financing the parish athletic program, in addition to assisting at Masses and other parish functions. 1949 Edward D. Nugent, C.SS.R. is ordained on January 6. Gilbert Rahrig, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Rahrig, is ordained on April 23.

The Fifties

Writer: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman

Like many young adults, the parish is caught in a whirlwind of change. In a beautiful new church the family can rejoice, worship, and sometimes grieve. Industriously, its people prepare for the enrichment and fulfillment of The Fifties. 1950 Ordained in June, Father Stanislaus A. Bur comes to Saint Thomas in December as assistant pastor. The men of Saint Thomas continue to do God’s work. Joseph Pawlicki, the first Scoutmaster of Saint Thomas, is ordained on June 7. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pawlicki. Father James J. Nugent, C.SS.R. is ordained a Redemptorist priest on June 29. 1951 The third of the Nugent brothers, William A. Nugent, C.SS.R., becomes a Redemptorist priest on July 2. (While the Nugents were originally members of Saint Alphonsus Parish, their parents later moved to Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish and their sons became an important part of Saint Thomas history. As an example, one Christmas Eve the three brothers concelebrated Midnight Mass, as a memorable experience for all present.) As of November 14, Saint Thomas owns 238-feet of frontage on Wilcox Park Drive east of the school-church and 265-feet from Wilcox Park Drive north to the Holland Home south line. 1952 Plans are in the drawing stages for a new church to be built upon the newly acquired land. In November, Father Raymond Pattok begins his stay as assistant pastor at Saint Thomas. The young people continue their vocations to religious service as Thomas Neis is ordained on June 7. 1953 Lisa Marie Lazio, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. Lazio, enters the orders of Sisters of Saint Dominic. Ground is broken for the new church. To finance the new construction, a parish fund drive begins. 1954 Father Lionel Harnish comes to the parish as assistant pastor. Pope Pius XII names our pastor a domestic prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. Bishop Allen J. Babcock blesses the cornerstone for the new church. Subsequently, on the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, December 21, the church is blessed and the altars consecrated. Another round of “firsts” begins with the first First Holy Communion Class in the new church in November and the first baptisms:Ann Mead, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Mead; Michael Campbell, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Campbell; Mark Nelson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Nelson. Under the leadership of Evelyn Yentz, the women of the parish organize a golf league. Monsignor Sweeney celebrates 25 years in the priesthood. 1955 In March, the Sacrament of Confirmation becomes another “first” in the new Saint Thomas the Apostle Church. Paula Schmidt, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Val Schmidt, professes her vows in the Redemptoristine Contemplative Order. The space formerly occupied by the first Saint Thomas Church is remodeled to alleviate crowded conditions in the school. Saint Thomas participates in the Diocesan Development Fund for the first time. Continuing successfully for many years, this drive comes to be known as the Catholic Services Appeal. Work on the church parking lot commences. 1956 Our beloved pastor, now Monsignor Sweeney, suffers a heart attack. Parish life continues while he recovers, thanks to the groundwork he has laid since his arrival in 1940. Mary Sheryl Lazio, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. Lazio, enters the order of Sisters of Notre Dame, Cleveland, Ohio. 1957 Sister Marilyn Quinlan, BVM, professes vows in the order of Sisters of Charity, Dubuque, Iowa in March. Father Noel Fay arrives at Saint Thomas. 1958 Colbrook Creek work continues. Robert T. Hesse, CSC, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hesse, professes as a Holy Cross Foreign Missionary on June 4. 1959 Two more young women offer their lives to religious service. Sister Margaret Anne Hillary, O.P., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Hillary, professes her final vows. Sister Georgeann Quinlan, BVM, professes vows in the order of Sisters of Charity, Dubuque, Iowa.

The Sixties

Writer: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman

Continually adjusting its boundaries and always seeking to further fulfill the dreams of its creators, the parish prepares for the challenges of The Sixties. 1960 Work begins on enlarging the remodeled school and construction of an all-purpose gym. Reverend Vernon William Wright, Jr., C.SS.R. is ordained in June and Sister Mary Therese Hillary, RCS, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Hillary, enters Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Cincinnati, Ohio in September. 1961 A group of creative parishioners form the “Theatercrafters.” Father Charles Ausberger is ordained in June and comes to Saint Thomas as assistant pastor. Brother James Edward Kozak, CSC, professes as a Holy Cross Brother in August. 1962 Reverend Valentin Rodriquez, who was ordained in Belgium in 1937, arrives at Saint Thomas in September. Sister Mary Brigid Clingman, O.P., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Clingman, professes as a member of the Dominican Order. 1963 The school and gym completed and in use, thought is now given to the new convent. The old house that serves as a convent at 1420 Grace Street is razed, and a new convent is built on the site. At a cost of $150,000, the building is state-of-the-art. Opened in September, it is generously and tastefully equipped by many parish members. Father R. Dale Morgan comes to St. Thomas as assistant pastor. Sister Mary Margaret Lazio, CSJ, enters the Order of Sister of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis, Missouri. 1964 Sister Patricia Mary of the Trinity Metzger, daughter of Mrs. Patricia Metzger, professes her final vows in the Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Rennes, Brittany. 1965 Sister Lisa Ann Lazio, CSJ, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lazio, enters the Order of Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis, Missouri. 1966 Saint Thomas forms a Parish Board of Education based on the Michigan Catholic Conference constitution and serves as a pilot board for one year-assisting other parishes as well. A permanent constitution that suits the specific needs of Saint Thomas is put into place. A Home and School Association soon follows. Reverend Stanford Chrysostum Van Hoeck, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Van Hoeck, is ordained on June 9. 1967 At an estimated cost of $227,298, a new rectory is built. A Parish Finance Committee is formed to direct a tithing renewal program to help support the building costs. 1968 Monsignor Sweeney and Fr. Ausberger occupy the new rectory. The building has rooms where clergy can come to reside and learn. With meeting rooms as well as living quarters, it is planned to also serve the parish as an administration center. Father Andrew Cruschiel comes to Saint Thomas for a stay of one year. Father John Neuhaus also arrives. School enrollment reaches its peak as 470 baby boomers attend classes. 1969 In accordance with directives from Vatican II, a Pena-Council is established. Father Gaspar Ancona takes up residence in the new rectory.

The Seventies

Writer: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman

Having rejoiced, delighted, wept, and prayed, momentarily the parish pauses to reflect on the past. Always surrounded by the faith, hope, and love of the Holy Trinity, the people continue to give life in their Golden Jubilee Years, The Seventies. 1970 A Parish Council replaces the Pena-Council in accordance with directives of Vatican II. On March 15, Monsignor Sweeney’s resignation becomes effective. Awaiting the arrival of a new pastor, Father Raymond E. Bruck is appointed interim administrator for Saint Thomas serving until June 14. In July, Father Frederick J. Voss is appointed pastor of Saint Thomas. Father Voss is a native of Grand Rapids and Saint Mary’s Parish. Ordained in December of 1943, Father Voss has served many parishes, not the least of which was Saint Robert’s of Ada where he was the organizer and first pastor. Father Martin Toolis arrives soon after. As deacon, he continues his studies and is ordained in Saint Thomas Church on October 7. During the ordination ceremony, Bishop Breitenbeck appoints Father Toolis as associate pastor of our parish. The Vice Chancellor of the Grand Rapids Diocese, Reverend Joseph Battersby, takes up residence at Saint Thomas the Apostle rectory. 1971 Father Ronald Schneider is appointed to succeed Father Toolis as associate pastor and is placed in charge of the parish youth program. First grade is reinstated at Saint Thomas School. Father Voss is elected Dean of the Grand Rapids East Deanery. Jeanne Zielinski takes over as parish secretary. 1972 The Annettes continue to serve Saint Thomas Parish in many ways. 1973 The 50-Plus Club is organized by Jill and Ron Skinner to promote companionship, congeniality and good will among Saint Thomas senior citizens. 1974 The kindergarten is reinstated at Saint Thomas School. Father Voss is called to Rome to pursue a three-month course of study. Father Ron Schneider is appointed director of the Diocesan Youth Ministry. Joseph Phillip Amar, son of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip M. Amar is ordained a priest of the Maronite Rite on September 21. In October, the parish celebrates its first fifty years. 1975 Since the retirement of Anna Schulte, Robert Olman has been organist and choir director. The magnificent accompaniments to the 50th anniversary celebrations are a tribute to Bob’s creativity and talent. Recognition is given to several prayerful women who care for votive lights, missalettes, and hymnals daily; Cecelia McGarry, Helen Ronan, Frances Carey, and Marcie Schmidt. As is true of any parish, fund drives take place periodically. Father Voss is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Radical surgery removes the rapidly developing growth. Eventually our much loved priest is robbed of his ability to walk. 1976 The first lay woman becomes a Minister of the Word. In the late fall, the Parish Council holds the Dinner of the Year to showcase the work being accomplished by various commissions. Father Voss continues to concelebrate Mass from a wheelchair, but by Christmas he can no longer be taken to the church. Throughout his illness, parishioners take turns coming into the rectory to care for him. Inspired by the moving example of Father Ron Schneider, the people of Saint Thomas give Father Voss loving professional care right in his own home. 1977 In February, Father Voss – in a final, gallant effort – appears in the sanctuary at Sunday Mass. Father Bernard Hall comes to Saint Thomas as associate pastor. On March 21, at home in the rectory, Father Voss quietly dies. In May, Father Ron Schneider is transferred to Saint Bartholomew Parish in Newaygo. A farewell Mass and reception honor Father Ron on May 4. June marks the installation of Monsignor Walter F. Jude as Pastor of Saint Thomas Parish. An afternoon reception is held on the church lawn to welcome him. Monsignor Jude had been involved in pastoral work since his ordination in 1945, serving parishes in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Winn, Mancelona, Bellaire, Newaygo, and White Cloud. His administrative talents were also evident in his service to the diocese in various roles. A preschool program for 4-year-olds is initiated with the hope of increasing school enrollment. 1978 Deacon Martin Kurylowicz joins the parish staff. During Eucharistic Days in November, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Ministers of the Word are installed. Communal penance services at Christmas and Easter are well received by the parish. A Time and Talent Stewardship drive commences. The warm, loving service by the people of Saint Thomas in Jesus’ name continues as the activities of the Annettes is absorbed into the Christian Service Commission under the able direction of Sheila Pupel. Girl Scout Brownies Troop 202 is organized. Personnel changes continue as Father Hall leaves to pursue graduate studies. Soon, Monsignor Sweeney moves into the rectory at Holy Trinity, Alpine. Father Jude in transferred to Saint Simon and Saint Stanislaus, Ludington. Father James C. Cusack arrives on July 2nd, coming to Saint Thomas from Our Lady of Consolation, Rockford, where he was the first pastor. He also served as pastor at Assumption, Belmont, and Saint Henry and Mission at Rosebush, and as assistant at several other parishes. Sister Lydia Korson, O.P., assumes duties as the new principal for fall 1978. Kindergarten enrollment increases due to the successful preschool program. Sunday morning Religious Education programs are initiated, including special education for handicapped children. 1979 Reverend Dennis Wagner and Reverend Terry Stewart are in residence. In February, a high school guitar group offers to provide music at the 9:30 am Mass on Sundays. Heartily accepted by members of the parish, they come to be known as The Little Lights. A Saint Thomas Week of Renewal with Father Emery Tang takes place in late April. Participation of the laity in sacramental ministry is moving forward at Saint Thomas. Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist carry the Blessed Sacrament to about 25-30 shut-ins weekly. Recognizing the need for a sacristan, the Parish Council appoints Marcia Carbines to serve in this capacity. Marcia also agrees to care for the flowers for the altars. Father Phillip Shangraw, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Shangraw, is ordained and celebrates his first Mass at Saint Thomas on May 5. September kicks off an Immediate Action Drive to increase revenues, pay off the debt and provide funds for the church renovation. The parish congratulates Pastor Emeritus Monsignor Raymond J. Sweeney on his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Distribution of the Eucharist under both species at weekend Masses begins in the fall. In October, Father Daniel Aerts joins us as associate pastor. Around the first of December, plans to renovate the church according to decrees of Vatican II are announced.

The Eighties

Writer: Rita O’Neill-Wiseman

Thankful for physical and spiritual growth, the people experience a need to reach out to others less fortunate. Inspired by love and faith, the parish wagerly moves forward in the era of lay ministry, the sharing years of the Eighties. 1980 The parish decides to give 5% of the weekly collection to ESPERANCA, a medical missionary project on the Amazon River in South America. In September, the first Communal Anointing of the Sick takes place. The parish is free of debt. Renovation plans for the church are finalized. 1981 Father Cusack celebrates his 25th anniversary of ordination. Reflecting on the meaning of being Catholic in relationship with our fellow Catholics, parish renewal weekends begin. The first, such weekend in the Diocese, several more are planned at Saint Thomas. The parish welcomes Sister Marie Emile Rivard, O.P., new principal of the school. Monsignor Raymond J. Sweeney, Pastor Emeritus, dies at age 80 – 41 years after he assumed pastoral duties here in July 1940. Mass of Resurrection is celebrated at Saint Thomas in the church he strove so diligently to build 29 years before. In view of the declining number of sisters in residence at Saint Thomas, the Parish Council approves a proposal to contact the Chancery Office for permission to lease or sell the convent. 1982 The RENEW program commences, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. in phase one, small groups meet to enhance fellowship in faith through scripture, prayer, and dialogue. The program is to continue for three years. The parish adopts a Vietnamese family. Monsignor Sweeney Council of the Knights of Columbus is organized. Father Rock Badgerow joins us as associate pastor. 1983 A gift bearers program begins. Greg and Kathy Proulx begin their guitar music ministry, succeeding The Little Lights. New, permanent furnishings are installed in the sanctuary. 1984 Jeanne Zielinski retires, ending a dedicated 13-year tenure as secretary to three pastors and numerous associates and resident clergy. Tisha Leanord assumes duties as parish secretary. Sister Paschal Barth, O.P., long-time principal of Saint Thomas School, celebrates her golden anniversary with parishioners at Saint Thomas. John Jaksa assumes the post of principal, the first lay person and the first male to ever hold this position at Saint Thomas School. A gift of the Fritz family in memory of Edward Fritz, a chair lift to the lower level is installed to accommodate handicapped persons. The parish donates property on Fulton Street to the Mercy Respite Center and continues generously to support the construction of a new facility on the site. A Polish couple, Yvonne and Thomas Lisniewski, is adopted by the parish, the second family to be helped via the Refugee Resettlement Program. 1985 Sarah Meinke continues the organ and choir ministry. Our school now serves about 300 students, an increase from a count of 205 in 1980. 1986 A series of musical performances benefits the Mercy Respite Center and celebrates Father Cusack’s 30th anniversary of ordination. The parish pledges to support the Educational Foundation. In addition to the founding members, the board consists of Edward B. Carlson, Daniel J. Vidro, Calvin F. Wallis, Nancy Greening Kennedy, Thomas L. Quinn, Sr., David A. Taylor, and Suzanne Haas Williams. The first Parish Empowerment Weekend takes place under the direction of Father Chuck Gallagher, S.J., as part of RENEW. 1987 Through the combined efforts of Nancy Poggi, Gerry Quinn, and Father Cusack, Stephen Ministry is inaugurated at Saint Thomas. Father Donald J. Heydens is appointed pastor, coming to us from Holy Family Parish in Caledonia. Ordained in 1970 at Saint Francis de Sales, Holland, Father has also served as assistant at St. Andrew Cathedral and St. Francis Xavier in Grand Rapids. 1988 Men’s and Women’s Annual Retreats continue at St. Lazare’s in Spring Lake. Dianne Penning Koperski continues the music ministry. 1989 Religious education classes continue for parish children enrolled in public schools.

The Nineties

Writer: Rita O’Nell-Wiseman

From its birth in The Twenties through the struggle to grow into a vibrant, active parish, the people never cease their efforts to fulfill the dream. Late in life, the parish continues to generate love, compassion, and faith in the world. Filled with the Holy Spirit, there is a new vision of hope, The Nineties. 1990 On Ascension Thursday, Bishop Rose appoints Father Thomas Johnston, O.P., as Diocesan Director of Worship and Associate Pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish. The Parish Council begins the transition to two major advisory groups of parishioners, resulting in the establishment of a Financial Council. Dave Bulkowski accepts the position of Youth Minister. Father Don Heydens celebrates the 20th anniversary of ordination. Evangelization Program Training begins. The initial Liturgy of the Word with Children takes place with 81 children participating during the nine o’clock Mass. The parish congratulates Martha Despres on 14 years of dedication to scheduling and overseeing our Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion. Dorothy Clingman continues to moderate the Scripture Study Group. Hospital Ministers now visit each hospital daily. Seventy-nine people take part in the Communal Celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Expanding the Usher Ministry, a new group is formed. The Ministers of Hospitality are families who together welcome and carry out their duties – seating, orderly communion, presentation of the gifts, and reorganization of the pews after Mass. 1991 Appeal 2000 seeks funds for the Saint Thomas Educational Foundation. A support group is established for those having family members involved in the Gulf War. Father Don visits Esperanca. Saint Thomas adopts a smoke-free environment policy. Mrs. Louise Eardley, a charter member of the parish, celebrates her 105th birthday. Our beloved parish secretary of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, Sophia Hermann, celebrates her 96th birthday. Tributes are paid to Mary Ann Blum and Kathryn Bowen for their years of untiring dedication. 1992 In January, healing services are initiated, taking place after 11 am Mass. A Parish Mission with the goal of spiritual renewal and refocusing is led by Father Phil Shangraw, Sister Mary Ann Barrett, O.P., and Father James Chelich. Father Tom Johnston is appointed secretary general of the Order of Preachers headquartered at Rome. Thanksgiving at Saint Thomas has always meant Christian Service. Generous donations of food and clothing enable the delivery of bountiful baskets to those in need. This year, the parish sponsors the first Thanksgiving Day dinner for the poor, needy, and homeless. 1993 Eileen Bockheim takes the post of Music Director. In April, Father James A. Chelich accepts the invitation to come to Saint Thomas as temporary administrator. In June, he is appointed pastor. Father Jim began his pastoral work first as assistant at Holy Trinity, Alpine and St. John Vianney, then as Pastor of Sacred Heart, Evart and Saint Agnes, Marion. He comes to Saint Thomas from Saint Adalbert, Grand Rapids. Noon hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament begins. Father Jim goes to World Youth Day when Pope John Paul II is in Denver. The Dominican Sisters move out of our convent to Marywood. David Faber accepts the post of principal of Saint Thomas School. 1994 The school expands the preschool program to include three-year-olds. In addition, a media center addresses the unique learning needs and style of each student. The first step in a long-range technology plan, the media center combines the current library with a new 22 station computer lab. Multi-media stations are added in each classroom, and all computers network together throughout the school and Parish Office, forming a local area network for voice, video, and data. The media center is the informational hub of the school, paving the way for internet access in the future. Father Jim inaugurates a tape ministry at Saint Thomas. For a nominal fee, parishioners can purchase tapes of homilies and other teachings. A program is added to the school curriculum and V.I.P Volunteers in Partnership program begins. Over 200 volunteers a year take part in a multitude of programs and opportunities that offer benefits to our students. For the first time in its 70 year history, Saint Thomas School goes through an extensive accreditation process with the Michigan Association of Non-public Schools (MANS). Father Jim makes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Sunday evening Vespers begin. A long-range plan steering committee is formed. Sue Haas Williams agrees to facilitate the process. 1995 A new sound system is donated and installed. The decision to use the convent is announced; it will not be sold. A written survey is sent to parishioners regarding the long-range plan. 1996 Father Jim celebrates his 20th Anniversary of Ordination The long-range plan is sent to parishioners. Over 200 children participate in the first week-long shared ministry with Calvary Reformed Church, a Vacation Bible School. A Ministry Center Commission meets to determine the best use of the convent and completes a plan to renovate and expand the buildings as part of the long-range plan. Gerard Bribiescas becomes Coordinator of Ministries, and Beth Price accepts the position of Youth Minister. Ann Geer assumes the position of Director of Religious Education and Formation. 1997 The long-range plan continues to unfold with the funding and building of a Parish Ministry Center. In March, Father Jim’s message enlarges on the benefits of the Ministry Center to our retired parishioners. After long and careful planning, a Pastoral Council is selected to work with the pastor. JoAnn Ambrose, Cindy Clingman, Jim Ens, Dan Erlandson, Christian Fernando, Ken Kelly, Jeff Needham, Jill Skinner, and Art Veneklase are installed at Vespers on Pentecost Sunday. A once-a-year collection envelope marked Altar Society is a reminder of the the former Altar Society and the generous women who were active in it over a great number of years. Most of their work has been taken up by the Parish Liturgy Commission and the volunteers associated with it. Contributions and the efforts of selfless women who to this day iron small altar linens assure the continuation of their work. Jon David Vander Ploeg, son of Stephen and Mary Vander Ploeg, joins the Companions of Christ Community, St. Paul, Minnesota. A complete Spanish program is added to the school. 1998 Ministers of the Eucharist to the Homebound visit our parishioners who live in nursing homes or are confined to their own residence by poor health or impaired mobility. Noreen Wurz steps down as leader of this ministry, after some 50 years of vital involvement in various parish ministries. Jean Popma now heads this caring group. An elevator to the lower level of the church is installed. The first Annual Health Fair takes place. Each year, as we are called to stewardship, we recall the unceasing efforts of the Women’s Guild, the Ushers Club, and other organizations to support the physical growth and foster parish harmony. 1999 The parish congratulates Marcia Carbines on her many years dedicated to innovative planning, coordinating, and developing our liturgical environment. Seventy-five years after three Dominican Sisters began teaching here, our school today employs a total of 15 full-time lay teachers and administrators, eight part-time teachers, all of whom maintain current certification requiring continuous postgraduate coursework. Although the Dominican Sisters have moved to other ministries, Saint Thomas School will always honor their mission, the Christ-centered education of Saint Thomas children. The Ministry Center opens. Father Jim continues to work in the parish garden, chatting with folks who see him at work creating a vision of beauty, spring, summer, and fall. For three years, Paul and Jane Maczka planted and weeded those areas between the rectory and church. Now the gardens are filled with plantings from other parishioners and friends. The plants in Fr. Jim’s pastoral garden also continue to blossom year round as he prayerfully and compassionately tends to us daily.

Celebrating 75

August 1999
In late August sales of mementos begin. After all Masses parishioners have an opportunity to purchase baseball caps, T-shirts, brass key chains and ceramic mugs. The 75th Anniversary logo appears on all items. September 1999 On September 26 a picnic is held at Townsend Park, the site of the first of many parish picnics through the years. Parishioners watch with nostalgia as their children play in the creek as they themselves once did. In this place created by God and preserved by man, memories continue to be made as some 600 people enjoy the day. October 1999 On October 17, an Anniversary Mass with Bishop Robert Rose is celebrated with Father James Chelich, Father James Cusack, Father Raymond Bruck, Father Bernard A. Hall, and Father Richard Lawie in attendance. Prayers and songs of thanksgiving honor the past and the present. Descendents of charter members representing generations of Saint Thomas parishioners are gift bearers. Many Dominican Sisters and retired teachers are present to celebrate with us. The original candleholders used in the first church adorn the sanctuary and the entire worship space is spectacular in subtle beauty. At the candlelight reception held afterwards in the lower level, memorabilia tables display items of interest to both recent and long-time members. With keepsake candles lending a soft glow to the hall, delicious food, dance music, and the sparkling spirit generated by a parish playing together, the dinner dance on October 23 is truly a diamond jubilee event. Connecting with the Inner-City Christian Federation, the Christian Service Commission purchases a lot upon which parishioners will build a home for the benefit of a low-income family. Ground is broken on October 23 and the project will come to completion sometime in the next year. November 1999 On November 2, an evening Mass of remembrance of all deceased members of the parish creates an aura of benediction; our loved ones in glory seem to fill the church with their presence. December 1999 The book of memories rolls off the presses. A copy is reserved for each parish household. As each of us is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, so the school is part of the parish, yet another entity in its own right. Entering its 75th year, the school begins its own anniversary.