Eileen Bockhiem – Director of Music Ministry
Email Eileen or call 616-459-4662 x1208
I am honored that God has called me to serve at Saint Thomas as the Director of Music Ministry. I began my role at Saint Thomas over 20 years ago.
Going through Aquinas College and graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, I had no direct plans of becoming a liturgical music director. I had my own plans of what I would do with all my education later in life. I have come to know that life really isn’t about all of my plans. It’s about trusting in God’s plans for me.
The most important facet of my life and my job is very simple:
First pray about everything. Then, let go and trust in God!
I see my career bringing me to a most treasured place to work. I am blessed with opportunities to use my talents in a Christ-centered setting, day in and day out. My work and my family life are embedded in Christ. It’s a very whole way of life God has chosen for me. I feel honored to be able to spend my entire work day with an extraordinary pastoral staff and with volunteers who give so much of themselves for others. What a better way to spend a work day than with faith-filled characters!
My hope is that those who worship at Saint Thomas experience and come to understand how music ministry is a fundamental element in individual spiritual development and in community prayer and worship.
I am eternally thankful that God has called me to serve at Saint Thomas.
Reverend James Chelich – Pastor
Email Father Jim or call 616-459-4662 x1202
Father James Chelich is a priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has served in pastoral ministry for thirty-nine years in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and presently serves as Pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish in the city of Grand Rapids.
Father Chelich is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Sociology. He was also trained as a secondary school teacher. A native of Gary, Indiana, he entered studies for the priesthood for the Diocese of Grand Rapids after completing his undergraduate education. He earned his Masters in Divinity from Saint John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan and a Masters of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Detroit. From 1988 to 1990 he did sabbatical studies in Byzantine and Orthodox Theology, Liturgy and Spirituality, at the conclusion of which he was asked by the Ukrainian Bishop of Chicago to accept be-ritual faculties in order to assist at Saint Micheal’s Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Parish in Grand Rapids, MI. In May of 2015, he awarded a Doctorate of Divinity by Aquinas College where he is closely associated.
Father Chelich has maintained an active teaching ministry throughout his years of pastoral service. He is an engaging speaker and writer. His written teachings include: “The Religion of Christians,” “Spiritual Geography: the Interior Landscape of Body, Soul and Spirit,” “Praying in Spirit and Truth,” “Living in Communion with God,” “God is Love,” “A Living Relationship With the Word of God,” “The Mass,” “Justice.” “The Foundation and Principles of Catholic Social Teaching,” “Catholic Citizens and American Politics,” “Intimacy,” ”The Orientation God Gave to Sex,” “Catholic and Homosexual,” “Easy Lesson in Evangelization.” His emphasis in his preaching, teaching and writing is the living connection between what we believe and the reality we engage in the world. He has done extensive work on the organization and growth of a Catholic school, and written on the principles involved. In his tenure as pastor of Saint Thomas Parish, he has engaged with great joy, a ministry of conversation with college students.
Email Ted or 616-459-4662 x1303
Hi, my name is Ted Coon and I started working at Saint Thomas as the custodian 30 years ago. At that time, the school only had 190 students in it. As time went by, the church and school started growing and rooms that were empty now were filling up, and with more groups and activities, I needed more help to keep up cleaning and maintaining of the buildings. I became the maintenance supervisor soon after that. I love working here! It’s like having a big family; from the 3 year olds to the long time parishioners. I like taking ownership and pride of what I do: “Do it right the first time!” When I am not working at Saint Thomas, I enjoy riding my bike, camping, hiking, and collecting license plates.
Margo Dean – Office Manager
Email Margo or call 616-459-4662 x1202
Margo Dean is our current Office Manager. Margo began at St. Thomas as the Parish Secretary in August of 1999. Margo came with over 30 years experience as a Secretary, most recently from Arbor Circle. In 2008 Margo took some time to explore religious discernment in Minneapolis and returned to Grand Rapids in 2009. She returned to St. Thomas part time in 2010 and began full time as Office Manager in October 2011. Margo is Secretary to the Pastor, Supervisor of two part time Receptionists and manager of the data base system (PDS).
Margo has two grown children, Amy Sturdavant (living in Grandville, MI) and Allen Hirzel (in the Air Force in North Dakota living with his wife, Ariel, stepdaughter Maeli and dentical twin daughters Kaelyn and LaRae Hirzel).
Email Lori or call 616-459-4662 x1220
I am humbled and grateful to be working for the Church! My StengthsFinder themes include Arranger, Belief, Connector, Developer and Empathy so being called to the Christian Service Director position at Saint Thomas has been a huge blessing for me, my family and hopefully, the parish community too! I appreciate how my work in ministry draws me closer to God and deepens my faith as a disciple of Christ. It is a joy to see the fruits of the Spirit abound as we grow in community and work to build God’s kingdom of peace and justice.
My family and I love being part of the Saint Thomas community. We live in Eastown so Saint Thomas is our neighborhood church and school. Growing in faith and relationship with God is the top priority. We are active in ministry, love to be outside and have a heart for service. Saint Thomas is a wonderful place to build friendships and provides many opportunities for our family to live out our mission of love during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Thanks be to God!
Suzi Furtwangler – School Principal
Email Suzi or call 616-459-4228 x1302
Four sons, six grandbabies and 37 years of marriage have enhanced my love for my ministry as the Principal of Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School. After raising my sons, creating a successful catering business and working in management, I sought a degree in Education. Having attended Aquinas College, I have a Masters degree with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Art Education and have a Catholic School Leadership certificate from Creighton University. God continues to bless our community with lovely families and gentle children who are thriving here at Saint Thomas with a dynamic education centered in Christ.
Pauline Peterson – Parish Bookkeeper
Email Pauline or call 616-459-4662 x1204
I began working at Saint Thomas in the Fall of 2016, after relocating to Grand Rapids from Metro Detroit. I held a similar position in the parish my family belonged to before our move.
My husband Chris and I have two daughters, one son, a granddaughter, grandson and a granddaughter due in July 2019.
I feel truly blessed to be a part of the Saint Thomas community!
Kathy Proulx – Assistant Director of Music Ministry
Email Kathy or call 616-
Kathy and her husband Greg, have been doing music ministry at Saint Thomas since August of 1983! She is a graduate of Catholic Central and Aquinas College. Kathy has been a music teacher at Saint Thomas since 1992 and has four sons. The Proulx family has 2 dogs and you can frequently see Kathy walking the dogs around the neighborhood any day of the week! She enjoys camping, hiking, swimming, and just about anything outdoors.
Patti Reynolds – Faith Formation Director
Email Patti or call 616-459-4662 x1209
Greetings Good People – May the Lord give you peace!
It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve you in my role as Faith Formation Director. Saint Thomas the Apostle is my home parish since 1986 and I have been blessed to serve both as a volunteer in the School and in the Parish and as a member of the Pastoral Staff. As your Religious Education and Faith Formation Director I oversee the Monday Night Religious Education with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, children’s Sacramental preparation, Sunday School program, Vacation Bible School, our Parish Resource Library, the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults & Children) process, as well as the Adult Faith Formation opportunities of our Parish. My husband Ed and I have four adult children; Katy, Patrick, Betsy, and Trisha, who are beautiful inside and out! They have all attended Saint Thomas School and Catholic Central High School. As of August 2105 we have our first grandchild, and we are excited to be parents of the bride of our second daughter in 2016. We are incredibly blessed. I have a vocation in and am a professed member of the Third Order-Secular Franciscan Order journeying alongside Saints Francis & Clare of Assisi and many other friends in Fraternity. It is incredible to realize that we are living members of the Church in Baptism, and that we should go forth as witnesses and instruments of the Church’s mission among all people proclaiming Christ by our life and words…to live the Gospel. This is both challenging and magnificent! Baptized and raised in the United Methodist Church, I came into the Catholic Church when I was 19. My love of the Lord, my family, and Franciscan Spirituality are most important to me.
Pam Strobel – Parish Life Coordinator
Email Pam or call 616-459-4662 x1203
Pam Strobel joined the Saint Thomas staff as the Parish Life Coordinator in August 2020 after being a member of the Parish since 1988. She and her husband, Steve, have raised their seven children at Saint Thomas and have been actively involved in various ministries through the years: cantor, lector, choir member, Liturgy Commission, Homebound Ministry, and Challenge Girls’ Club. Pam and Steve have faithfully directed Vacation Bible School since 2001, engaging thousands of students and volunteers over the years in this wonderful ministry to the parish.
After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s Degree from Michigan State University, Pam was employed at Aquinas College as the Director of Residence Life, before being called to homeschool her children.
Pam feels extremely blessed to serve the Saint Thomas community and to join the parish staff, utilizing her skills and past experiences in promoting and strengthening parish life.
Deacon Jim Thorndill – Deacon
My wife, Diane, and I have been blessed by the Lord in so many ways. We are the parents of five children and nine grandchildren, two married living in Detroit area, one in Orlando married, and two in the Grand Rapids area, one single, one with family. Diane and I have worked in the dental industry for over 35 years, Diane as a sales rep for Oral-B and myself as a designer of dental offices, and it has provided us a means of raising our family and provide for the needs of others. I am a graduate of Grand Rapids community college, with an associate’s degree in business, a bachelor degree of science from Aquinas College in 1977, and a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2007. I entered into a Masters program at Steubenville University, placed that on hold to begin studying for entry as a deacon of the Catholic Church.
I entered the diaconate program in 1999 and was ordained by Bishop Walter Hurley on February 11, 2006. During my ministry at St. Thomas the apostle Parish I have become the spiritual assistant for the third order Franciscans, I have been active in putting on life in the spirit seminars, I’ve had the privilege of hosting Catholic forum, a television show that goes throughout Western Michigan and also podcast. I am also engaged as a guest host with holy family radio, interviewing people from all walks of life, in active pursuit of their Catholic faith. I am a scheduled on-call chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital to help facilitate patients who are in need of spiritual guidance and assistance.
Diane and my greatest joy is to be with our children and grandchildren, spending holidays, birthdays and special events as we engage in watching them grow in maturity and love. Diane and I share a home in Heritage Hills, which we have totally refurbished. We both love the hands-on work and the dedication of finishing a project and seeing the fruits of our labor.
I am in my final years of study at Manresa, a Jesuit retreat house and education Center in Bloomfield Hills, where in 2014, I will be commissioned as a spiritual director and will offer my services to the diocese of Grand Rapids.
Email Lori or call 616-459-4662 x1208
Lori Vernon serves in the ministry of Liturgist for Saint Thomas parish. She has been blessed to be a Catholic since her engagement to her now husband, Dean, in 1986. They have been married for 30 years and now have seven children, a son-in-law, and three grand-children. While in college Lori was both the large group coordinator and the president for two years of the ecumenical campus ministry. She has been involved in various ministries in her past parish including: marriage preparation weekends, Bible Study leader, children’s liturgy, and funeral luncheon volunteer. She answered God’s call to home school her children and also the call with her husband to the Deaconate. During the “Called to Serve” training program for the Deacon Candidates and their wives she studied a large variety of service areas within any parish. Her family moved to Saint Thomas parish in 2004, when Dean was assigned to this parish for his Deacon Internship. The Vernon family felt lovingly welcomed by Fr. Chelich and the entire faith community at Saint Thomas. Lori has been waiting and praying for God’s leading involving ministry at Saint Thomas and she is very excited to have the honor and privilege of becoming part of the staff team!
Tim Wheeler – Assistant Youth Minister
Tim joined the Saint Thomas Staff as Assistant Youth Minister in March 2019 after being a member of the Parish since 2007. He attended Saint Thomas School and graduated in 2012 and continued Catholic Education through Catholic Central High School, graduating in 2016. Tim spent two and a half years in seminary formation for the Diocese of Grand Rapids and for The Fathers of Mercy in Auburn, Kentucky. He has been a volunteer for the Youth Group since 2018 after attending the group as a High School student for four years.
He feels incredibly blessed to be able to serve his home parish in such a beautiful way!
Dennis Williams – Deacon
A graduate of Saint Thomas, Catholic Central, and Aquinas College, Dennis (“Denny”) has been a deacon and parishioner at Saint Thomas for over 50 years. He has been married to Suzanne Haas Williams since 1984, has four children and four grandchildren. Denny retired from the Williams Group, Inc., in 2002 after founding it in 1978; there he served as creative director, writer, and account executive. His community service includes the Peace Corps (Guatemala, 1965-1967), the Grand Rapids Urban League (1980-1984), Heart of West Michigan United Way (1988-1992), and the Dominican Center at Marywood (1998-2004). He has served as the executive director for Epilogos Charities and held various volunteer positions for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Denny has served on the board of directors for the Inner City Christian Federation, and serves on the board of trustees of Aquinas College.