100 Years

The shrine of St. Francis Xavier/Our Lady of Guadalupe parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary (1914-2014) with a Mass and reception on June 7, 2014.

Former pastors, associates, religious staff, parishioners, students, teachers and all whose lives have been touched by the church and school are invited to gather that day for the celebration. It will be a time of honoring the past 100 years and looking ahead to what will be accomplished in the next century.

The occasion begins with a Saturday Mass at 6 p.m., with Bishop David J. Walkowiak presiding. A reception with light refreshments will follow.

For the past several months, parishioners have been gathering photos and memorabilia from the last 100 years for display at the reception. They will also be giving tours of the school building, which served the parish from 1914 until 2005. The school building is now home to Hope Academy of West Michigan.

Throughout the year, we will be celebrating along with our neighbors at Madison Square Church.

Madison Square Church Celebrates Its Centennial with the Neighboring Roman Catholic Church


The Shrine of St. Francis Xavier & Our Lady of Guadalupe, Grand Rapids Michigan

Father John Schmitt, Cathedral rector, purchased the present site for our parish in 1906. At that time four priests from St. Andrew’s Cathedral served this parish until the appointment of Father Thomas Reid as the first resident pastor in August, 1914 Labor Day, September 7, 1914, Bishop Richter blessed and dedicated St. Francis Xavier Church and School building to Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone and to the Patronage of St. Francis Xavier. This first building served as church, school and convent until the 1920’s. The school opened September 8, 1914 with the Sisters of Mercy teaching seventy pupils. On September 13, 1914 the Ladies’ Altar Society was organized.

The cornerstone of the future St. Francis rectory and was laid in 1920.  In the same year, the church basement was completed.Fr. John McAllister was appointed pastor in 1923.  He began the parish bulletin and called it the “Folks and Facts” and was also responsible for naming St. Francis Xavier Parish “The Parish with a Soul”. In 1929 the gym and central heating plant were constructed and in 1938 an addition to the school was completed.  The convent, our current administration building, was completed in 1941.St. John Vianney Parish was established in 1942 and in 1949 Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish was also established.  This reduced the territory of St. Francis Xavier Parish.  In each case a dowry was given to the new parish by St. Francis Xavier, the Mother Parish. October 9, 1955 was the date of the last Sunday Mass in the basement church. 

The following day Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in St. Francis Xavier’s third temporary sanctuary:  the school hall.  Six new classrooms and the auditorium, which served as our temporary church, were completed in 1956. A rally was held on October 10, 1957, initiating the Golden Jubilee Building Fund Campaign to erect our present church.  In 1958 the cornerstone was set.  The first Mass in the new church was celebrated December 20, 1959.  Msgr. Francis Schultz blessed the cornerstone September 25, 1960. Bishop Allen J. Babcock blessed the new church on October 2, 1960 and on that day 234 children were confirmed. November 24, 1960, Thanksgiving Day, Msgr. Schultz consecrated the three permanent altars in the church and enclosed the relics of the Holy Martyrs, St. Auctus and St. Viglans.

During the first half of 1962, the school was remodeled and six new classrooms were added. January 28, 1963 the completed school building was opened for classes. Msgr. Schultz retired in 1969.  The succession of pastors thereafter was:  Fr. Casimir Zawacki, 1970-1977; Fr. David LeBlanc, 1978-1980;  Fr. John Wisneski 1980-1987; Fr. Charles Antekeier, 1987-2000;   and Fr. Josè Quintana, 2000 to the present.During the 1970’s, the church welcomed refugees from the Vietnam War into our congregation.  Their addition brought with it opportunity to experience another culture and the joy of working together. Fr. Antekeier oversaw the relocation of our baptismal font to the entrance of the church. The vacated room for baptisms became our lovely Adoration Room which has been in continuous use ever since.

The nineteen-eighties and nineties saw urban sprawl develop, parish membership dwindle and school enrollment reach a critical point.  Sadly, the school was forced to close.  But God provided for us.  Lighthouse school saw the site as a good location for their alternative educational program. It made improvements to the building, added classrooms, and through the rental income, we were blessed with financial stability. By 2000, St. Francis Xavier’s congregation had an expanding Hispanic and Latino component.  Sensitive to their needs, our new pastor, Rev. José Quintana, commissioned José Antonio Silva Beltran of Tepozotian, Mexico to sculpt a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the church.  In 2002, the statue was blessed by Saint John Paul II in Mexico City.  It was then brought by parishioners to our church via an arduous three week, 18 stations pilgrimage. At the end of the pilgrimage, the statue was installed in the church and the parish became the Shrine of  St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Shrine’s beautiful consecration ceremony was held September 7, 2002, with Bishop Rose, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico and Father Jose Quintana presiding. Many of our youth and parents have traveled with Deacon Ken Baldwin to Juarez, Mexico and have seen the great need for compassionate service. Thanks to the charisma and careful teaching of the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Winifred Wheeler, Angie Cicconi, Deacon Ken Baldwin, Ignacio Vidal and many, many others, our youth have grown in faith and service to the Lord.  June 1, 2013, with heartfelt joy, we proudly watched the ordination of two of our young men: Michael Schwartz and James VanderLaan. We pray others will be nurtured by such dedicated youth leaders and loving parents enabling them to make similar life commitments. Today, June 7, 2014, we thankfully gather to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1914 founding of the Shrine of St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  We are honored to have as the principal celebrant of the Mass, Bishop David J. Walkowiak, the newly installed bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.