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St. John the Baptist Catholic Church at 2099 North Hacker Road, Howell, MI 48855 US - History of St. John Church

History of St. John Church

The history of St. John Church begins in 1838 when Mass was celebrated in the homes of various parishioners. On February 12, 1843, with the appointment of Fr. Patrick O’Kelly, we became a mission, one of several administered by Fr. O’Kelly.

When the people saw the need to build a church, they formed a committee consisting of Michael, Patrick and Daniel Bergin, Thomas and Michael McGuire, Hugh McKeever and John Weakley. A map was drawn marking where each family lived. Michael Bergin walked to Detroit and presented it to the Bishop asking him to mark the spot to build a church. On January 20, 1844, two acres of land were purchased for $50.00 from Michael McGuire on which the church now stands.

Since the first log church, the building has changed construction several times. When the congregation had grown to necessitate an addition, a frame construction was built of brick in 1868, bearing the date of June 24, 1868 on the cornerstone. June 24th is the date celebrated as the feast of John the Baptist. In 1873, the frame structure was moved across the road so services could be held while the east portion of the brick building was completed.

It wasn’t until 1912 that Mass was celebrated every Sunday at St. John. In the years between 1912 and 1936, many changes occurred on the interior of the church with the addition of Stations of the Cross, statues, a Communion rail and side altars.

St. John’s has two cemeteries, one on Brophy Road that is no longer in use and one adjacent to the church. Some additional property was deeded from the Michael Bergin estate to add to the original purchase for extension of the cemetery. The cemetery was ably administered and maintained for many years by the Robert Foldenauer, Sr. family. It is now being maintained by St. John’s maintenance personnel.

For many years St. John’s had been administered by St. Patrick Church in Brighton. In 1952, St. John parishioners made pledges to help build St. Patrick school. A bus route was established to enable children from the parish to attend. Children also received religious instruction at Saturday morning classes at St. Patrick. By 1968, conditions became too crowded, so on November 3, 1968, religious instruction was held for the first time in the church after Sunday Mass. By December, 1969, arrangements were made with Hartland Schools to rent classrooms in the Primary School Building. The following year, all classes were moved to the high school next to the park, now the Hartland Village Elementary School.

In June 1968, Thomas Clark, Sr. and Kathleen Farmer were elected to the Parish Council at St. Patrick to represent St. John’s. In September, 1969, the first Parish Council was elected at St. John’s and continued in its role of fulfilling parish needs and advising the pastor.

Sunday, June 23, 1968 marked the Centennial Celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. John Church. Bishop Alexander Zaleski celebrated Mass and many members of the community joined in the dinner and reception following the liturgy. The following year, another dinner was held so parishioners could gather together, and a profit of $456.50 was unexpectedly made. This was the start of the very successful annual Steak Fry. This event has come to be the largest fund raiser for the parish. It is now the annual parish picnic and raffle.

On August 22, 1970, 17 acres were purchased from Frank and Kathleen Farmer as the future site of a new building for St. John’s. In the succeeding years, much discussion and planning evolved concerning the proposed building. A mobile home was purchased in June, 1973 and placed on the new property as a residence for the weekend priest. In 1974, part of the trailer began to be used for parish offices.

Growth at St. John’s began to flourish in 1972 with 65 families registering that year. This rose to over 90 families in 1974 and continued to increase for several years. Our growth and independence was finally recognized on October 14, 1974 when we were officially designated as a parish with Fr. Allen Theis’ appointment as our first pastor.

Fr. Theis’ appointment ended in April, 1976 and on July 11, Fr. Thomas Thompson was appointed as our second pastor.Under his leadership we mushroomed from a rural parish to a burgeoning suburban community. It was a difficult and challenging time having to celebrate Mass at Hartland High School until a successful pledge drive lead to the building of the Center. Fr. Tom was also responsible for the beginning of the Renew Program, in-depth pre-marriage preparation, and the expansion of the Religious Education Program.

Following Fr. Tom, Fr. Al Wakefield served as pastor at St. John. Deacon Frank Wines then served as temporary pastoral administrator followed by Fr. Terry Healy, who served for a short time as pastor. Fr. Joe Peariso assumed the leadership as pastor in October, 1987 through May 1993. Fr. David Speicher became pastor in July, 1993, followed by Fr. Francis George in July, 2000, who continues in this position today.

Continued growth and the needs of our parish community demanded a larger Church and Christian Formation Center. With that in mind, Fr. Dave Speicher and a Building Committee began the fundraising and planning, Fr. Francis George and the Building Committee implemented and worked through the completion. The end result was a beautiful new church, which was erected on the corner of M-59 and Hacker Road. The new St. John Church was designed and built with beauty, symmetry, harmony, and stability. It stands as a testimony of good stewardship and faith in the future of our parish. It is truly a holy structure, a wonderful place to worship and serve God. The first Mass was celebrated at the "Dedication of our new Church and Altar" on Sunday, October 27, 2002. 

A distinguished history was built upon in succeeding generations by devoted people dedicated in their love of God and sense of parish community. We are sure this same sense of faith and love will continue in the years to come.


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