History of the Bishops | Diocese of Lansing

History of the Bishops

History of the bishops of Lansing

Bishop Joseph H. Albers was the founding bishop, who came to Lansing from Cincinnati in 1937 and served 28 years until his death in 1965.

Bishop Alexander M. Zaleski was the second Lansing bishop, serving 10 years. He had served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 1950.  He was sent to Lansing in 1964 as Apostolic Administrator and Coadjutor Bishop of Lansing with right of succession.  He assumed the full Bishop's role upon Bishop Albers' death in 1965.

Bishop Kenneth J. Povish was the third bishop at the helm, having assumed the responsibility after Bishop Zaleski's death in 1975. Bishop Povish, an Alpena Michigan native, came to Lansing after five years as Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota. Bishop Povish died September 5, 2003.

Reverend Monsignor Carl F. Mengeling of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana was appointed to serve as the fourth Bishop of Lansing.  His ordination and Installation occurred on January 25, 1996 at St. Mary Cathedral, Lansing.

Biographical Data of Former Bishops

Most Rev. Joseph A. Albers, 1937-1965

A native of Cincinnati, Joseph H. Albers was born in 1891 and attended parochial schools in Corryville, Ohio. After receiving his preparatory education at St. Gregory and St. Francis Colleges, and his philosophical and theological education at Mt. St. Mary in Cincinnati, he was ordained a priest in 1916. Fr. Albers' first appointment was as an assistant at St. Mary's in Cincinnati.

As the United States entered World War I, Fr. Albers sought to serve his country, and was commissioned as a chaplain for the armed forces on June 1, 1918. He served overseas with the infantry, and took part in several battles including San Mihiel, the Argonne and Chateau Thierry. Chaplain Albers was wounded three times and gassed, and received the Silver Star for bravery and valor before his discharge from service in 1919. Returning to priestly work in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, he was appointed secretary to Archbishop Moeller, who had ordained him three years earlier, and also appointed Assistant Chancellor of the Archdiocese. He continued in these roles, adding parish work as well for six years then was made Chancellor of the Archdiocese and was named a Monsignor in 1926. Then he studied canon law for two years at Apollinaire University in Rome, receiving a doctorate in Canon Law.

Upon return to the United States, Msgr. Albers resumed his post as Chancellor of the archdiocese, and in 1929 at the age of 38, was consecrated a bishop, making him one of the youngest bishops in the country, as Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati. He continued in this role until he was assigned in May 1837 to establish the new Lansing Diocese.

The year 1954 marked the 25th anniversary of Bishop Albers' consecration as a bishop, and in August of that year, he was honored with appointment as Assistant at the Pontifical Throne.

Several years later, Bishop Albers found himself in failing health, and he asked for help in the administration of the diocese. Msgr. Michael J. Green, pastor of St. Joseph parish in St. Johns and Vice Chancellor of the Lansing Diocese, who had previously been secretary to Bishop Albers, was consecrated a bishop and appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Lansing from 1962-1967.

Most Rev. Alexander M. Zaleski, 1965-1975

On October 7, 1964, the Most Rev. Bishop Alexander M. Zaleski was sent from the Archdiocese of Detroit to new duties in Lansing, and as eventual successor to the ailing Bishop Albers, who died on December 1, 1965. One of seven children, Alexander M. Zaleski was born in Laurel, N.Y., on June 24, 1906.

He attended preparatory school in New Jersey, and then went to St. Mary's College at Orchard Lake, Michigan. For Theology he attended the American College at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He was ordained as a priest in 1931 in Louvain. The new Fr. Zaleski was an assistant pastor at a couple of Detroit parishes before returning to Europe for scripture studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, from 1932-35.

Returning to Michigan, he became a Professor of Scripture at St. Mary's College and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake. In 1937, he became Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit under Archbishop Edward Cardinal Mooney. Fr. Zaleski was named a Monsignor in 1946.

In 1949, Msgr. Zaleski was assigned to his first pastorate, at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Pontiac. But it was quite brief. The next year, Pope Pius XII appointed Alexander M. Zaleski as Titular Bishop of Lyrbe and Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, serving first under Cardinal Mooney and later under Archbishop and then John Cardinal Dearden. Bishop Zaleski was appointed Vicar General of the Detroit Archdiocese in 1956.

Eight years later, with Lansing Bishop Albers in failing health, Bishop Zaleski was transferred to Lansing and in 1965 he became second Bishop of Lansing. Bishop Zaleski had significant responsibility nationally within the hierarchy. He was the first chairman of the five member Committee on Doctrine for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops during critical times, just as the reforms and winds of change fostered by Vatican II reached America. He also was a Trustee of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Zaleski’s health began to fail and he requested assistance in administration of the Lansing Diocese. Fr. James S. Sullivan had been working closely within the chancery in several capacities and for various times as Bishop Zaleski's secretary, vice chancellor, director of the vocations and the liturgy office. On September 21, 1972, Fr. Sullivan was consecrated a bishop. He served as Auxiliary Bishop of Lansing from 1972 until 1985. Bishop Zaleski continued as Bishop of Lansing until his death in May 1975.

Most Rev. Kenneth J. Povish, 1975-1995

The third Bishop of Lansing, Kenneth J. Povish, was the only past bishop who was a native of Michigan. He was born in 1924 in Alpena, and attended both parochial and public schools there.

He entered St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids and completed his college work at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.  He undertook theological studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Saginaw in 1950.  Fr. Povish served as assistant in Rogers City and Bay City before becoming pastor at St. Mary in Port Sanilac, then St. Norbert in Munger. From 1960-66, Fr. Povish was on the faculty of the now-closed St. Paul Seminary in Saginaw, and in 1966 became pastor of St. Stanislaus, in Bay City.

Along with his pastoral duties, Fr. Povish served as Director of Catholic Charities in Bay City and as director of Religious Education for the Saginaw Diocese. Among other interests which attracted his service were the Mexican Apostolate of the Saginaw Diocese and work with the Council of Catholic Women, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and All Saints High School in Bay City.

Fr. Povish left Michigan in 1970 when he was appointed as the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, where he served until he was transferred to the Diocese of Lansing and installed as its third bishop on December 11, 1975.

In addition to his duties as Bishop, he was also Chairman of two national committees for the bishop’s conference: the Committee for Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the Committee on Vocations. Bishop Povish was also a member of the Executive Board of the National Conference of Bishops and on the Committee for Laity and the Committee for Communications.  For a number of years he served as the Episcopal moderator for the National Council of Catholic Women.

For a number of years while he was a parish priest in the Saginaw Diocese, Bishop Povish wrote a regular column for the Catholic Weekly newspaper. Upon his return to Michigan as Bishop of Lansing, he again was a regular columnist for the newspaper, and an articulate spokesman for the Faith on a regular television program, called Real to Reel.

After a long battle with cancer, Bishop Povish died on September 5, 2003.

Most Rev. Carl F. Mengeling, 1996-2008

Bishop Carl F. Mengeling was born October 22, 1930 in Hammond Indiana, the son of Carl H. and Augusta Huke Mengeling, who were both German immigrants.  Initially raised a Lutheran, at the age of nine Bishop Mengeling was baptized a Catholic.  He attended St. Mary Elementary School in Griffith, Indiana; graduated from Griffith High School in 1948; and attended St. Meinrad College and Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana staffed by the Benedictines.

He was ordained a priest by Bishop Andrew G. Grutka on May 25, 1957 at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, Indiana.  This was the first ordination class of the newly formed Diocese of Gary.  After serving as the associate pastor of St. Mark Parish in Gary, he was sent to Rome for advanced studies.  Bishop received a License in Sacred Theology at the Angelicum University and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at Alfosnianum Academy.  He was in Rome for the opening of the Second Vatican Council and served as a page during some Council sessions.

Upon his return to the United States in 1964, Bishop Mengeling taught at the high school and college levels for several years.

He returned to full time parish work serving as pastor of parishes in Hammond, Cedar Lake, Portage, and Munster.  He was named Monsignor in June 1894.  His involvement in the Gary Diocese included chairing the Diocesan Worship Commission and the Vocations Committee.  He founded the diocesan Institute of Religion and chaired it for fourteen years.  He also served on the Presbyteral Council, the Ecumenical Commission and the Permanent Diaconate Formation Team.

On November 7, 1995, Bishop Mengeling was appointed to succeed Kenneth J. Povish as Bishop of Lansing.  He was the first priest of the Gary Diocese to be elevated to the episcopacy.  He was ordained a bishop on January 25, 1996 at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing by Cardinal Adam Maida.  The co-consecrators were Kenneth J. Povish, retired Bishop of Lansing, and Dale J. Melcek, coadjutor Bishop of Gary.

During his first years in Lansing, Bishop focused on the implementation of Pope John Paul the Great’s apostolic letter Tertio Mellennio Adveniente to prepare the entire diocese for the third millennium of Christianity.  A Jubilee 2000 Commission was established to coordinate four years of activities.

The nationally award winning magazine, “Faith,” was instituted in January 2000 as a means to help people deepen their faith in Jesus Christ and to build His Body, the Church.

Convinced of the importance of ministry to youth, Bishop Mengeling met in 1999 with the Knights of Columbus leadership in the diocese and shared his vision for a special center for youth on the campus of St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt.  Bishop Mengeling presided at the blessing of Bethany House on the diocesan feast day, December 8, 2001.

He commissioned 96 Lay Ecclesial Ministers, ordained 33 priests and 43 permanent deacons.

Bishop Mengeling has always been a strong supporter of Catholic schools.

Believing that building projects give people a sense of ownership and responsibility for the church, he encouraged pastors to build new churches.  Bishop Mengeling dedicated over a dozen newly built or extensively renovated worship spaces.

Bishop Mengeling celebrated his fortieth anniversary with the priests of the diocese in 1997 with a celebration of evening prayer and a dinner.  Due to his bout with cancer, the celebration of Bishop Mengeling’s 50th anniversary was postponed and held at St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing in October 2007.

Bishop Mengeling retired upon the announcement of his successor in February 2008.

Auxiliary Bishops

Most Rev. Michael Joseph Green

Bishop Green became the first auxiliary bishop of the diocese. The St. Joseph native was ordained a priest on July 14, 1946, in the same church of St. Joseph parish where he had been baptized in 1917. After serving a year as secretary and notary of the diocesan Tribunal, he was sent to Rome in 1951. He returned to the diocese in 1954 with a summa cum laude doctorate in Canon Law from the Lateran University.

After two years as Bishop Albers' secretary, in 1957 Fr. Green was appointed pastor of St. Joseph parish in St. Johns. He assumed the position of vice chancellor at the same time. In December 1959, Fr. Green was invested as a domestic prelate. Msgr. Green was consecrated a bishop at St. Mary Cathedral on August 28, 1962.

Five years later in 1967, Bishop Green was transferred to Reno, Nevada, as the ordinary of the diocese. He resigned from the Reno Diocese in 1974 and returned to the Lansing Diocese. He served as pastor of St. Joseph, Adrian, from 1975 until his retirement in 1979. He died August 30, 1982, and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Lansing.

Most Rev. James S. Sullivan

James Stephen Sullivan was our second auxiliary. The Kalamazoo native was ordained a priest at St. Mary Cathedral on June 4, 1955 by Bishop Joseph H. Albers.  During Bishop Alexander M. Zaleski's tenure Fr. Sullivan became most closely identified with the chancery. From 1966 to 1969, he served as Bishop Zaleski's secretary and from 1968 to 1972 as vice chancellor. Fr. Sullivan helped organize and directed the liturgy office for the diocese for a number of years. The office received national recognition under his direction for its commentary and homily services and for the marriage preparation program "To Love and To Honor." Vocation director was another hat Fr. Sullivan wore before he became Auxiliary Bishop of Lansing in September 1972.

Upon Bishop Zaleski's death, Bishop Sullivan was appointed Administrator of the diocese until the appointment of Bishop Povish. In February 1978, Bishop Sullivan became a pastor for the first time at St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing, where he remained until his appointment as Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, in May 1985.  Bishop Sullivan served as Bishop of Fargo until his retirement in March 2002.  Bishop entered eternal life on June 12, 2006.

Native Sons Who Became Bishops

Most Rev. Joseph Rademacher

The first native son of the diocese to become a member of the Church's hierarchy was Joseph Rademacher who was born in the parish of St. Peter in Westphalia in 1840. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Fort Wayne in August 1864. After serving as chancellor of the diocese, he was consecrated Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee on June 24, 1883. In 1893, Bishop Rademacher was transferred to the Diocese of Fort Wayne where he died in January 1900.

Most Rev. Paul V. Donovan

Although born in Iowa, the fifth of nine children, the family moved to Lansing and he attended St. Mary Cathedral High School.  He was ordained May 20, 1950 by Bishop Albers at St. Mary Cathedral and celebrated his first Mass as a priest at Resurrection parish in Lansing.

After two stints as Bishop Albers' secretary and receiving a licentiate in Canon Law from the Lateran University in Rome, he became a pastor in 1959. Fr. Donovan remained at Our Lady of Fatima, Michigan Center, from 1959 until his appointment to St. Agnes, Flint in January 1968.  When Kalamazoo was created a diocese on July 21, 1971, Fr. Paul Vincent Donovan became its bishop.  For twenty three years Bishop Donovan guided the Kalamazoo Diocese before his retirement in 1994.  Bishop Donovan was born into eternal life on April 28, 2011.

Msgr. Albert Koenigsknecht

Msgr. Albert Koenigsknecht, M.M., was a native of Most Holy Trinity Parish, Fowler. In 1942, the young seminarian decided to join the Maryknoll Missioners. He was ordained at Maryknoll, New York, on June 10, 1945. With the exception of three years in Mexico, Msgr. Koenigsknecht spent his entire priesthood serving the Church in Peru.

In 1973, Msgr. Koenigsknecht was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Juli Prelature with a population of about 350,000 people. An Apostolic Administrator has the rank of a bishop without the privilege to ordain. Msgr. Koenigsknecht died in an automobile accident in February 1986 in Peru.

Most Rev. James A. Murray

James Murray was born in Jackson, Michigan to James Albert and Marcella Clare (Nee Harris) Murray; he has two older brothers, Joseph and William.  After attending St. Mary Elementary and High Schools in Jackson, he studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, from where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree, and St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, earning his Bachelors in Sacred Theology.  Murray was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph Albers on June 7, 1958, and then served as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph until 1961.

He then worked as an assistant pastor at St. Mary Cathedral, and did pastoral work at St. Therese Parish.  He received a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. in 1964.  Murray served as pastor of St. Gerard Parish in Lansing from 1962 to 1973, whence he became rector of St. Mary Cathedral.  In addition to his duties as rector, he served as chancellor, curial moderator, and tribunal judge for the Diocese of Lansing as well.  Murray was also a diocesan ecumenical officer, chaplain of the Lansing police, and sat on several committees of the Michigan Catholic Conference.  He was raised to the rank of Honorary Prelate of Honor to His Holiness in 1993.

On November 18, 1997, Murray was appointed the third Bishop of Kalamazoo by Pope John Paul II.  He received his Episcopal consecration on January 27, 1998 from Adam Cardinal Maida (Archbishop of Detroit), with Bishops Paul V. Donovan (first Bishop of Kalamazoo) and Carl F. Mengeling (Bishop of Lansing) serving as co-consecrators, in St. Augustine Cathedral.  He selected as his Episcopal motto:  “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4).

Upon his retirement in 2009, he served as Apostolic Administrator of Kalamazoo until the installation of his successor, Paul J. Bradley, on June 6, 2009.  He continues to reside in Kalamazoo.

The Diocesan Shield (Coat of Arms)

The Diocese of Lansing has a unique shield as part of its ecclesiastical heraldry. The See City is in Ingham County. The coat of arms of the Ingham family featured a cross ending at each arm in curves, like the flukes of an anchor. As Lansing is at the confluence of the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers, an anchor-cross appears an appropriate form.

The cross is in blue and silver, the heraldic colors of Our Lady, and these colors are adopted because the Cathedral Church is dedicated to the Blessed Mother under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Behind the cross are two lances in Our Lady's colors suggesting a play on the name of the See City, Lansing. Thus is produced a Diocesan coat of arms which indicates that the Diocese is ready to fight to defend the faith. The Diocese is ready to bear arms for the Faith under the banner and the colors of Our Lady.

The colors of the Diocesan Coat of Arms are: in the upper right quarter and the lower left quarter the hooked cross and the lance are in blue on silver background. In the upper left quarter and the lower right quarter, the hooked cross and the lance are on a blue background. The designer of the shield, which goes back to the founding of the Diocese, was the late Chaignon LaRose, who formerly taught English at Harvard University.

Written by Msgr. George Michalek

All information contained in this document is exclusive property of the Diocese of Lansing, 228 North Walnut Street, Lansing, MI. 48933-1157, (517) 342-2440.

© Copyright Diocese of Lansing, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2012.


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