For one hundred and seventy-five years, the observance of the Catholic faith in Adrian, Michigan, has not only been built on solid foundations, but, like a light placed on a lampstand (cf, Mt 5:15) has illuminated numerous souls with Christ’s saving truth well beyond the city of Adrian and its environs. The continuous evangelization of this area dates to the 1840s, when the Reverend Simon Saenderl, first Superior of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) in America, ministered to the faithful in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties. This early activity culminated in 1852 with the building of a frame church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Reverend Peter Kindekins was appointed the first pastor of this nascent community. His reputation for missionary endeavors had already been well established; even the tireless missionary, the Venerable Servant of God Frederic Baraga, commended Father Kindekins for his “zeal and devotion to the missions” (Letter of Ven. Frederic Baraga to Bishop Lefevere, Coadjutor of Detroit, Oct 12, 1846). Such zeal carried Father Kindekins, while serving as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Adrian, to become the founding rector of the American College of the Immaculate Conception, called the American College of Louvain, in Belgium, established by the bishops of the United States with the twofold purpose of training European seminarians as missionary priests in North America and giving American seminarians an opportunity to study the theological disciplines within the ancient Catholic University of Leuven. A fire in 1864 would destroy Immaculate Conception Church, Adrian, together with its parish school, but a new church would be raised and dedicated on November 29, 1871 by Bishop Caspar Borgess to the glory of God and the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and subsequently called Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish. At the same time, Adrian experienced significant growth in its population, and German-speaking Catholics desiring to practice the faith in their own language received pastoral care from the German Redemptorists and later established a community under the leadership of the Reverend John G. Ehrenstrasser, which parish church Bishop Borgess dedicated on October 13, 1879 under the patronage of Saint Joseph. In fulfillment of the deathbed vision of Mother Augustine Neuhiel, of a peninsula “dotted white with the habits of Dominican Sisters” both Saint Mary of Good Counsel and Saint Joseph Parishes played significant roles in the growth and development of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary, known as the Adrian Dominican Sisters. In more recent years, Saint Mary of Good Counsel and Saint Joseph Parishes have been a welcoming home to the Spanish-speaking faithful, a source of mutual enrichment in Christ. Thus, the heritage of faith that has developed in this region has been constantly shaped under titles evoking the Holy Family of Nazareth: our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Redeemer; Mary, the Immaculate Conception and Mother of Good Counsel; and the glorious patriarch Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse. From its beginnings, many generations in Adrian have heard the Word of God proclaimed and preached, been nourished by the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and gathered in community frequently to celebrate their faith.
This community of the faithful has been a particular source of joy and enrichment to the Diocese of Lansing since it was joined to its territory in 1971. Under the care of their pastors, parishioners have lovingly brought their children to Christ by baptism, reared them by Catholic education and catechesis, witnessed their marriages in Christ, and committed their departed to him.
Nevertheless, the number of parishioners has gradually diminished. The descendants of the founders and early members of the parish have moved away from the region and have not been replaced by newly arrived members. Likewise, the numbers of those participating in the sacramental life of the Church has diminished. For the sake of a united Catholic presence and due to the need to utilize both human and financial resources most effectively for the service of the Catholic population and as a witness to the entire community of Adrian this merger is most beneficial.
Saint Joseph Parish and Saint Mary of Good Counsel have already engaged in collaborative efforts to unite their ministries for a number of years. Currently, the pastoral staffs have been merged and common resources for catechesis and Christian initiation have been used. After subsequent consultation, the merger of Saint Joseph Parish with Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish has been deemed the best course to follow.
This provision was based upon a combination of factors. These factors included the spiritual welfare of both parish communities, the decline in the Catholic worshiping community in Adrian, the reasonable closeness of the parishes (.8 of a mile distance), the desire to avoid duplication of services, the more effective spread of the Gospel, the promotion of unity among the People of God, the enhancement of collaborative ministry, and the better utilization of the decreasing number of priests.
Thus, to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel and to ensure the vitality of parish life in the area, with concern for the best stewardship of resources and the right of the People of God to receive assistance from the Church, especially the Word of God, spiritual sustenance, and the sacraments, it is necessary to take particular action for the spiritual care of the parishioners of this parish and the good of the diocese. Indeed, this action is motivated principally by concern for souls (Christus Dominus, no. 32) and is required for the good of the faithful (Apostolorum Successores, no. 214).
On October 1, 2018, the Parish Council of Saint Joseph Parish, meeting jointly with the Parish Council of Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, after consultation with their administrator, Reverend John J. Loughran, OSFS, who seeks this for the just cause of the unity of Catholic witness and for the good of the faithful, requested the merger of Saint Joseph Parish with Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, the designation of Saint Joseph Church as an oratory, and the creation of a new parish.
This matter was brought to the Diocesan Pastoral Council in its plenary session on February 1, 2018 and the members unanimously affirmed that Saint Mary of Good Counsel and Saint Joseph Parishes will be merged, that Saint Mary of Good Counsel will be the principal parochial church, of which Saint Joseph will be an oratory. As the norm of universal law requires, I have now consulted the Presbyteral Council on this matter (November 20, 2018). Its members were polled individually and unanimous support was given for the merger of Saint Joseph Parish to Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, and the change of status for Saint Joseph Church to an oratory, and the creation of a new parish.
Therefore, attentive to canons 120, §1, 121 and 515 §§2-3, as well as the "Procedural Guidelines for the Modification of Parishes, the Closure or Relegation of Churches to Profane but not Sordid Use, and the Alienation of the Same" (Congregation for the Clergy, p.n. 2013-1348, April 30, 2013), by virtue of my authority and responsibility as Bishop of Lansing, I hereby decree:
That the parish of Saint Joseph, Adrian, Michigan, be merged (unio extinctiva) with Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, Adrian, Michigan (cf. can. 121). The consolidated community, comprising Saint Mary of Good Counsel Church and the Oratory of Saint Joseph, shall be named Holy Family Parish.
The Reverend Father John J. Loughran, OSFS, current administrator of Saint Joseph Parish and Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, shall remain as administrator of the consolidated parish. He is to foster the pastoral care of the Catholic faithful entrusted to him, bearing in mind the provisions of canon 519.
The patronal solemnity of the parish will be celebrated on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The ownership of all the ecclesiastical goods of the former Saint Joseph Parish and Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, which include all its assets and liabilities, is now transferred to Holy Family Parish, Adrian, under the administration of its administrator. He is to see, in consultation with the diocesan finance officer, that all steps necessary to preserve civilly valid ownership of these goods are taken.
The current church of Saint Mary of Good Counsel shall be the principal place of worship of the consolidated parish. The sacred edifice of Saint Joseph, is now designated as an oratory according to the provisions of canons 1223-1225, and will be the auxiliary place of worship for Holy Family Parish. Any liturgical rites for the proper functioning of the parish may be celebrated at the oratory to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful, as necessary according to the judgment of its administrator.
Before December 30, 2018, the parish registers of the former Saint Joseph Parish containing the records of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, marriage, and deaths as well as parish records and historical documents are to be entrusted to the parish office at the principal worship site at Saint Mary of Good Counsel, Adrian, in a manner determined by the administrator, where they will be faithfully preserved and maintained in accord with canon 535 §1-5. Any registers, records and historical documents that are not required for the continued administration of Saint Joseph Oratory and the adjoining complex are to be forwarded to the Diocesan Archives.
This decree shall take effect December 30, 2018, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Prior to the effective date of this decree, I direct that it be given to the pastoral leadership of the present Saint Joseph Parish and the present Saint Mary of Good Counsel Parish, and that its contents, especially the dispositive part of this decree, be communicated to parishioners of both parishes on the weekend of Saturday, December 15, 2018, and Sunday, December 16, 2018. This may be effected by printing in the bulletin of each parish, or by posting in a public space of each parish church. The “Process to Initiate Recourse against an Administrative Decree” is to be made available as needed.
I further direct that this decree be published on the website of the Diocese of Lansing (www.dioceseoflansing.org) which will be presumed the official notification of this action (cf. canon 8 §2).
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given at the Curia of the Diocese of Lansing on this the 30th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 2018, the Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle.
Most Reverend Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing
Mr. Michael Andrews