St. Martin of Tours

Martin, a soldier’s son, was born around 315 in what is now Hungary, grew up in Italy, and spent most of his adult life in Gaul. As a young officer at Amiens he gave half his cloak to a naked, freezing beggar, and the next night had a vision of Christ wearing that same half of the cloak and saying, “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.”  Soon afterward, at age 20, Martin was baptized.  Two years later he asked for a discharge from the army, saying that “I am Christ’s soldier; it is not lawful for me to fight.”  At age 45 he became one of the clergy, and at age 55 was made Bishop of Tours.

St. Martin is known as an evangelizer of rural Gaul, and the father of monasticism in France.  He was an extremely active missionary and had a widespread reputation as a healer and miracle worker.  He traveled widely throughout his diocese and beyond, by foot, by donkey, and by water.  His example and encouragement led to the establishment of a number of religious communities.

St. Martin is one of the first holy people who were not a martyr to be publicly venerated as a saint.  November 11, 2005, his feast day, was the 168th anniversary of St. Martin’s death.


A History of the Diocese of Kalamazoo

The first official Mission in this corner of Michigan was on the shore of Lake Michigan, in the settlement of St. Joseph, in 1690.  It was named the parish of St. Joseph in 1720.  French explorers from Canada came with Jesuit missionaries, followed by Franciscans, and brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the Northwest Territory.

After the American Revolution, all Catholics in this country came under the care of the Bishop of Baltimore.  The Diocese of Detroit, established in 1833, was the beginning of the formal growth of missions in this area.  Chief Pokagon of the Potawatomi Nation signed the 1833 Chicago Treaty only after he was assured that he and his people could remain in the area and practice their Catholic faith.  That year the Chief built a church on forty acres of land in Silver Creek, deeded the land to the Bishop of Detroit, built a church on the property, and twice walked to Detroit to successfully petition the Bishop to send a priest.  As Catholic migrants joined the wagon trains into the vast lands of the west, many were attracted by the rich farmland, the “Michigan Plains,” and the number of Catholics grew.  By 1900 there were 25 Church communities in this part of Michigan.

The Second Vatican Council called for the creation of smaller dioceses so that bishops could be more available to the people they serve.  At the request of Pope Paul VI, a committee of Michigan bishops made a thorough study of the state.  The Holy Father then established two new dioceses in Michigan:  Gaylord and Kalamazoo.  In the nine-county area that comprises the Diocese of Kalamazoo, about 104,000 persons call themselves “Catholic”, or about 11% of the total population.

On July 21, 1971, the Apostolic Delegate of the United States read an Executive Decree creating the Diocese of Kalamazoo, carved from portions of the Diocese of Lansing and Grand Rapids.  John Cardinal Dearden of Detroit ordained a priest from the Diocese of Lansing, The Most Reverend Paul V. Donovan, as Kalamazoo’s first Bishop.

On November 22, 1994, after 23 years of leadership, Bishop Donovan retired and the same day the Vatican announced the appointment of Bishop Alfred J. Markiewicz as the second Bishop of Kalamazoo.  Upon the sudden death of Bishop Markiewicz, Bishop James Murray was ordained the third Bishop of the Diocese of Kalamazoo on January 27, 1998.  Upon Bishop Murray’s retirement on July 1, 2009, Bishop Paul Bradley was ordained the fourth bishop of Kalamazoo.



A History of St. Martin of Tours Parish

While 2006 marked the 40th anniversary of the designated name of St. Martin of Tours Parish, the beginning of the Vicksburg parish actually dates back over 100 years, to 1906.  As the Lee Paper Company mill grew, it worked to bring a church to Vicksburg to meet the needs of Polish Catholic workers hired form the Chicago, New York and Wisconsin areas, who had been attending Mass in a room in the mill.  Fr. Joseph Lempka took charge of building the first church, a small wooden building measuring just over 30 by 60 feet on West Prairie Street.  The church building was completed in 1906, and was intended to be called St.

Frederick in gratitude to Frederick Lee of the paper company.  But Fr. Lempka, fearing his name might not be acceptable to the Polish congregation, delayed giving the new parish an official name.  Then, within two months after the building was completed, Fr. Lempka was reassigned to Hilliards.  The Vicksburg parish, lacking a priest, became a mission of St. Edward Parish in Mendon.  Due to this connection, the Vicksburg church also came to be referred to as St. Edward, but officially had no name for 60 years. 

In 1951 a resident priest, Fr. Frank Burger, was again appointed to the Vicksburg church.  Attendance grew, and in 1958 a building campaign was begun under the pastor, Fr. Benjamin Ginther.  Groundbreaking for the new church on W Avenue took place in January 1960.  Fr. Ginther received permission to designate the new church as St. Martin of Tours, which was to have been the name of the original church in Mendon.  Bishop Alexander Zaleski of Lansing dedicated the church building on November 10, 1966, the eve of the feast of St. Martin of Tours.

St. Martin’s continued to be served by resident priests until 1992, when Marvin and Bernie Downey, pastoral administrators, were assigned.  In 1995, Sr. Marjorie Manning, CSC, served as pastoral administrator and Fr. Thomas Martin as pastor.  The parish grew rapidly, and a new church was built behind the existing one in 2001-2002 and dedicated on May 26, 2002.  The old church became the Monsignor Martin Parish Hall.  Currently, church membership consists of about 350 families.  Fr. James Vinh Le was appointed pastor in June 2005.  He served our community from 2005 thru July 11, 2010.  Fr. John D. Fleckenstein was named Canonical Pastor on July 12, 2010, and with Fr. Christopher Ankley and Fr. James Adams assigned as Assistant Pastors, they all served both St. Martin of Tours and St. Catherine of Siena of Portage.  On July 1, 2011, Rev. Ankley was named Pro-tem Parochial Administrator while a Pastor was being sought for the parish. On St. Martin of Tours Feast day,  Nov. 11, 2011 Rev Christopher Ankley was installed as Pastor of St. Martin of Tours.



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