1969 - 1980
1969-1980 Fr. William J. Fitzgerald. pastor
Richard M. Nixon 1969-1974
Gerald Ford 1974-1977
Jimmy Carter 1977-1980
Paul VI 1963 - 1978
John Paul I 1978
John Paul II 1978 - 2005
July 21, 1971: The Diocese of Kalamazoo was formed with Bishop Paul V. Donovan as the first bishop (1971 – 1994).
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave 18 year olds the right to vote. The Watergate Scandal began in 1972 and led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam ending that war in 1975. John Paul II as the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years was elected in 1978.
Patterns of Parish life that developed in the 60s continued into the 70s. A monthly parish publication,Parish Pride, began in January 1970 to inform the parishioners not only about what was going on in the parish but also to note the WHO and WHY of the many things that happened in the parish. The Parish Council was expanded in 1971 with Commissions for Education, Christian Service, and Spiritual Development. Later in the 70s the Activities Commission was formed. A Right to Life Committee became active in the parish.
Parish outreach continued to expand during the 1970s. In 1969 the Diocese of Lansing rented the former convent which was renamed the Albers House of Studies for the students who were studying in Kalamazoo in preparation for entering the seminary. Then in 1972 the McKercher Rehabilitation Center rented the space for a group living home known as the Wisner House. In the early 1970s, the weekly Sunday Spanish Mass began to serve Spanish speaking people who were moving into the area. The parish welcomed a refugee family from Vietnam and continued care for this family as well as other refugee families.
In 1971 a social worker was added to the parish staff to coordinate the various works of Christian Services. The Emergency Food Shelf Project was initiated to provide for 24 to 48 hour emergency food needs for families in crisis situations, particularly when other funds or sources of help were temporarily unavailable. Christian Services actively worked with other agencies, such as the Edison Neighborhood Center to provide needed services to parishioners and others. Holiday baskets for the needy were delivered. Within the parish family, members responded to the grieving by providing dinners which were served after funerals. Blood drives were held.
An ecumenical bookstore, library, and coffee house on Washington Square were founded by many churches, including St. Joseph’s, in the Edison area to aid in the spiritual enrichment of the community. It was called “David’s” because it stood against the “Goliath” of an adult bookstore and theater that opened in the deteriorating shopping area. A St. Joseph parishioner was coordinator of the project. In 1979 David’s was expanded to include a “Soup Kitchen” in a tiny space known as Fitz Inn.
Loving care was extended when Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were commissioned in 1972 to bring Holy Communion those who were unable to be physically present to worship with the community. Visits were made to the homebound, the hospitalized, and those in nursing homes. There was an annual communal Anointing of the sick within a Sunday Mass for those who wished to be anointed and who could come at that time. This was known as the “Homecoming Mass”.
Sacramental celebrations were times of joy.
Ministry was broadened in 1977 when Abraham Cardosa and José Escamilla were ordained permanent deacons for the Diocese of Kalamazoo. In the same year, Dick Fleckenstein and Tom Heflin entered the permanent deacon study program. They were ordained in 1980.
The Church’s mission to hand on the faith found many means. In the early 1970s a parish lending library provided materials for spiritual reading, religious instruction and inspirational recreational reading. The Religious Education Department provided a public access program for children called “The Lion’s Lighthouse”. Some of the neighborhood churches continued to offer cooperative Vacation Bible School Programs here in our facilities. Both the Cursillo Movement and the Charismatic Renewal were vital contributors to parish spirituality. In 1979 the parish was mapped into sections or “clusters” which would become the foundation for Small Christian Communities. Marriage Encounter provided a way for couples to deepen their relationship.
Parents were supported in their role of bringing their children up in the faith through St. Joseph School, Hackett High School, and the parish religious education and youth ministry programs. This was the time of the laity having more direct involvement in these ministries. In 1970 a lay person was hired as Religious Education Director and in 1976 a youth minister was hired. For a while there was family religious education in the homes as well as some weekday Masses celebrated in homes. The number of lay people in ministry increased as some religious sisters and lay people ministered together in the parish.
The Education Commission established the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) to help families who at the time were unable to meet the school tuition or the religious education fees. The School Booster Club was started to support school activities. Bingo provided some financial support for the parish school.
There were two Masses anticipating Sunday on Saturday. One was celebrated at 5:15 PM and the other at 7:00 PM. The four Sunday Masses were at 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, and 12:00 Noon. There was a Spanish Mass later in the day. The Thursday 6:30 AM Mass was begun in response to the request of some people who had made a Cursillo who wanted to attend Mass mid-week before going to work. Parishioners took the first steps of implementing The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This way of bringing people into the life and mission of Jesus as lived by the Church was restored by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Many parishioners began to serve as Lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
Changes were made within the church building beginning in the mid 1970s: fresh paint and decorations; reconditioned pews; a new room for the Sacrament of Penance; and a new sound system. The organ was moved from the choir loft to a downstairs location near the front of the church. In 1978 the Sanctuary Design Committee was formed to develop a plan, with input from parishioners, to bring the worship space more into harmony with the norms for liturgy set forth by the Second Vatican Council.
Through a motion of the Parish Council, the two school buildings were named in 1976. The one facing Race Street was named to honor the memory of Fr. Joseph M. Rochford and the one facing Lake Street in memory of Terrence R. Bennett in view of his involvement in its design and plans for use.
An All Parish Festival Mass was celebrated in the Hackett High School Gym on March 13, 1977. Preceding the Mass, Fr. Fitzgerald burned the mortgage for the Bennett Building. There were no other parish Masses that week end. It was a grand parish celebration.
Many activities brought the community together. Some were money makers. The prices for the Lenten Fish Dinners were for a Family $5.00; Adults $1.50; High School Students $1.00; Grades 1-8 $0.75, and Pre-School free. The first annual Christmas Bazaar sponsored by the Women’s Club and Catering Committee was held in 1973. This became a continuing event looked forward to by many people: the workers, crafters, and the buyers. There were Vaudeville Shows known as the St. Joe Follies. Parishioners participated in Hackett High School’s Cabarets to benefit Catholic secondary education.
Other activities served mainly to bring people together socially. These times included such activities as parish camp outs; parish picnics, New Years’ Eve parties, Sunday morning coffee and donuts, and other gatherings.
Volunteer Fairs informed parishioners of what was going on in the parish and drew them into the activity.
Father Fitzgerald touched the lives of many people and brought out the best in them. Under his leadership, the parish remained strong even though many members were moving out of the geographic area, and the parish was losing its identity as a neighborhood church. The bonds among the people were strong, and the parish was able to welcome the new people who moved into the area. Fr. Fitzgerald was transferred to St. Philip Parish in Battle Creek in 1980.
What are your memories of the years when Fr. Fitzgerald was pastor?
Monsignor William J. Fitzgerald died July 14, 2015.