Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo Information (Geography)

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Diocese of Kalamazoo

Dioecesis Kalamazuensis
St. Augustine Cathedral-Kalamazoo (cropped).jpg
Cathedral of Saint Augustine
Country United States
Territory Counties of Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, and Branch
Ecclesiastical province Detroit
Area5,337 sq mi (13,820 km2)
- Total
- Catholics

101,888 (11%)

• 3 High Schools

• 2 Middle Schools

• 17 Elementary Schools

• (2 Stand-alone Preschools)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
EstablishedDecember 19, 1970 (48 years ago) [1]
Cathedral Cathedral of Saint Augustine
Patron saint St. Augustine of Hippo
Secular priests75
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Paul Joseph Bradley
Vicar GeneralMsgr. Michael Osborn
Bishops emeritus James Albert Murray
Diocese of Kalamazoo map 1.jpg
Diocese Website

The Diocese of Kalamazoo ( Latin: Dioecesis Kalamazuensis) is a Roman Catholic diocese in the southwestern portion of the State of Michigan. The Diocese of Kalamazoo encompasses Allegan, Van Buren, Berrien, Cass, Saint Joseph, Kalamazoo, Branch, Calhoun, and Barry Counties. The Diocese consists of 46 parishes, 13 missions, 75 priests, and 36 deacons. The Diocese operates 3 high schools, 2 middle schools and 17 grade schools, serving more than 3,000 students throughout the same. There are also two parish run preschools. It currently has 13 seminarians in formation to be priests from the local area and from Colombia and Nigeria.


The territory comprising the Diocese was originally part of the Archdiocese of Detroit. It was later became part of the Diocese of Grand Rapids from which it was created. On December 19, 1970, the Diocese of Kalamazoo was erected by Pope Paul VI and the parish of St. Augustine designated as the cathedral church of the new diocese. The Diocese was officially inaugurated on July 21, 1971, when Paul Vincent Donovan was consecrated and installed as the first bishop. From the erection of the diocese until its closure in 1992 the Diocese of Kalamazoo hosted Nazareth College.


"After Kalamazoo was organized and chartered in 1829, it took three years before the first Catholic mass was said in the home of Dennis Talbot, who was the first Catholic to settle in this region. He hardly settled in an area that tolerated religious diversity. Early accounts of the first churches in Kalamazoo that chronicled the growth of the city didn't even mention Catholics. This is understandable, given the area's first settlers. Hailing from New England and New York, they brought with them all the Puritan ethic of the east coast. Add to the mix the Hollanders, a group of Dutch agriculturists who had fled the motherland's liberal parent church, and one can easily see why "Papists" weren't exactly welcomed with open arms.

Kalamazoo was considered a "mission" in 1843, and jurisdiction for serving the area was given to the founder of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. As early as 1844, the framework for a new church was built. However, there was some question about the title to the land on which it rested, so the project did not have the approval of the bishop of the area. Then a windstorm (reportedly with a degree of human help) blew down the framework, so that building was never completed.

By 1852, however, a church had been erected. It was a 30 by 60 foot structure that stood on West Kalamazoo Avenue west of Park Street. In 1856, the Rev. Anthony Isidoro Label was assigned to the "mission" at Kalamazoo, which now contained 47 Catholic families. He built a pastoral residence, then began work on a new church in the same area. Fr. Label had more members of the congregation than money. He turned to a rich farmer in his flock, Patrick Bunbury, for help. Bunbury mortgaged his farm with a promise from the good father that the money would be repaid. After the church was built, Bunbury, of course, expected his money returned. A less than unbiased report in Harper's Weekly describes the mayhem that ensued. Bunbury was not aware that all church properties became the possession of the bishop. Bishop Borgess refused to repay him. In desperation, Bunbury sued the bishop for his money. The bishop, in turn, threatened Bunbury with excommunication for his action, and the poor, faithful and faith-filled farmer was torn between financial ruin and the very real threat, to him, of damnation and separation from his faith. He capitulated and withdrew the suit. The second church was completed in 1869. Its twin spires stood as a landmark on the city's skyline for nearly a century.

In 1883, the first of two pastors was appointed who would change the opinion of Catholics and the face of Kalamazoo as a city. His name was Fr. Frank A. O'Brien. Under his leadership, the Walter home on Portage Street was purchased for use as a hospital. It was named Borgess Hospital after the current bishop. Then he built the LeFevre Institute west of the church as a new parochial school. Three years later he welcomed 11 Sisters of St. Joseph from Watertown, New York to establish that congregation in the city. They would locate their headquarters at Nazareth on Gull Road. There they founded two private Catholic prep schools, Nazareth Academy for girls and Barbour Hall for boys. The nuns also staffed the hospital, which had outgrown its space on Portage Street (despite several additions) and added a new building on Gull Road in 1917. In spite of opposition to these "catholic" hospitals, they were instrumental in providing health care for Catholics as well as others, especially during the flu epidemic of 1918. Fr. O'Brien also was a prime mover in developing other institutions within the area to meet the demands of the growing Catholic population. Under his aegis, St. Joseph's and St. Michael's Polish Parish (later to become St. Mary's Church) were established, as well as the St. Agnes Foundling Home and the St. Anthony's Home for the Feeble Minded.

Murder raised its ugly head at St. Augustine's in 1923. A Fr. Charles Dillon, assistant rector at St. Augustine's, killed the rector, Fr. Henry O'Neill at their supper table. Fr. Dillon claimed that Fr. O'Neill had never treated him well and had told him to pack his bags and leave on several occasions. On the evening of April 12, during dinner, the same ultimatum was given, and Fr. Dillon went to his room, got a gun and the articles of extreme unction (the sacrament for the dying), returned to the dining room and shot Fr. O'Neill four times...once in the stomach, just above the heart, in his temple and through a lung. He then threw the articles of extreme unction to the other priest seated at the table, and called the police and confessed. Fr. O'Neill's only defense during the attack was to hurl a saltcellar at Fr. Dillon.

In June 1923, the second of St. Augustine's dynamic pastors was appointed to replace Fr. O'Neill. His name was Fr. John Hackett. He intended to remain in Kalamazoo for two years, but stayed for 30. Under his leadership, St. Augustine High School was built in 1926. A grade school was later added to this building. Fr. Hackett then moved the physical plant of the parish from West Kalamazoo Avenue to its present location on West Michigan Avenue. There was built the current St. Augustine's Church (later cathedral), which was dedicated in December 1951. If prejudice against Catholics no longer exists in Kalamazoo, it is because of Fr. Hackett. He was determined to have as much contact with the community as possible in order to dispel the fear and ignorance of Catholics. He succeeded. In 1936 on the 25th anniversary of his ordination, Protestants joined with Catholics in a series of "silver jubilee" gatherings and religious services held in his honor.

St. Augustine Church was officially named St. Augustine Cathedral in July 1971, and Rev. Paul V. Donovan was ordained as the first Bishop of the Kalamazoo Diocese." [2]

Reports of Sex Abuse

On May 24, 2019, a priest who served in the Diocese of Kalamazoo was charged with raping an underage girl in the 1970s and awaits extradition from India. [3] Jacob Vellian, who resides in India, was charged with two counts of rape, which has a maximum sentence of life in prison. [4]


Bishops of Kalamazoo

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops

Coat of arms

These arms are displayed on a red field to bespeak the Native Americans that inhabited and continue to live in the region that is now the Diocese of Kalamazoo. On this field is placed a silver (white) wavy bend (a bar that runs from upper left to lower right) that is the heraldic representation of water. This bend is strewn with a seme (a scattering of no specific number) of blue annulets to represent bubbles. This symbol represents the English equivalent of the Native American name Kalamazoo, which means “boiling pot,” and is used to describe the Kalamazoo River because of the bubbles in the water.

Below the wavy bend is a silver peace pipe, decorated with gold feathers, which was called a “calumet” by the French explorers that came to the region. This symbol of lasting and enduring peace is an object of profound veneration in the Native American culture because it is the supreme proof of hospitality, respecting the peace between parties that could not be broken without incurring the wrath of the gods. The totality of Peace, that is Christ, signified by this symbol, comes to those who believe in him as the Redeemer of the World.

Above the bend is an open book (silver, edged in gold) that displays in red the words Tolle Lege. This charge honors St. Augustine of Hippo, titular of the Cathedral Church in Kalamazoo. The story is related that, as a repentant, St. Augustine meditating on the Sacred Scriptures under a tree heard a little child say “Take and Read” (Tolle Lege). Then opening the text to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Augustine read “let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:13). Considering that he had heard the Voice of God, Augustine took up the religious profession, to the great joy of his mother, St. Monica, eventually becoming the Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. [5]

Diocesan layout

The Kalamazoo Diocese is separated into six deaneries. [6]

Central Deanery (13 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend Lawrence Farrell

St. Augustine Cathedral, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, St. Mary, Kalamazoo, St. Monica, Kalamazoo, St. Thomas More, Kalamazoo, St. Catherine of Siena, Portage, St. Ambrose, Parchment, St. Ann, Gull Lake, St. John Bosco, Mattawan, St. Margaret Mary, Marcellus, St. Mary, Paw Paw, St. Jude, Gobles, St. Martin, Vicksburg

Lakeshore Deanery (13 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend William Jacobs

St. Peter, Douglas, St. Basil, South Haven, Sacred Heart, Bangor, (St. Cyril, Grand Junction), Immaculate Conception, Hartford, San Felipe, Fennville, St. Joseph, Watervliet, St. Joseph, St. Joseph, SS John & Bernard, Benton Harbor, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Bridgman, St. Gabriel, Berrien Springs, St. Mary of the Assumption, Three Oaks, St. Agnes, Sawyer, St. Mary of the Lake, New Buffalo

Southeast Deanery (9 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend German Perez-Diaz

St. Charles, Coldwater, Our Lady of Fatima, Union City, St. Barbara, Colon, Holy Angels, Sturgis, St. Joseph, White Pigeon, Immaculate Conception, Three Rivers, St. Clare, Centreville, St. Edward, Mendon

Southwest Deanery (8 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend Joseph McCormick

Holy Family, Decatur, Sacred Heart, Silver Creek, Holy Maternity, Dowagiac, St. Ann, Cassopolis, Our Lady of the Lake, Edwardsburg, St. Mary, Niles, St. Mark, Niles, St. Anthony, Buchanan

Northern Deanery (7 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend Christian Johnston

St. Mary Visitation, New Salem, St. Stanislaus, Dorr, St. Therese, Wayland, SS Cyril & Methodius, Gun Lake, Blessed Sacrament, Allegan, Sacred Heart, Watson, St. Margaret, Otsego

Eastern Deanery (9 parishes) Dean: Very Reverend Mark Vyverman

St. Jerome, Battle Creek, St. Joseph, Battle Creek, St. Philip, Battle Creek, St. Rose, Hastings, St. Cyril, Nashville, St. Ambrose, Delton, Our Lady of Great Oak, Lacey, St. Mary, Marshall St. John, Albion

Diocesan core


Renew faith, build communion and inspire hope.


Our sacred purpose as the Diocese of Kalamazoo is joyfully to live our Catholic faith, which is rooted in Jesus Christ and the Teachings of His Church, so as to welcome all, speak the Truth in love, and lead all people in our nine counties into the promise of Eternal Life.


Strengthening the Domestic Church Developing Multicultural Leadership Advancing Catholic Schools


Commitment to Christ and His Church -

Guided by the Holy Spirit and embracing the love of the Father through Jesus Christ, we will faithfully follow the Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and generously serve the needs of others.

Collaboration and Consultation -

We will proactively seek wisdom and counsel on all major initiatives impacting the life and ministry of our diocese from appropriate consultative groups.

Good Ordering -

We will model discipleship, professionalism, generosity of spirit and pastoral care as we steward our spiritual and temporal gifts.

Hope -

Our decisions, actions, and ministries will be rooted in prayer and joyfully carried out with competence, care and confidence in God’s promise of salvation. [7]


name location 2014-15 enrollment web page
High Schools
Hackett Catholic Central High School Kalamazoo 274 School Webpage
Lake Michigan Catholic High School St. Joseph 139 School Webpage
St. Philip Catholic Central High School Battle Creek 145 School Webpage
Middle and Elementary Schools
Immaculate Conception Three Rivers 33 School Webpage
Lake Michigan Catholic Elementary St. Joseph 287 School Webpage
Lake Michigan Catholic Middle St. Joseph 83 School Webpage
St. Augustine Cathedral School Kalamazoo 340 School Webpage
St. Basil School South Haven 69 School Webpage
St. Charles Borromeo School Coldwater 136 School Webpage
St. Joseph Elementary Battle Creek 225 School Webpage
St. Joseph Middle Battle Creek 110 School Webpage
St. Margaret School Otsego 84 School Webpage
St. Mary of the Lake School New Buffalo 183 School Webpage
St. Mary School Niles 49 School Webpage
St. Mary School Paw Paw 78 School Webpage
St. Mary's Assumption Bronson 82 School Webpage
St. Mary's Visitiation Byron Center 76 School Webpage
St. Monica Elementary Kalamazoo 334 School Webpage
St. Rose of Lima Hastings 66 School Webpage
St. Stanislaus School Dorr 73 School Webpage
St. Therese School Wayland 46 School Webpage

Total Enrollment 2,855 [8]

See also


  1. ^ "Diocese of Kalamazoo". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  2. ^ Peppel, Fred (July 2005). "St. Augustine's: In Spite of Everything". Kalamazoo Public Library.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Coat of Arms". Diocese of Kalamazoo. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "Six Deaneries" (PDF). Diocese of Kalamazoo. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  7. ^ "Vision" (PDF). Diocese of Kalamazoo. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  8. ^ "Office of Schools Annual Report 2014-2015" (PDF). Diocese of Kalamazoo. Retrieved February 24, 2016.

External links

DIOCESE OF KALAMAZOO Latitude and Longitude:

42°17′30″N 85°35′29.2″W / 42.29167°N 85.591444°W / 42.29167; -85.591444