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Guest post: 185 years of Catholic education in our diocese

January 29, 2018
A file photo of old school desks.

Guest post by David Sipka, Diocesan Catholic School Board chair

Catholic education in the Diocese of Grand Rapids has a long history -- and a bright future.

By the time the Diocese of Grand Rapids was established on May 19, 1882, seventeen parochial schools across the region were already educating 2,867 students. At that time, the diocese included 39 counties north of a line connecting Grand Rapids, just north of Lansing, and Saginaw.

The first of these schools had been established years before, by missionary priest Father Frederic Baraga, who arrived in Grand Rapids in 1833. He opened St. Mary Mission on the banks of the Grand River, in a log house which was converted into a church and school. More than 30 students, of Native American and European descent, were given basic instruction in reading, writing, catechism and prayers. A list from the archives of the Indian Bureau identifies some of the first students from the Catholic Mission of Grand River as Mary Ann Aginowe, Job Tchingwachi, John Baptist Makateokwad, Julia Obimisseokewadokive, Lucy Giule, Luther Lincoln, Denesile Carmel and Emilie Marsac. (McGee, John W. The Catholic Church in the Grand River Valley. Franklin Dekleine Co., 1950.)

Every day, the outstanding work of parents, teachers, administrators, pastors and the children they serve in Catholic schools today celebrates and honors 185 years of Catholic school presence in our diocesan borders, continuing the pioneering and evangelizing efforts of now-Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga.

With this tradition for a strong foundation, the Diocese of Grand Rapids is providing for Catholic school vitality for years to come through our "Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future" strategic plan. Visit this link to learn about these efforts.

To learn about today's Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, visit this link.