During the post-war period, the population of Ann Arbor drastically increased along with the number of Catholic families. St. Thomas Parish grew to a point that it was, “impossible for the clergy to know all the people” and “the school was filled to capacity. ”
Eight acres are purchased from Cornelius W. (Bill) Tuomy and his sister Kathryn G. Tuomy at a bargain price of $9800 (estimated value over $50,000) by Monsignor Warren Peek of St. Thomas Parish. Bill and Kathryn, devout Catholics, generously donated an additional two acres as a gift.
Father Leon Kennedy, (a former altar boy for Msgr. Peek), is appointed pastor of the new St. Francis Parish and celebrates the first Sunday Mass in a Pittsfield public school.
The first St. Francis of Assisi Church (current music and art rooms), capacity 200 is completed. Fr. Kennedy wrote, “We had a completed church building, one wing only, long and narrow . . . no school, no convent, no parking lot, no playground, wooden steps and muddy terraces but happy grateful hearts because the dream was taking shape and first Holy Mass here was Easter, 1951.” The Parish has 248 registered families.
The first St. Francis of Assisi School (current second and third grade) and convent (current Parish Office) is completed in May. The school, staffed by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Adrian (Adrian Dominican Sisters) opens in September with 155 students.
The second St. Francis of Assisi Church (currently the school gymnasium), capacity of 600 persons, designed by architect Walter T. Anicka, is built for the growing Parish. The first Mass is celebrated in October and the church is dedicated in December.
St. Francis School completes a two-story addition including nine classrooms, library, teacher’s room and a new boiler and maintenance room. The School will reach the capacity of 474 students by 1965.
Ground is broken in May for a permanent church designed by architect James P. Wong. The first Mass was celebrated in October and the church was dedicated December 8. With parish donations, and funds from the George Liptow estate, and bequests from Kathryn and Cornelius Tuomy, the building was paid off in 1973. With no pews more than 80 feet from the altar, the 1100 capacity church gave the feeling of closer participation in the Mass. The Parish has 1000 registered families.
The Educational Trust Fund (ETF) is created. Fr. Ray, along with some far-sighted parishioners, establish the ETF to provide funding for all religious education programs in the Parish.
Today, St. Francis Church is one of the largest parishes in the Lansing Diocese with 3000 registered families, numbering over 8000 parishioners offering 87 active ministries. Our Religious Education program serves 615 children preschool and kindergarten through eighth grade. Our school is home to over 400 students, preschool and kindergarten through eighth grade.
St. Francis of Assisi 1950-1975 anniversary booklet
St. Francis Parish archives
The University of Michigan: Bentley Historical Library
Adrian Dominican Sisters archives