Father Norman Droski **** Father Dennis Nash **** Father Thomas Simons
Stained Glass Window
25th Anniversary of Holy Redeemer Parish
On April 3, 1975, Bishop Joseph M. Breitenbeck appointed Father Norman Droski as pastor of a new parish. Approximately 9 acres of property had been purchased for the future parish in June of 1974, at the cost of $30,000. The new parish would be comprised of areas that were formerly parts of St. Pius X in Grandville, St. Francis de Sales in Holland, St. Michael's in Dennison, Holy Spirit in Grand Rapids and St. Anthony's Mission in Robinson.
St. Pius in particular was feeling the strain of over-crowding. Georgetown township, mainly populated by people whose strong Calvinist beliefs led them to create a beautiful and stable community, was becoming a very attractive area for home buyers of many denominations. The soon to be completed I-196 expressway, shopping areas and other businesses as well as fine public and parochial schools resulted in more and more farmland turning into subdivisions. The Georgetown township population numbered 22,762 in 1975 and was increasing by about 1,100 persons each year. On June 25, 1975, Bishop Breitenbeck canonically established the new parish and 310 Catholic families became its founding members.
Father Norman Droski was the 36-year-old parish priest of St. Stanislaus in Ludington when he received his new appointment. He had grown up on the West Side of Grand Rapids, and attended grade school at St. Adalbert Parish. He was ordained in 1964, having attended St. Johns Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan.
Father Droski set to work immediately upon his arrival; the new parish needed a name and a place to worship. He came up with four name choices for the parishioners to vote on. The first choice name of "Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish" was approved by Bishop Breitenbeck on April 25, 1975.
An organizational committee was formed to serve as an interim governing board. The Jenison Public School board allowed the parish to use the public school facilities for the celebration of Eucharistic Liturgy. Holy Redeemer Parish held its first mass in the Jenison High School Auditorium on April 20, 1975, the Feast of the Good Shepherd. A week later, 38 children made their First Communion there. In the first year, there were 51 baptism, 2 marriages, and 2 burials.
There were many things to be done and parishioners responded with enthusiasm and sense of ownership in making the new parish a reality.
Father Droski first moved into the rectory at St. Pius for a few months until a house adjacent to the property was acquired. This modes ranch style home served as the pastor's residence and parish office. Two rooms in the basement were used as a chapel and reconciliation room.
On May 18, 1875, the land was dedicted and blessed and a sign erected. Within a year plans were under way to raise funds and design the new church, and in March of 1977 the parish announced plans to build. Phase I of the project included a church with a seating caacity of 800, a parish center, and offices. Estimated at $500,000, the final cost of Phase I was $700,000.
Ground-breaking took place June 5, 1977. Phase II, to follow in the future, would add more education space and enlarge the social area.
The parish moved to its new facility April 22, 1978. For the first masses there were no chairs and parishioners were asked to bring their own. A festival celebrating the building completion was held in May. The dedication was December 3, 1978, with a dinner to flooow at Jenison High School. Bishop Breitenbeck was the principal celebrant for the mass. The weather was extremely bad that day and many of the invited priests could not come.
Father Droski was reassigned to St. Patrick's Church in Grand Haven and Father Thomas G. Simons became our second pastor December 7, 1984. Father Simons grew up in Grand Rapids and attended St. Johns Provincial Seminary in Plymouth. He had been working in the Diocesan Office for Worship and helping on weekends at Holy Name Parish in Wyoming. At 34, Holy Redeemer was his first assignment as a Pastor.
By this time the parish had grown to 660 families. Soon plans were made to expand our facilities. The ground-breaking for the Phase II building addition was held May 3, 1987. It was completed and dedicated on December 20, 1987. The addition included the Emmaus Chapel, offices, multipurpose classrooms and an enlarged parish center.
During the seven years that he was pastor of Holy Redeemer, Father Simons worked to expand the lay ministry and develop the staff ministry as well as outreach programs, such as Stephen's Ministry and Journey Home. He has an appreciation for contemporary art and through his efforts; and with generous donations by individuals and the Knight of Columbus; the church purchased some fine pieces of liturgical art, such as the statue of Mary, Mother of our Redeemer, the round stained glass window in the chapel, and the four figures above the holy water bowls at the entrance.
On July 1, 1991, Father Simons moved to Chicago to serve as national director of the Federation of Priest Councils. Father Denis P. Nash was appointed Pastor of Holy Redeemer by Bishop Robert Rose.
As a young man of 17, Father Nash left his native Ireland to come to Michigan to study for the priesthood. He attended St. John's Seminary in Plymouth and was ordained June 5, 1954. At the time of this new appointment he was serving at St. Dominic's in Wyoming, Michigan.
During the eight years that Father Nash has been here, the parish has grown to number 850 families. Our facilities have grown and changed too, with the enclosure of the entryway in 1994, and the installation of the beautiful and symbolic stained glass windows in 1997. The windows were designed by Richard Hanley of the Omnibus Studio in Okemos.
Holy Redeemer continues to grow and thrive. Groundbreaking was held in March 14, 1999 for the Phase III building addition. Slated for completion in early 2000. It will add permanent classrooms, a music ministry rehearsal room and a family center. The dedication will be held on June 25, 2000.
Some of the 73 charter members are still the heart and soul of our parish. 73 households that is.
The Lord has continued in our midst the last 25 years. There have been 1,350 Baptisms, 1,359 Confirmations, 1,703 First Holy Communions, 340 Marriages and 106 Deaths.
We look ahead to the next 25 years and beg the blessings of the Divine.
Created: 2 June 2010