Parish History

In 1962, the Grand Rapids diocese purchased 23 acres at the intersection of Northland Drive – then known as “Old 131” – and Eleven Mile Road in Rockford.  Our Lady of Consolation began in 1964 with about 60 families as a mission of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Belmont.  Msgr. Joseph Podhajski and the Consolata Missionary sisters served both Assumption and the new mission.

In 1966, on the land purchased four years earlier, the mission started construction of a four-room elementary school and a gymnasium.  By the following year, the facilities were open.  Father Lou Anderson and Father James Cusack offered Mass in the gym, which served as the church.

Bishop Allen Babcock, in 1968, dedicated the mission, which had simply been known as “The Annex”, to the mother of Jesus as Our Lady of Consolation.  The name was chosen in tribute to the Consolata Sisters, who taught at the school.  The sisters continue to be a presence in the school and retain a convent in Belmont, just west of Rockford.

  • 1972:Father James Cusack named first pastor; 198 families registered.
  • 1974:Family Center is built, attached to school.
  • 1977:Parish begins sending monthly gift to Consolata Sisters’ mission in Ethiopia, which continues today.
  • 1978:Father Paul Milanowski named second pastor; 275 families registered.
  • 1981:Richter Place is constructed on land owned by the parish and sold to the diocese.  It is named in honor of the first bishop of Grand Rapids, and is a retirement facility co-sponsored by the federal government.
  • 1984:The new church is dedicated on the Feast of the Epiphany by Bishop Joseph Breitenbeck.
  • 1985:Bishop Joseph C. McKinney, auxiliary bishop of Grand Rapids, named third pastor; 425 families registered.
  • 1987:Parish donates land for the North Kent Service Center. This is a community-funded outreach to the poor of northern Kent County.  It eventually outgrows this facility, which then becomes part of Our Lady of Consolation again, now known as the Kateri Lodge.
  • 1991:The rectory basement is converted into parish offices.
  • 1992:Current Family Center is opened.  The parish also adds a new organ, piano, sound system, stained glass windows, pews, a tabernacle, specially designed candle-holders, Communion vessels and vestments.
  • 1996:Church and Commons area are renovated.  New pews, chairs and carpet installed.  Classroom and media center added to school.
  • 1996:Bishop Hills Assisted Living Center is opened near the rectory on land once owned by the parish.
  • 1997:Christmas Cave built and star/cross erected on Salvation Hill.
  • 1998:Bishop Joseph C. McKinney retires after 13 years.
  • 1998:Father Thomas Page named the fourth pastor.
  • 1999:School renovated and new driveway and road completed.
  • 2000:“Growing in Faith”, a 3 year capital campaign, begins to raise money for a $4.1 million expansion project.  Construction is completed in June 2002, doubling the size of the church and creating parish, school and Faith Formation Offices and meeting rooms in an addition that connects the school and the church.
  • 2000:Father Anthony S. Russo becomes associate pastor.
  • 2002:Father James C. Cusack, the parish’s first pastor, passes away.
  • 2002:Father Michael Alber and Father Dung Anton Tran are ordained.  Father  Russo is reassigned after spending 2 years here.  Father Tran is then appointed associate pastor.
  • 2003:Father Tran is reassigned and newly ordained Father Tony Pelak is appointed associate pastor.  The “Growing in Faith” capital campaign ends when over $2 million worth of pledges are fulfilled.  About 1,500 families are registered.
  • 2004:“In My Father’s House”, a debt retirement/capital expansion campaign, is kicked off.
  • 2005:Deacon Paul Antor is assigned to Our Lady of Consolation.  He also serves as Pastoral Associate.  OLC school adds 7th grade.
  • 2006:Deacon James Hessler is assigned to Our Lady of Consolation.  He has also served as Business Manager since 2003.  OLC school adds 8th grade.
  • 2007:Father Tony Russo is named fifth pastor when Father Tom Page is reassigned to Muskegon. Father Johnson Jeyabal, MSFS, comes from India to serve as associate pastor.  We begin the final phase of our debt retirement/capital expansion campaign, “Finishing Up, Building Up”.  About 1700 families are registered.
  • 2008:Father Johnson leaves and Father Dominic Tirkey, also from India, is appointed associate pastor.
  • 2008:We host a Parish Mission with John Schweisthal, Roman Catholic Lay Evangelist of Good News Ministries.
  • 2009:Seminarian Luis Garcia arrives as an intern.  The school gymnasium is renovated. Improvements include a new coat of paint, energy efficient lighting and a new tile floor.
  • 2009:God’s Kitchen North starts providing meals on Thursday evenings in the Family Center.  John Schweisthal returns for another Parish Mission.  Four parish members travel to Ethiopia to visit the Consolata Missionary Sisters.
  • 2010:Deacon Jim Hessler leaves to start a new job in Arkansas.  A new 3 year capital campaign, “Together We Grow”, begins.  This campaign will pay our 2010 CSA assessment, retire our current debt and put money away for future needs.
  • 2010:Luis Garcia ordained a transitional deacon.  Bishop Joseph C. McKinney, our third pastor, passes away.  The Consolata Missionary Sisters celebrate their 100th Anniversary.  Fr. Dominic Tirkey reassigned to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Edmore and St. Bernadette, Stanton.  Father Pat Martin holds his first Parish Mission.  Parish workshops are held to gather ideas for bringing a deeper sense of Catholic identity and parish personality to our worship space.
  • 2011:Bishop Walter Hurley dedicates our new Tabernacle in church at Easter.  Father Luis Garcia is ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.  We welcome Father Pat Martin for the second year to speak at the Parish Mission.  We send another group of four to Ethiopia to visit the Consolata Missionary Sisters.
  • 2012:Deacon Jim Hessler returns and is named permanent deacon for Our Lady of Consolation.  The new translation of the Roman Missal is implemented.  The Engagement Initiative, a process to engage members and form community leading to spiritual growth, begins.  Living Your Strengths classes form the foundation for the process, helping individuals discover their God given talents. Fortified with this knowledge, members can become better Disciples of Christ.  Father Michael Hodges is assigned as Associate Pastor on November 14, 2012.
  • 2013:  We completed our 3 year capital campaign, “Together We Grow”.  We continue to accept donations for future needs of the Parish.  Father Tony Russo leaves for an 11-week Sabbatical to Rome, Italy on September 9, returning just in time for the first week of Advent.
  • 2014: We began twinning with the Parish of St. Jacques Majeur in Haiti after an information-gathering trip in February. We created a Strategic Planning Map to help us as we strive to live our mission and achieve our vision. We hosted Matthew Kelly: Passion & Purpose in August. Air conditioning was installed in the Holy Family Center and kitchen, and the kitchen got a walk-in refrigerator/freezer to free up space. Father Maxis visited OLC from Haiti so we can hear firsthand the impact we could have on the lives of his parishioners.
  • 2015: In January Father Michael Hodges was reassigned to St. Philip Neri Church in Reed City as Pastor, and Father Darrel Kempf was assigned to OLC as the new Associate Pastor. Perpetual adoration began in March. Two healing services were held, one in March and one in November. There were two more mission trips to Haiti: a medical mission in March and a water filtration mission in October. OLC school had its highest growth in enrollment in years with 309 students.