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.
  • 2016: In February we were assigned a seminarian, Michael Steffes, Jr., from Mundelein Seminary for a six month internship. Throughout the year many improvements were made around our parish buildings and grounds, including improvements to our chapel, new parking lot paving, new lights in the parking lot, new carpeting in the commons and repairing the roof over the gym. We had two mission trips. The first one was our Haiti Medical Mission trip in April to our sister parish in St. Jacques, Haiti. The second trip was with our Teens on a Mission in July who travelled to the Appalachian area of Kentucky to do home repairs for low income families. We also sent 34 teens and chaperones to celebrate World Youth Day in Poland. Lastly, we had our most charitable year in a very long time with a general donation of over $510,000 given from the OLC Education Foundation to our parish.
  • 2017: In January, Fr. Darrel Kempf was made the Pastor of St. Joseph in Pewamo and Fr. Peter Damian was assigned as associate pastor at Our Lady. In February, Andrew Ayers was assigned as our seminarian intern and stayed with us through July. In February, we also sent 3 people to Haiti on a water mission. In June, Fr. Peter was assigned as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle in Grand Rapids and, newly ordained, Fr. Stephen Durkee was assigned our associate pastor. On May 9th, Michael Steffes, Jr. was ordained a deacon. Major parish initiatives this year included a whole parish catechesis program called ALPHA and the kick off of our “Rooted in Christ, Growing to Serve” Capital Stewardship Campaign.
  • 2018: From February through July, our parish hosted Danny Orris, from Mundelein Seminary. On May 12, our former seminarian intern, Andrew Ayers, was ordained a deason. On June 2, our former seminarian Michael Steffes, Jr., was ordained a priest. In March, 3 of our parishioners joined a Dental Mission to Haiti and we hosted our “We are Catholic, We are Equipped for More” Parish Mission featuring Dcn. Harold Burke-Sivers. Throughout the year we also started a Young Adults Ministry, revitalized the Living Your Strengths program and offered many new Adult Formation programs. We also made great progress toward our goals of the “Rooted in Christ, Growing to Serve” Capital Stewardship Campaign.
  • 2019: In February our parish hosted our first Unbound conference. During Lent we launched our first Purposefully Plan Your Lent program encouraging our parishioners to enter more deeply into their faith through the premises of Pray, Grow & Love. On May 18, our former seminarian intern, Daniel Orris Jr., was ordained a transitional deacon. On June 1, Andrew Ayers was ordained a priest and became our Associate Pastor starting on July 1. Fr. Stephen Durkee became the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Our Teens on a Mission travelled to St. Louis, MO where 6 students & 2 adults joined together to serve. Our parish joined with every parish in the Diocese to participate in the Healing Our Church program in response to the sexual abuse scandal. December 8-11 we hosted the “To Live Our Faith” parish mission led by John Schweisthal. The majority of the year our parish was under construction working on the “Rooted in Christ, Growing to Serve” campaign building project. The project completed this year included a new rectory, 6 additional classrooms, a new parking lot with 76 spaces, and an update to the ballfield. 
  • 2020: In February we welcomed Seminarian, Logan Weber, from Mundelein Seminary, into our parish for a six-month internship. At this time, we were on the brink of a global pandemic. On March 13 the Diocese of Grand Rapids along with most dioceses around the world, closed our church and suspended public Masses and the celebration of sacraments. This shutdown lasted for 11 weeks and with it came a dispensation from Rev. Bishop Walkowiak relieving all Catholics in the diocese from their Sunday obligation. During this time the parish made advancements in technology in an effort to reach parishioners from home. We began livestreaming activities like Sunday Mass, daily Rosaries, Holy Hours, and Divine Mercy Chaplets. We were finally able to return to Mass the last weekend in May for Pentecost Sunday. Coming back to church things looked very different. We implemented several protocols including Mass registration, social distancing, roping off every other pew, disinfection after every Mass, & mask wearing. On June 6, former OLC seminarian intern, Danny Orris, celebrated his priestly ordination. Due to the shutdown in the spring, the sacraments of First Communication and Confirmation were held in August. The Sacrament of Confirmation was celebrated here at the parish and Fr. Tony Russo and Fr. Andrew Ayers officiated. For the first time ever, due to directives from the diocese, our Faith Formation classes were held virtually through Google Meets. In September we welcomed Kristina Poirier to the parish staff as our Director of Communications & Development. In October, Fr. Andrew Ayers moved to his new assignment as Canonical Administrator of St. Joseph, St. Catherine, and St. Francis Xavier Parishes.