St. Ignatius History
The Story Behind St. Ignatius Church
In a church shaped like a ship, the parish family of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Catholic Church in Rogers City has sailed confidently through fair seas
and foul weather. Our confidence is firmly anchored in our history, our
rich tradition, and our sure faith that God is always present; a safe harbor
in any storm.
The traditions so important to our parish are a gift from our ancestors,
German and Polish immigrants brought by boat to this area in the late
1860’s to labor in the lumber operations of Frederick Denny Larke, Albert
Moliter, and William E. Rogers. In 1871, Rogers City’s first Mass was
celebrated by Father Francis Xavier Szulak, S.J, a Jesuit priest and missionary.
For several more years, Mass was offered regularly by missionaries.
In 1879, Father Bogacki became the first pastor of Rogers City. Although he resided in Posen, he remained in charge of St. Ignatius Mission. He was followed in this task by Father Godrey Lozen, who took charge of all Catholic missions in Presque Isle County.
On September 1, 1919, Father C.T. Skowronski came to Rogers City. St. Ignatius became a parish amid a flurry of growth in the community. As the local limestone operations expanded, so did the population of Rogers City, along with our Catholic congregation. In 1920, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Hoeft donated land on which a church-school building was erected. In 1921, the new church-school opened with 140 students and 6 Mercy sisters. Unfortunately, on Sunday, January 6, 1924, both the church-school building and the rectory were destroyed by fire. Through generous donations from the parish family, the Michigan Limestone Company, and gifts from other parishes, a new much larger church-school building was completed in 1925. A new rectory was built next door to the church-school in 1931, and then later moved to its present location to make room for the current church building.
Construction on our unique, “ship shape” new church began in 1950. The church building was blessed by Bishop Woznicki on September 16, 1951 and almost a year later, its imported Italian marble altar and communion rail were consecrated. After 37 years of service to St. Ignatius Parish, Father Skoronski was appointed pastor of St. Hyacinth Parish in Bay City in 1953. Our new pastor, Father Adalbert Narloch, continued to support the growth and development of our parish. Under his leadership, Mt. Calvary, the parish cemetery, was developed and an addition to the school was built. Seventeen years later, at age 70, Father Narloch retired, entrusting his “ship and crew” to Father Zygmunt Ignatius Gaj. In 1970, when two new dioceses were added to Michigan, Father Gaj piloted St. Ignatius through the change from the Diocese of Saginaw to the Diocese of Gaylord under Bishop Edmund Szoka.
Father John Rushman came to our parish in 1974 and stayed until he retired in 1988. He is remembered for initiating the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Services at St. Ignatius and included women as Eucharistic ministers. Our fifth pastor, a native of Rogers City, was Father Arthur Mulka, who blessed our parish for only one year. He was followed in 1989 by Father Richard Sitar. Father Sitar was both a scholar and a teacher, and during his time at St. Ignatius, shared his knowledge of the Faith and of church history. He retired in 1992, at which time Father James Holtz was appointed as our pastor.
Father Jim initiated many new religious programs aimed at providing continuing Catholic Christian education for all ages. During the time he served at St. Ignatius, the old confessionals were transformed into a more modern Reconciliation Room. A Pastoral Council was also formed.
In the spring of 1996, Father Jim Holtz was appointed pastor of St. Joseph, Mapleton. St. Ignatius had a number of substitute priests for the next 3 months until Bishop Patrick Cooney appointed Rev. Charles Donajkowski as pastor of St. Ignatius Parish. Under Fr. Charlie, a native of the neighboring community of Long Lake, St. Ignatius had continued to sail along. Bishop Cooney had entrusted to St. Ignatius a number of young men interested in the priesthood. Fr. Charlie was very proud of the support and guidance given to the young seminarians and deacons which the Diocese of Gaylord placed in our care. Rev. Duane Wachowiak, Rev. Arthur Duchnowicz, Rev. Lawrence Sergott, Rev. Patrick Maher, Rev. Robbie Deka, and Rev. Gerald Okoli, have all been part of our St. Ignatius family under the guidance of Father Charlie.
With Fr. Charlie at the helm, a major restoration project was undertaken by the parish. By the year 2000, the outside of the church had been tuck-pointed and re-roofed while the inside had been repainted and re-carpeted and our pipe organ refurbished. The parishioners of St. Ignatius pitched in and made it happen not only with financial support but with physical labor and sweat.
In 2009 Bishop Cooney appointed Rev. Arthur Duchnowicz, a native of Poland, as pastor of the newly formed cluster of St. Ignatius in Rogers City, St. Casimir’s in Posen, and St. Dominic’s in Metz. That same year, Bishop Bernard Hebda was named the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. Bishop Hebda thoroughly enjoyed coming to St. Ignatius to celebrate Mass. He was impressed by the beauty of the physical structure of the church and the welcoming community within. Due to the many spiritual needs of the neighboring cluster parishes, and the retirement announcement of Sister Rita Epple, Pastoral Administrator at St. Dominic’s in Metz, Bishop Hebda appointed Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka as pastor of St. Ignatius in July 2013. Rev. Arthur Duchnowicz would continue to shepherd the parishes in Posen and Metz. Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka was removed from serving at St. Ignatius Parish in March of 2017 and Rev. James Fitzpatrick was assigned by Bishop Steven J. Raica to celebrate the weekend Masses at St. Ignatius while Rev. Deacon Scott Landane performed the duties of Pastoral Administrator until a new parish priest was assigned. In June of 2018, the Bishop assigned Rev. Rolando Silva as the parish priest.
Our Catholic school continues to provide an excellent academic and spiritual education for our children. The students continually excel in academic subjects as well as the arts. We are particularly proud of our music program. Supported by the entire parish, St. Ignatius School continues to nurture our young Catholic populace.
One hundred years after the arrival in 1919 of Fr. C.T. Skowronski, which was heralded as “the birth year of St. Ignatius as a parish”, the St. Ignatius community carries on the mission of evangelizing and ministering to one another as brothers and sisters united in Christ’s love.
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