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A brief history of St. Ann Parish of Frankfort, Michigan


This short history of St. Ann Parish was prepared at the suggestion of Father Robert Bissot, pastor, as a way of entering into our country’s Bi-Centennial celebration. It was prepared under the co-editorship of Sister Maureen Lewis, Ardith Hughes and Frances Stubbs, who also co-chaired the Church History booth at the 1976 summer parish bazaar. Other friends who have assisted in the preparation of this chronology by reading, offering suggestions, making pictures and papers available area Marie Bankston, Dora Bedford, Reverend Stanley Burr, Reverend Father Denay, Charlie Fairchild, Frances Garvin, Edward Goethals, Theresa Hanrath, Cyrus Hughes, Evelyn Kibby, Josephine Nelson and Helen Peterson. Continued studies are being made pertaining to the different societies and organizations activities of the parishioners over the years.

Pastors of St. Ann Parish

Rev. John Yeager

July 1911 – December 1913

Rev. Arthur J. Flajole

January 1913 – July 1919

Rev. Albert S. A. Baumann

July 1919 – July 1924

Rev. Roman A. Kosnick

July 1924 – June 1940

Rev. E. F. Denay

June 1940 – November 1952

Rev. C. G. Nugent

November 1952 – 0ctober 1955

Rev. Paul F. Kersjes

October 1955 – June 1963

Rev. Harold Feltman

June 1963 – October 1969

Rev. Walter Marek

October 1969 – August 1973

Rev. Robert Bissot

August 1973 – June 1977

Rev. Francis J. Karl

August 1977 – September 1978

Rev. Martin Toolis

October 1978 – April 1979

Rev. Herman Kolenda

December 1978 – June 1979

Msgn. Wilbur Gibbs

September 1978 – June 1979

Rev. W. Seavey Joyce, S.J.

June 1979 – August 1986

Rev. Gabriel Fox

August 1986 – August 1988

Rev. James Holtz

August 1988 – June 1992

Rev. Kenneth Stachnik

September 1992 – December 1992

Rev. William Rabior

January 1993

Msgn. David Germund


Rev. James Bearrs

2000 - 2001

Rev. Raymond Cotter

2001 - July 2007

Rev. Garth Hilmer 

July 2007 - February 2008

Msgr. John F. Porter

June 2008 - current

While Father Kolenda, the Pastor of St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Manistee, was serving as Administrator of St. Ann, it was Msgr. Wilbur Gibbs, then a resident at St. Mary of Mount Carmel, who made the trips to Frankfort and conducted the priestly ministries of St. Ann Parish

Former St. Ann Parishioners ordained as priests:

Rev. James (Luke) Tupper, O.F.M., M.D.

Founder of Esperanda, Inc., an international health organization in Brazil. Fr.

Luke was a doctor first and then was ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1969. He died in 1978 in Columbus, Ohio while studying at Ohio State University as a result of a motorcycle accident.

Rev. John Tupper Was ordained in 1960 and came to the Gaylord diocese in 1970. In the spring of 1980, he received a 5-year release to work in Brazil.

Rev. Michael Burke Former Benzonia resident.


St. Ann first choir director was Theodore Gates, now deceased.

After too a long hiatus, St. Ann Choir was reactivated in the fall of 1980.

The Director was Marianne Dunfield. Members of the choir were: Roderick Dunfield, Marie Kissel, Byron Norton, Dee Norton, Arlene Santer, Paul Santer, Sarah Santer, Carol Siderman, Sue Turner, Owen Wright and Gail Zackmann.

The reorganized choir performed for the first time on November 16, 1980 at the 9:00 a.m. mass on Sunday.

1958 -1983 25th Anniversary of St. Ann Church

In 1958, during the Episcopacy of Rev. Allen J. Babcock of Grand Rapids, and the pastorship of Rev. Paul Kersjes, the original church structure was demolished and the present church building started. At that time, the altars from St. Ann were given to St. Anthony's of Padua, Mancelona, St. Rita's, Maple City and, St. Philip's Neri, Empire

Card parties at the East Shore Hotel Township Hall, dances were held at VFW Hall, bazaars, bake sales, dinners and breakfasts were held to raise money for the new church and Social Center. The Goal was set at $145,000.00.

An active Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was established, assisted by the Felician Sisters of St. Joseph's, Manistee and lay teachers.

There was a choir, Holy Name Society and Ushers' Club, Altar and Rosary Society, Catholic Daughters and Knights of the Altar.

The document in the Corner Stone of the New Church reads:

"In 1958, during the Pontificate of Pius XII and John XXIII, Most Reverend Allen J. Babcock, Bishop of Grand Rapids and "Ike" Eisenhower, President of the United States, the old church was demolished, a new structure was built and the rectory and garage remodeled.

Rev. Paul F. Kersjes, ADM.

The Church was built in 1895. The Rectory was finished in 1912. The parish was established in 1911.

The ground breaking was on Mother's Day 1958 and the first mass in the new church was held Christmas – 1958. The parish meeting hall was completed in 1958.

Most Rev. Allen J. Babcock, Bishop of Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese, officiated at the blessing of the new St. Ann Church and Social Center on July 26, 1959, the Feast of St. Ann.

During the years of 1963-1969, Fr. Feltman had the large assembly room, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine office area and the ground floor classrooms built and outdoor stations installed.

In 1970, the Liturgy began changing or "restored". The whole purpose of the liturgical developments since Vatican II was to carry out this "restoration"...the giving back to the people of God what was theirs in the early church. Praying aloud together, singing together as a family and as a community in the liturgical celebrations of the church.

On July 20, 1970, the Diocese of Gaylord was established and Most Reverend Edmund C. Szoka appointed as Bishop. This brought the number of Dioceses in Michigan to seven. The Gaylord Diocese, which covers 21 counties in the upper third of the Lower Peninsula, was formerly part of the Dioceses of Grand Rapids and Saginaw.

Also in 1970, special permission from the Most Rev. Bishop was granted to have mass on Saturday, which fulfills the Sunday mass attendance.

Bishop j. M. Breitenbeck of Grand Rapids sent a letter to all members of the diocese in April 1971 that the Priests' Senate of our diocese recommended "the establishment of an active Parish Council in every parish of the Diocese." A special committee was formed consisting of priests, religious and laity to prepare a set of diocesan guidelines for the establishment of such councils.

The Second Vatican Council laid the ground for the introduction of a form of ministry in which married and singe persons can be ordained as deacons. The person who receives ordination as a deacon is officially designated by the church as a special servant.

Guidelines for the use of Extraordinary Ministers for the administration of Holy Communion at mass were issued in 1972.

The first annual Catholic Services Appeal was organized in 1972. Anthony Kloster was the Chairman.

In 1973, under the direction of Father Robert Bissot, arrangements were made to have a Bible School for two weeks during the summer months conducted by Sister Lois Morgan and Sister Helen Oprysek of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Monroe, Michigan.

Daniel Larson came to work for the parish in 1973 as janitor and maintenance man.

Also in 1973, the Rite of Peace was extended to all who take part at mass. For years, this rite was limited to the clergy and religious houses. Also, the new Rite of Penance was approved by the Holy Father.

In the summer of 1975, the parish made arrangements for Sister Maureen Lewis of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Michigan, to work full time in the parish. A house on Bellows Avenue was rented and later purchased for her to use. She visited homes, the sick, the hospital, did census work and helped with the preparation of the Sunday liturgy. She was installed as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist with the permission of Bishop Szoka in August 1975.

She brought the Eucharist to the sick and helped at Mass.

In March 1976, the new Rite of Confession of the church was introduced into the Gaylord Diocese. St. Ann Altar Society, under the direction of Rose Ide, President, took the responsibility of paying for the renovation of furnishing of the room of reconciliation in the church building. Mr. Ed Wuerthele, with the assistance of Dan Larson, did the renovation work.

Sr. Maureen helped Ardith Hughes and Frances Stubbs prepare a history of the church. A copy was donated to the Benzonia Historical Museum.

Fr. Bissot went to Rome for 12 weeks of study.

In 1977, the Bishops gave permission for receiving Holy Communion in the hand. Also, lectors started reading at mass and parishioners brought up the gifts of the Offertory. Explanations were begun on the purpose of Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist.

The Altar Society paid for the carpeting of the altar area.

A Parish Coordinating Council was formed. Members were Dave Mead, Dick Hendricks, Dee Norton, Owen Wright, Fran Garvin also with Sr. Maureen and Fr. Bissot. Then in January 1978, Fr. Karl formed an ad hoc committee of the present coordinating council to begin procedures for establishing a parish council. There was a council meeting with Dave Mead, Chairman, Dee Norton, Vice Chairman and a constitution committee consisting of Don McIntyre and Rose Ide to work on a constitution. In May 1978, the Constitution Committee and Parish Council revised the constitution of St. Mary's of Hannah. The revised constitution was presented at the next council meeting and on May 15; the constitution was amended and approved. A copy is on file. A Nominating Committee of Bud Cutler, Mr. Drulliard and Rose Ide was formed and in July 1978. The first Parish Council members were elected: Dave Mead, James Day, Mary Huron, Leonard Long, Owen Wright, Mary Ann Hendricks, George Flynn, Louise Huft, Clarence Novinger, who moved out of town shortly after, and was replaced by Roger Hescott. The first Parish Council officers were: President – Jerry Day, Vice President – Dave Mead, Sister Maureen – Secretary.

Sister Maureen was offered a part time position in August 1978 in the Diocesan Education office. She accepted, and in 1979 she went to St. Mary Cathedral parish.

Fr. Gibbs held a series of instructions in March 1979 for Special Ministers of the Holy Eucharist. Installation of Special Ministers took place in May 1979.

They were: Gertrude Cutler, Millard Cutler, Michael Bradford, Marg Grix, Nancy Hermann, Roger Hescott, Richard Hendricks, Mary Huron, Anthony Kloster, Ann McCelellan, Marie McIntyre, Susan Mead, Eileen Pate, Ann Wilson, and Gail Wilson.

In May 1979, the Bishops of the United States obtained permission from Rome for Catholics to receive Holy Communion under both forms.

Rev. W. Seavey Joyce, S.J. arrived in June 1979. A reception was held in June for him in the church hall.

In September 1979, the St. Joseph missal was adopted.

A special mass for shut-ins, the aged and the infirm was held for the first time in March 1980. This included those who could not regularly attend church, but who could do so on this special occasion. Anointing of the Sick was administered.

St. Ann also started a permanent St. Ann choir.

In 1981, additional Special Ministers were approved by our Bishop. They were: Josephine Bonadeo, Kerry Buzzell, Jeanne Dorion, George Flynn, Frances Garvin, Theresa Nichols, Donald Smeltzer and Helen Smeltzer.

In January 1982, there was the ordination and installation of Bishop Robert J. Rose in the Diocese of Gaylord.

Also in 1982, under the guidance of Fr. Joyce, the church renovation was planned to provide a proper setting for our liturgical celebrations, an appropriate area for our choir and organ, fulfill the terms of the Turko bequest regarding carpeting and pads for the pews and to provide adequate kitchen facilities. Strong, Drury and Elkins Architects, Inc. of Traverse City was hired. The Boardman General submitted low bid. The formal contract was presented to the Diocese for approval. In January 1983, Fr. Gemuend approved the bid.

From October 2 to 10, 1982, Father Raymond Oosdyke, O.F.M. Conv., conducted a Mission at St. Ann. This was the first mission in many years.

On Thursday evening, Nov. 4, 1982, Bishop Robert Rose paid his first visit to St. Ann Parish and celebrated the Liturgy of Confirmation.

A temporary church was set up in the church social hall and in February 1983, the Bishop approved the formal contract.

The first mass at the new altar was on the Vigil of Easter, 1983.