The Family of Catholic Parishes
at the Rising of the Sun
Serving Alcona and southern Alpena counties

From the rising of the sun to its setting to You, Almighty God all honor and glory (Ps 113, 3)

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St. Catherine is believed to have been of a noble family in Alexandria, Egypt. Having converted to Christianity, she confronted Maxentius for persecuting Christians. Maxentius offered Catherine a royal marriage and when she refused he imprisoned her. In his absence she converted his wife and hundreds of his soldiers. Maxentius put all of them to death. Condemned to death herself in the year 310 AD, Catherine was put on a spiked wheel. When the wheel broke she was beheaded.

St. Catherine was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc. Her body has been enshrined for nearly a thousand years at the Orthodox Monastery of Mount Sinai. Her feast is kept on November 25th as patroness of philosophers and preachers. A relic of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is sealed in the altar of St. Catherine Church. 

Gabriel (the name means “man of God” or “God has shown Himself mightily”) is one of the Archangels of Jewish, Christian, and Muslin traditions and was known as the Messenger of God to Man, God’s Messenger of mercy and good tidings. In Daniel 8:16-28, Gabriel interprets to Daniel the vision of the ram and the he-goat. He declares the prediction of “Seventy Weeks of Years" to Daniel. Gabriel is the Angel who announces the birth of John the Baptist and to Mary that she is to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:19, 38). His feast day with Gabriel and Michael is Sept 29. He is patron of communication workers.

Raphael (the name in Hebrew means “God heals”) is one of the seven archangels “who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:12, 15). He healed Tobit’s blindness and provided Sarah with a husband (Tob 3:16-17). As God’s messenger he hears people’s prayers and brings them before God (Tob 12:12). St. Raphael the Archangel is the patron saint of travelers, physicians, nurses, lovers, health inspectors, and the sightless. His feast with Archangels Gabriel and Michael is observed on Sept 29.

St. Anne, with her husband Joachim, are venerated as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We honor Anne and Joachim because of what we know of Mary. Anne and Joachim must have been truly loving, nurturing and supporting parents of Mary, their son-law Joseph, and their grandson, Jesus. The veneration of Anne, strong in Canada, was spread here through the French people who came from Canada and settled in our area. St. Anne and Joachim’s feast day is July 26.
Our Michigan Eastern shoreline from Cheboygan to AuSable began to come alive in the 1860's as settlers began to harvest the white pine. While Catholic missionaries had visited the area, it was Venerable Bishop Frederick Baraga who got things going. The area was more or less a no man’s land and Bishop Baraga assumed responsibility for it.
On April 1, 1861, the Monday of Easter week as the Civil War was beginning, Bishop Baraga, Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie (later Marquette) started a journey to attend the Third Provincial Council in Cincinnati, walking, snow shoeing, and by horse. He planned to take a boat from Alpena to Detroit and a train to Cincinnati. He was delayed in Alpena for nine days (the most lonesome days of his life.) While waiting, he purchased two lots for a future church building.
Finally a boat took on passengers only to have a storm forced those aboard to seek shelter in Harrisville for two days. He finally succeeded in reaching Cincinnati on April 29.   
At Bishop Baraga’s direction, Father Patrick Bernard Murray visited Alpena from September 2-14, 1864, and baptized 7 children. He visited Alpena again in 1865 and took residence on May 11, 1866.

On May 6, 1867, Francis La Chapelle donated a building site for a church in Harrisville to Bishop Baraga who then, in a letter to Fr. Murray dated November 20, 1867, asked him to care for the people along the shore since the bishop of Detroit was unable to do anything for them as there were few priests available for the northern wilderness. A month after Bishop Baraga died in January, 1867, Bishop Lefevere of Detroit directed Fr. Murray to erect a church in Alcona County. Fr. Murray saw to it that a church, 24' x 40', was built in Harrisville in 1868.
When Fr. Murray left Alpena, St. Anne, Harrisville, was served by priests from Sacred Heart, AuSable. Between 1875 and 1884 St. Anne Church was enlarged, a belfry and spire were added and the interior was neatly finished, and later a gallery was added by Fr. Roche from AuSable. In 1890 a rectory was purchased for St. Anne. When a fire swept Au Sable in 1911 the church there was destroyed; its mission in Oscoda was transferred to St. Anne. St. Anne rectory was destroyed by fire on Feb 23, 1926 and rebuilt the same year.
From 1934 to 1937 a Mission serving Haynes and Hawes townships celebrated Sunday Mass in the “French Town". 
Around 1849 Black River was a small fishing station at the mouth of the Black River. The area was seen as a swamp and bog of little value. In 1868 the plentiful virgin white pine began to be harvested. The Alger Smith Company dredged the river, docked its bank, built a saw mill, a shingle mill, and a company store. It became the largest operator of pine timber spars for most of the world, employing in the late 1870’s-80’s some 1,200-1,500 men. The population increased to about 2,000 families; many were French-Canadian.

Fr. Cornelius J. Roche of AuSable visited the area twice a year in 1883. In 1884 Fr. P. Charles Alphonse Winter visited every second month, celebrating Mass in the 3-room school. Fr. Julian Doucet of AuSable, serving the area from 1893-1895, began building the churches in Black River and in Mikado where he used material from a no-longer-used school and convent in Au Sable.

In 1934 Fr. J. A. Moleski became the first resident priest at St. Catherine, Ossineke; he assumed responsibility for St. Gabriel, as did succeeding pastors. Today, St. Gabriel Church is the only non-residential building still standing in Black River.

Starting about 1888-1889, priests from Sacred Heart Parish in Au Sable periodically celebrated Mass in Mikado in private homes. In 1895 Fr. Joseph Paulin was assigned to St. Anne in Harrisville; he completed the churches in Black River and Mikado. St. Raphael in Mikado was dedicated on Sunday, August 13, 1895, by Bishop Richter of Grand Rapids. From 1950–1953 St. Raphael was attached to Sacred Heart in Oscoda as a mission. Serveral additions have been made to the church over the years.

In the late 1800’s the Nicholson Hill area had many large lumbering operations, followed by pioneer farm families. At the turn of the century Fr. Godfrey Lenzen traveled from Alpena by horse and buggy as well as bicycle to offer Mass in the Tolson (Toland) and St. Charles schools. A frame church was built in 1903 with the first Mass celebrated on Christmas Day by 38 families.

In 1904 Fr. Joseph Paulin, the pastor of St. Anne in Harrisville, was given charge of St. Catherine. The rectory was built in 1919-20. In the early 1950’s under the pastorate of Fr. LaMarre, the former St. Charles School was leased for a parish hall and catechetical center. In 1957 the Bishop gave permission to raise funds for a new church. The Altar Society put on chicken dinners, and the annual raspberry festival began. The old St. Charles store next door was purchased as a catechetical center in 1961. The present Parish Center was erected for catechetical classes, parish functions, and Mass overflow in 1966.

Ground was broken for the present St. Anne church on July 10, 1960, the cornerstone was laid on Oct 8, 1961, and it was officially dedicated on Aug 1, 1962.  The parish center with hall and classrooms was constructed in 1969 with substantial funds from the Mary Rouse estate.

In July 2009, the four parishes were clustered with Fr. Robert Bissot appointed as pastor. From July, 2009 to December 26, 2010, Fr. William Livinus served as administrator of St. Anne and St. Raphael until returning to Africa on Dec. 26, 2010, at which time Fr. Bissot assumed the pastorate of all four parishes.
Statues at St. Anne Church

St. Anne Parish has two statues of St. Hubert, one as bishop from the original church building, now at the back of the gathering space, and one as a hunter located outside, north of the present church building. St. Hubert, Bishop and Confessor, was born in France around 656 and died May 30, 728. He was of a noble family and loved the good life and the chase (hunting). One Good Friday while the faithful crowded the churches, Hubert went on a chase pursuing a magnificent stag. As the legend goes, the stag turned and Hubert saw a crucifix between the antlers and heard a voice: “Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord and lead a holy life, you will quickly go to hell.”

St. Hubert sought a spiritual director and, after his wife died, soon renounced all honors, distributed his possessions, studied for the priesthood, was ordained, and assisted his bishop, St. Lambert. While Hubert was on a pilgrimage to Rome, St. Lambert was assassinated and the Pope appointed him bishop. St. Hubert is patron of hunters. His feast day is celebrated on November 3.

St. Anne Parish also has a statue of St. Maria Goretti in front of Maria Hall. Twelve year old Maria was left to take care of the house while her mother worked in the fields following her father’s death. A young man, also working in the fields, saying he was sick, returned to the shared house and made sexual advances to her. When Maria resisted an attempted rape, he stabbed her repeatedly. Maria died the next day, July 6, 1902 in Nettuno, Italy, having forgiven him. She was beatified in 1947 and canonized in 1950 with her immediate family and the repentant stabber, having served 30 year in prison, present. Maria’s body is preserved in the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Nettuno, Italy. Patroness of teenage girls, her feast is celebrated on July 6.