St. Felix of Valois (1127-1212)
Feast Day: November 20
St. Felix was born in France in 1127. He renounced his worldly possessions and his large estate and retired into solitude to lead a hermit's life. There he lived for some time in great peace until the young priest and doctor of divinity, St. John of Matha, having heard much of his sanctity, sought Felix out and placed him under his direction. These two saints lived an angelic life, until Divine Providence manifested to them Its will for the foundation of a new religious order. St. Felix was then 70 years of age, but he generously cooperated with his friend. Together, they went to Rome in the winter of 1198. Innocent III received them most cordially. Being convinced of the Will of God, he approved of the projected institute under the title of the Holy Trinity and appointed St. John of Matha as superior. The object of the Trinitarian Order was the redemption of captives. It increased with wonderful rapidity. After contributing to the increase and consolidation of the order in France, St. Felix died in his monastery in 1212.
The History of St. Felix Church
The Pinnebog area in Meade Township was first settled by French-Canadian Catholics who arrived around 1859, later joined by several Irish families from Canada and a few German families. All three nationalities had a common bond - their Catholic faith.
With such a large Catholic population, it was soon clear that it could not be adequately served as a "station", and it was decided that a church was necessary. A big-hearted Irishman, Tom Greene, offered to give a portion of his land on the bank of the Pinnebog River, at the intersection of what is now Limerick and Grassmere roads, as a site for the new church. His offer was immediately accepted. On March 5, 1873, Thomas and Rebecca Greene deeded four acres of their land to Bishop C.H. Borgess of Detroit. The new church was constructed quickly and was finished that summer. The French members, being of the majority, chose the name St. Felix of Valois, a popular saint in France and because it had at one time been the name of their parish in Quebec Province. However, 75 years later, possibly being unaware of this, the pastor of that time adopted St. Felix I, Pope and Martyr, as the patron, and a statue representing him was placed in the present church.
The 34x50 frame church served the congregation well for about 25 years until they outgrew it. A committee of 3 men, James Quinn, Alexander Champagne and Michael Cody traveled by train to Detroit to consult with Bishop Foley concerning the necessity of building a larger church, discussing financial responsibility, and the possibility of having a resident pastor. Bishop Foley established St. Felix as a parish on July 23, 1899 and appointed the young Fr. Francis Hewlett its first resident pastor. He was also given charge of the St. Roch mission in Caseville, which had been a mission of Port Austin up until then. The entire Catholic community rejoiced at the forming of the new St. Felix of Valois Parish.
The priest's residence was planned and constructed first. Work began on the rectory in August 1899. It was built of red brick at a cost of $1,700.00. It still stands today next to St. Felix church.
By October 1900 plans were completed for the new church building. However, the old frame church had to be removed before construction could begin, so it was moved across the road where it was converted to a general store in 1902 for a few years. In 1911, the parish bought it back. It was enlarged and remodeled and is in use to the present day as the parish hall.
Ground was broken in the spring of 1901 and construction of the new church began. Many men of the parish hauled stones for the foundation from the nearby fields. Others cut down and hewed timber for the beams from the surrounding woods, lumber for the frame was cut at a nearby sawmill. Everyone worked together to bring all the materials necessary that were needed to construct the church. Although the church was not yet completed, the congregation flocked there to celebrate the first Mass with joy and thanksgiving on Christmas Day, 1901.
Work continued on the completion and the pipe organ was installed. Reproductions of famous paintings were put on the ceiling, "The Assumption," "The Baptism of Christ," "The Child Jesus in the Temple," and "The Good Shepherd". They were, unfortunately, covered over when the interior was redecorated in the late 1960's.
St. Felix of Valois church was dedicated on May 8, 1902 by Bishop John S. Foley.
During the pastorate of Fr. Zylla, 1938-1942, the stone wall and pillars were built, the terrace filled in and the landscaping done.
The "Our Lady of Fatima" grotto, was added during the pastorate of Father Camill F. Klos, 1947-1951.
Over the years, there have been various renovations and additions made to the rectory, along with a complete renovation of the church in the years of Fr. Joseph Miller, with new furnishings for the sanctuary, new doors at the main entrance, new carpeting, new baptismal font, and a new electric pipe organ that was installed in 1967. The organ has 474 pipes, 3 rows are exposed, and the others are contained within the swell box and behind the louvers.
Priests Who Have Served St. Felix of Valois Church:
Rev. Francis W. Hewlett 1899-1911
Rev. Francis D. Hill 1911-1914
Rev. William Courtney 1914-1918
Rev. Joseph Arts 1918-1919
Rev. C.P. Stanton 1919-1926
Rev. Michael J. Martin 1926-1928
Rev. Carl E. Einig April to August 1928
Rev. Francis X. O'Donnell Aug. of 1928-1934
Rev. Malachy Walker 1934-1938
Rev. August R. Zylla 1938-1942
Rev. J.L. Culligan 1942-1943
Rev. Alphonse A. Kromka 1943-1947
Rev. Camill F. Klos 1947-1951
Rev. Robert G. Navarre 1951-1956
Rev. Sigmund J. Haremski 1956-1960
Rev. Edward J. Szturmowski June to Sept. 1960
Rev. Joseph A. Schabel 1960-1965
Rev. Virgil Gradowski 1965-1966
Rev. Joseph K. Miller 1966-1970
In 1970, St. Felix and St. Edward (Kinde) became co-parishes. Kinde pastor Fr. Dale LaBrie served both parishes until 1971, followed by Fr. Donald Deweke, 1971-1973, and Fr. S.A. Bur, from 1973-1974.
In 1974, St. Felix became co-parish with St. Roch in Caseville. Fr. Michael Wolf was pastor of both St. Roch and St. Felix from 1974-1976, until he became pastor at St. Francis Borgia parish in Pigeon. For additional priests who served after 1976, please refer to the St. Roch parish priests list.