A Brief History of St. Mary's Parish

St. Mary’s parish was established in 1857 to meet the spiritual needs of the German population in the Grand Rapids area. The original church building, erected in 1857, was replaced in 1873 by our current building, a Gothic-style structure, designed by the eminent architect, Franz G. Himpler. The cornerstone for St. Mary’s was laid on May 25, 1873.

The church steeple, easily seen from US-131, stands 200 feet tall. The building itself is made of white brick with Ionia sandstone trimmings. The interior of the church looks much like it did in the late 1800’s with many of the original details left intact. Prominently featured are the pillars, capped with fleur de lis and olive leaf designs.

Twenty large stained glass windows line the walls of the church, with additional windows in the sacristy, tower, and entry area.

In the mid-1920’s new stained glass windows, were installed. These windows, designed by H. Oidtmann, primarily depict scenes from Mary’s life. Our windows are registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census.

In addition to the architectural features of the building itself, St. Mary’s also has on display several statues of historic interest. The Pieta, near the north rear entrance, was donated by then pastor, Fr. Ehrenstrasser, in 1879. On the opposite side of the church is a grotto depicting Our Lady of Lourdes. This shrine was purchased in Europe by Bishop Schrembs and donated to the church in 1902. Near the front of the church, on opposite sides, are small shrines to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Rita. These shrines were installed in 1918 and 1919 respectively.

Other, smaller artifacts and various historical documents are displayed in the showcase at the rear of the church. This display is changed periodically to offer parishioners and visitors a glimpse of some of the many items in our archives.

St. Mary’s parish has changed and grown over the years. We now serve a community of parishioners reflective of the population of the Grand Rapids area. We are involved in community outreach programs through the Steepletown consortium. To better meet the needs of our Hispanic parishioners, a Mass in Spanish is offered each Sunday at 11:30 am.