On April 1, 1979 it was announced at the weekend Masses at St. Francis de Sales that Bishop Joseph Breitenbeck had decided that a new parish would be developed on the north side of Lake Macatawa. By May 6, land at the corner of 152nd and James St. was acquired. Fr. Denis Nash was named as pastor and at a meeting on July 31, parishioners were given tasks to get the parish started. On Labor Day weekend, September 1, 1979 the first Mass was held on the site.
The new parish needed a name and parishioners were given the opportunity to submit potential names for the church. Our Lady of the Lake received the most votes beating out St. Brendan, St. Michael, St. Ann, and St. Nicholas. By the end of September of 1979 we were officially “Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Parish.” For the next three years, Mass and religious education were held at Waukazoo Elementary School on Lakewood Boulevard. Each Sunday morning, dedicated parishioners set up an altar, ambo, sound system, banners, and chairs which then had to be taken down after the 11:00am Sunday Mass. Catechists carried materials to and from the school in plastic tubs and cartons.
Waukazoo Elementary School
A building committee was soon created so our growing family could have a home of their own. DeBrincat Architecture was selected after refining designs that would allow the church building to grow as its membership increased. Ground was broken in a religious ceremony for the new church on November 15, 1981, just two years from the date the parish was formed. Pioneer Construction completed the church building on schedule and under budget in less than one year. The original church cost was $1,350,000 including all furnishings and initial supplies. Due to the generous nature of our parishioners and benefactors, close to one million dollars was paid in cash, leaving the parish with a nominal mortgage.
On August 15, 1982 the cornerstone was laid and on October 31 it was time to move to the new church facility. Following the final Liturgy of the Word at the school, a procession of over 900 parishioners followed the Cross Bearers and the Baldaquin from Waukazoo School to the new church to celebrate Mass for the first time. St. Francis School provided a bus for those who could not make the walk. The original church could seat 685 people with 540 in the main body of the church, 75 in the attached chapel and 30 in the cry room. The hall was used for religious education and had six classrooms. The dedication Mass was held on March 6, 1983.
In June of 1986, Fr. Nash was appointed pastor of St. Dominic’s in Wyoming and Fr. Richard Lawie was appointed to replace him. By this time, the church had grown to approximately 500 families and was beginning to feel the growth. In 1989, a report was made to the community about the growth of the Holland area and its impact on our church facilities. A report was sent to the Diocesan Planning Task Force for their consideration. Before any decisions had been made at the Diocesan level, Fr. Lawie was transferred in May of 1993 and was replaced by Fr. Bill Duncan. With new pastors at both Our Lady of the Lake Parish and St. Francis de Sales church, a new initiative to address the needs of the Catholic community in the Holland/Zeeland area began. “Mission and Ministry 2000” was comprised of many teams researching demographics, educational needs, family and faith formation, finances, and facilities.
During this time St. Francis suffered a devastating fire that required a new facility to be built on the site of their old church. Our Lady of the Lake was given permission to pursue expansion to accommodate the growing church population and the desire to provide a new education facility for the Holland/Zeeland Catholic community was approved in concept. St. Francis began their new facility almost immediately and Our Lady of the Lake once again conducted a building campaign. GMB Architects of Holland was selected to design and engineer the remolded facility.
The renovation began in May of 1997 with the expansion of Fr. Nash Hall so Masses could continue during the expansion of the church to accommodate almost 1300 worshipers. Some of the original stained glass windows, designed by Richard Handley, were reused, as were the original pews from Kawkalin Church Furniture. An original stained glass window, designed by Mary Porter of the parish, was placed near the library. The crucifix of the Risen Christ that had been donated in memory of Ken Decker, one of the founding members of the parish, was once again placed over the baptismal font and the statue of the Holy Family was moved to Fr. Nash Hall. A beautiful new chapel seating approximately 100 was added incorporating wood from the original church. The original tabernacle was moved to the new chapel as was most of the original church’s altar furnishings. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel was dedicated on March 18, 1999.
A dedicated group of parishioners made it their mission to accelerate the building of a learning facility and as a result the Corpus Christi Catholic School and Center opened its doors in September of 1999, a year ahead of the projected opening date. It is located at the corner of Quincy and 120th Avenue and is home to 148 K-8 students, 32 pre-school students, and has a staff of teachers and support personnel.
In May of 2001, Fr. Duncan was chosen to pursue studies in Canon Law in Washington D.C. , and Fr. Phil Nguyen returned to the Diocese after serving in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as Chaplain to become pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish. In August of 2009, Fr. Charlie Hall was assigned to replace Fr. Phil Nguyen. In October of 2016, Fr. Michael Cilibraise was assigned as the new pastor. Parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake continue on their journey of faith here on the north side of Holland.
As our mission statement reads: “As children of God, Our Lady of the Lake parishioners are drawn together from diverse backgrounds by our Catholic faith. We are a joyful, emerging community sharing our gifts and growing in our understanding and practice of the Gospel of Christ while worshiping, celebrating, and learning together.” We give thanks to all of our founding families and in the Spirit of Christ look forward to continuing our Journey of Faith with new parishioners yet to come.