The earliest Catholic families arrived in Holland around 1870, two hundred years after Fr. Marquette landed in this area. Holland’s first Catholic church was built on 20th Street and dedicated October 11, 1903.
In 1912, our community moved closer into town, building a new church on the corner of 13th and Maple Street. This has been the home of St. Francis de Sales ever since!
In 1923-24, the parishioners of St. Francis de Sales realized their dream of providing a Catholic school for the children of our community and neighborhood. Much of the church was converted into four classrooms, leaving only about a 40′ x 60′ area for worship space. The school opened with four teaching nuns from the Sisters of Mercy order.
The parish of St. Francis de Sales continued to grow over the years. One building could no longer function as both a church and a school. A new church was constructed to the west of the old church/school, allowing more room for a growing parish and student population. The dedication of the newest St. Francis de Sales church was celebrated in December 1938.
Less than 20 years after the new church was constructed, it was determined that the old school building needed to be replaced. In the 1950s, a more modern school building was built to the west of the church building.
By the late 1960s our Catholic community had outgrown its 40-year-old church building. The church and former school buildings were demolished, making room for a larger and more modern church in 1970.
Soon after the new St. Francis de Sales church was erected, it was determined that the Catholic community had grown so much a second parish was needed. In 1979, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church was constructed on the on the corner of 152nd Avenue and James Street on Holland’s north side.
A devastating fire in late 1995 destroyed St. Francis de Sales’ church building, though the school building was spared. Before rebuilding, both parishes took the opportunity to come together and consider their future needs and goals. Out of these meetings, Mission and Ministry 2000 was developed. Plans for individual and collaborative projects were produced, including a new church building for St. Francis de Sales, expanding Our Lady of the Lake’s facility, and…a new school building.
Corpus Christi Catholic School was the first school built in over 30 years in the Grand Rapids Diocese. It is built on land north of Holland on the corner of Quincy Street and 120th Avenue–an equal driving distance from both parishes. Because it is jointly supported and run by two distinct parishes, it became a model of collaborative ministry and administration. This collaboration sparked inquiries from all over the state and nation from other parishes who were interested in duplicating such a project.
The St. Francis de Sales and Our Lady of the Lake partnership continues its commitment and success in nurturing the spirit of knowledge, faith, and character for the children of their parishes and the communities of Holland-Zeeland and the surrounding area.