St. Mary of the Lake Parish

718 W. Buffalo Ave.
New Buffalo, MI 49117

Phone: (269) 469-2637
Fax: (269) 469-7393

Weekend Schedule

Saturday Vigil Mass: 5:00pm
Sunday: 9:00 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.

Weekday Mass

Mon, Tue & Wed - 8:30AM;Fri - 8:00AM
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Saturday: 3:30 - 4:30PM, or by appointment.

A Brief History

New Buffalo was born in the heart of Captain Wessel Whittaker when he chanced on the harbor at the mouth of the Galien River in 1834. Captain Whittaker returned in 1835 to establish a settlement and to start a thriving maritime community.

In 1847, the railroad connected New Buffalo with Detroit and a terminal was established and many German and Irish immigrants, who worked on the railroad, settled here. Many of these immigrants were Catholic and sought a way to have Mass celebrated. The nearest priests were at Notre Dame University and for a number of years the Mission at New Buffalo was served by the priests from Notre Dame who, when possible, would come on horseback.

Father Nightingale was the first priest to come to this area. He was from Notre Dame. One of the first entries in his journal concerned the gift of a new horse. It seemed that his parishoners felt sorry for Father Nightingale and decided to chip in and buy him an animal. The people continued to chip in, until they finally were able to build their own church. In 1857, they bought the corner property at Whittaker and Buffalo streets, which was then known as Seamen's Square. The church had eight pews and an altar. The final deed was signed January 14, 1858, and the property cost $50. Father Cappon of Niles took charge of the mission and came once a month on horseback to celebrate Mass. In later years, as the community developed, Father Cappon and his assistants, came every Saturday to New Buffalo from Niles.

Two additions were made to the original church - one was in 1881 and another was in 1890. Father Cappon remained pastor at Niles until his death in May, 1896. He and his associate pastor cared for St. Mary of the Lake for 37 years. Father Thomas Lee was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption in Three Oaks in 1891 and came from Niles each weekend to celebrate Mass. Father Lee became pastor of Three Oaks in 1895 and became its full-time resident pastor with missions in New Buffalo and Dayton.

Father Lee and the succeeding pastors served New Buffalo faithfully and as the area grew, Father Gerald Owens who became pastor of Three Oaks in 1928, saw a need for a resident pastor in New Buffalo. Plans were in the making even before Father Owens became pastor at Three Oaks. Father Louis Hammer purchased the land on which the present church and rectory stand June 3, 1926. Father Owens must have had a special spot in his heart for New Buffalo. He left his parish in Three Oaks and for the more difficult task of establishing a new parish here in New Buffalo. Thus began a new era in New Buffalo. St Mary of the Lake officially became a parish February 8, 1932, and Father Gerald Owens took up residency among the people of New Buffalo. St. Mary of the Lake finally had its own full-time pastor.

The new St. Mary of the Lake church was begun by turning over the first shovel of sod on April 20, 1936. The cornerstone was laid and blessed on Sunday, June 7. The church was opened Sunday, August 30, and was dedicated by Bishop Michael Gallagher on September 20, 1936. The parish had grown from the approximately 75 families of 1936 to close to 300 by 1960. There also were many summer residents from the Chicago area who attended the church during the summer months.

The parish remained under the pastorate of Father Owens until January, 1941, when he was transferred to St. Basil Church in South Haven, Michigan. He was replaced by Father Edward Krawczyk of Holy Family Church in Decatur, Michigan. Under Father Owens, a mission parish was established at Bridgman, Michigan. The pastorate of Father Krawczyk was cut short by his sudden death on September 6, 1941. The parish was without a priest until December 19, 1941, when Father George Fitzgerald was appointed pastor.

On July 7, 1942, Father Fitzgerald was transferred from St. Mary of the Lake to St. Paul Church in Owosso, Michigan. Father Francis L. Sharpe then became pastor and Father Edward Parker came to St. Mary of the Lake as assistant pastor. In 1947, Father Gilbert Grusse replaced Father Sharpe as pastor. He remained in New Buffalo until July, 1953, when Father Francis Timmons arrived.

In 1954, more land was purchased to the north of the parish. This eventually was used for a parish school. Father Timmons remained at St. Mary of the Lake until July, 1955, when he was sent to Niles to establish a new parish. He was replaced by Father Charles Smith.

In March of 1960, Father Smith was transferred to Hilssdale and Father William Limbert came to St. Mary of the Lake. On May 18, 1940, the first priest from the parish was ordained. He was Father John Daniels. He was the pastor of St. Joseph Church, Owosso, Michigan. He is the son of Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Daniels of New Buffalo. Another priest from the parish was ordained to the Priesthood in April, 1957. He was Father Walter Zientarski, son of Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Zientarski.