History of St. Sebastian Church
In the year of 1852, a small group of pioneers from Germany, who had
settled in the woods 18 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, built a log
church on property donated by John Jacob Wolf.
Services were held as regularly as possible by priests from Grand
Rapids and Wright.
The log church was used until 1890 when it became unsafe. In that
year, the Byron Parish united with St. Mary's Church, which was then
in North Dorr.
In 1896, the North Dorr church was struck by lightening and burned to
the ground. Bishop Richter and Father Egge of Wright then
reorganized the Byron Parish and services were held in a hall near
the location of the log church until 1901, when the present church was
Father Fredrick H. Ruessmann was the first resident pastor and under
his pastorate the rectory was built in 1897 at the cost of $1,003.00.
The parishioners donated the work and materials. In August 1899,
Father Anthony Eikelmann was appointed pastor. During his stay, the
present church was built. During his time here, Holland was a mission
of St. Sebastian. Father Eikelmann would celebrate Mass here, then
he would drive horses to Jamestown and take the interurban to
Holland for Mass.
In March 1908, Father William Hasenburg was appointed pastor. In
1909, the North Dorr Hotel building was bought and moved to St.
Sebastian's property and paced beside the church. It served as a
school with two classrooms, one upstairs and one down, a hall, and a
convent living quarters for the Dominican nuns who taught in the
school. In 1976, it was scheduled to be torn down, but fire destroyed it
Father Hasenburg was transferred to West Branch in 1915 when
Father Anthony Bolser became our pastor. It was then, in 1917, that
the North Dorr parish was reopened and became a mission of St.
Sebastian. Father Earnest J. Walters become pastor in 1921, to
continue as the longest servicing pastor of St. Sebastian, until 1968.
In 1975, a new parish hall was built. In the summer of 1993, four
classrooms were built onto the hall. The rectory was restored in 1994.
In 1997-98, the church was repainted inside and the steeple repaired
and painted outside. The church was made barrier-free with an
access ramp and gathering deck outside.
Continuation of pastoral history:
1921-1968 - Fr. Ernest J. Walters
1968-1971 - Fr. Thomas J. Hack
1971-1975 - Msgr. Thomas O. Martin
1975-1979 - Msgr. Herman H. Zerfas
1979-1982 - Fr. M. James Hoogterp
1982-1994 - Fr. Edward J. Bielskas
1994-2007 - Msgr. Gaspar F. Ancona
2007-Present—Msgr. William H. Duncan
|9408 Wilson Avenue SW
Byron Center, Michigan 49315