Who We Are
The parish had its beginnings as a mission church of St. Mary’s Parish in Niles in 1923 when the entire area was still part of the archdiocese of Detroit. At that time Catholics from Michigan and northern Indiana who had summer homes on Eagle Lake thought that a Catholic church in the area would be a great convenience. So, a small frame chapel was erected on the south shore of Eagle Lake. With this location and because of priestly assistance from the Holy Cross Fathers at nearby Notre Dame, the chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Mother under the title “Our Lady of the Lake” o, in French, “Notre Dame du Lac.”
Just two years later, due to an increase in summertime attendance, an addition was made to the chapel. But, because there were only six to eight year-round Catholic families, half the church was closed off, not heated and not used during the cold winter months. The organ in this first chapel was built by Hugo Van Dinter of Mishawaka and was pumped by a hand lever on the side.
By the 1940’s, increasing membership outgrew the original chapel. So, the Ralph Kaja family of the parish donated the five-acre corner of its farmland on Route 12 for a new church. In the Spring of 1954, a new 40’ X 80’ red brick church that could seat 130 was completed. Now a part of the new diocese of Lansing, the new church was dedicated August 29, 1954 By Bishop Joseph Albers of Lansing.
The congregation was still a mission of St. Mary’s in Niles. And in 1965, Fr. Cletus Rose of St. Mary’s began the expansion project and new addition at Our Lady of the Lake. His successor, Monsignor John Slowey, completed the project with the aid of Assistant Pastor Fr. Allen Theis that resulted in a new church dedicated September 15, 1967. The structure included a small apartment for the visiting priest and a full basement with a social hall and kitchen. Shortly after the dedication, the former church building was converted into classrooms for religious education.
In 1971, the new diocese of Kalamazoo was established with Bishop Paul Donavan as its first bishop. Around the same time and during the 1970’s, Our Lady of the Lake was a mission church of St. Ann’s in Cassopolis.
Then, in 1981, due largely to the pleading of the mission community’s members headed by Ted Jarosz, Bishop Donovan established Our Lady of the Lake as an independent parish with Salvatorian Father Bill Remmel as its first resident pastor. By this time, the parish had over 200 families with many additional summertime visitors. Fr. Bill was a force in building up the parish community and developing many enriching programs, events and activities. Under his guidance, the parish built a beautiful rectory in 1987 that was to be used for parish meetings as well.
In the summer of 1988, Bishop Donovan appointed diocesan Father Dave Otto as pastor. Despite his infirmities due to rheumatoid arthritis, Fr. Dave was a devoted spiritual leader for 18 years. During this time, the parish leadership planned and built a new building adjacent to the church that would house a new social hall and kitchen and ten classrooms at its lower level to accommodate the growing religious education program. The new Social Hall and Classroom building was dedicated July 1, 2000.
In 2006, the former classrooms in the former church building were converted into parish offices and meeting space for the growing parish staff and key volunteers. By this time, the parish had grown to include 400 families.
In July 2006, Augustinian Father Joe McCormick became pastor. During his years, the parish continued to grow, new programs and ministries were undertaken and new positions were added to the parish staff. In Spring 2014 a $2.4 million renovation and expansion of the church was undertaken that would include a new sanctuary and church that would accommodate 450, a large narthex, a renovated office and meeting space and expanded parking. At the time of the groundbreaking, the parish had grown to over 550 families.