History

St. Mary of the Angels Oratory

Celebrating Catholic Community in Lagrange County

 

Our History

 

St. Mary of the Angels is a little church located near Big Long Lake in Lagrange
County, Indiana; it has served Catholics in the area since 1937. Prior to that, they attended Mass in Sturgis, Michigan or Rome City, Indiana. Lagrange County was the last of the 92 counties in Indiana to have a Catholic Church.

 

In 1937, Father William Ehrman of Kendallville urged people in the area to rent a
cottage for Sunday Mass. Instead, Stanley and Mary Burke (Burkowski) offered the use of a
large cottage located in the Shady Nook area of Big Long Lake, rent free. They borrowed an
altar from Kneipp Sanitarium and vestments from St Patrick’s Church. Pews and Stations of
the Cross and other articles came from the Immaculate Conception Church in Kendallville.
Franciscan Friar, Father Patrick Gauchat from Angola, said the first Mass. From
then on, Masses were offered only in June, July and August and were always well attended.

 

Original parishioners living in the area were Mr. and Mrs. Art Ream & family, Mr. and Mrs.
Oral Coney, Mrs. Diane Turner and family, Mrs. Fred Stern and family, Mr. and Mrs. Willard
Howe and family, and Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Glasgow and family.

 

In 1942, a newly ordained Franciscan, Father Gregory Kollros, came to St. Mary’s and,
filled with zeal and enthusiasm, started to save for a chapel with monies from collections of
$5.95 and seat money of a quarter for adults and 10 cents for children. Finally, an amount of
$3,500 was saved. A donation came from the Bishop and the Taylor family offered a lake lot
to be raffled, with proceeds going to the building of the church. Willard Leroy and Byrdena
Howe donated a small parcel of land over-looking Big Long Lake.

 

The church received it’s named because of the special love that St. Francis of Assisi,
Founder of the Franciscans, have for the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Francis was fond of a
chapel in the village of Assisi known as St. Mary of the Angels or “the Portiuncula” (Little
Portion). St. Francis obtained the famous Portiuncula Indulgence and extended it to many
other churches that took the name.

 

Mass was celebrated in the new chapel for the first time in the spring of 1949.
Father Charles Feltes was sent by the Bishop to bless the chapel. There remained a small
debt of a few thousand dollars that Fr. Gregory paid off in three or four years. Many
wonderful Franciscan priests staffed St. Mary’s over the years, and it grew to be a viable
parish serving many year-round families and summer residents.

In November 2004, Fr. Gerry Herman OFM (temporary and last Pastor), left for health
reasons, and the Bishop did not appoint another pastor. Fr. Jim Rose and Fr. David Carkenord
celebrated Mass each weekend until February 2006. Then, Bishop John D’Arcy designated St.
Mary of the Angels an Oratory (House of Prayer) under the administration of Fr. David

Carkenord of St. Michael the Archangel in Waterloo.

 

Since that time, many dedicated retired Diocesan priests have offered Mass each
weekend, except a few each weeks in the month of January. St Mary’s continues to fulfill
the spiritual needs of Catholics in the lake area.

 

Our history is long and our faith remains strong.

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday

and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8