Mission Statement As a faith community in the Roman Catholic tradition and as part of the Archdiocese of Detroit, we, the people of Immaculate Conception Parish, seek to live as followers of Jesus Christ by being formed through the grace of the Holy Spirit as servants and heralds of the Gospel. Through our commitment to authentic lifelong formation, outreach to the needy among us, and our invitation to active participation by all our parishioners, we strive to be a place of refuge and growth for all those seeking to know Jesus Christ. By our efforts to be a warm and welcoming community, we are committed to praising and glorifying God in all our words and deeds.(Mission updated October 2012)
A Brief History of Our Parish
The area where Immaculate Conception Parish is located had its Christian beginnings as early as 1679. Fr. Louis Hennepin, the great missionary who accompanied LaSalle on his search for the Mississippi, came ashore from the ship called The Griffon and planted a cross in what is now the Anchorville, Fair Haven area.
The first Catholic settlers, mostly of French descent from the Province of Quebec, arrived in the eighteenth century. A few tribes of the Chippewa Indians lived in the area that is now Fair Haven and New Baltimore. The residents, new and old, lived by hunting and fishing.
By 1850 the fame of the area, originally called Au Lac (near the lake), had become so widespread that immigration from France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Switzerland was common.
The residents of the area were visited by Missionary Fathers from Canada, and French priests from Detroit. Later, clergy from parishes in Mt. Clemens, Marine City and Grosse Pointe would visit the area.
One of the first settlers, Etienne Rose, deeded a portion of his land to the church and the first log cabin church was built. Rose also deeded land for a cemetery. This log cabin church was built on the site where the current church now stands.
In 1853 Rt. Rev. Peter P. Lefevere, then Bishop of the Detroit Diocese, determined that it was time to send a permanent priest to the area. Rev. Charles A. Chambille arrived and stayed with private families until he was able to build a rectory. Being one of the first in the United States, the church was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 15th of that year. Fr. Chambille did many good works at Immaculate Conception until he was transferred to the parish of Greenfield, now St. Alphonsus of Dearborn, in 1859. Fr. Chambille died June 2, 1883.
On December 4, 1885, Au Lac was renamed Anchorville when a post office was established.
Immaculate Conception parish thrived and grew under the leadership of various pastors until August 26, 1917 when the entire complex of church, rectory, sisters home and school were destroyed by fire during the tenure of Rev. Fr. James Downey. Being a very courageous leader and with the loyal support of the people of the parish, within a year the church and school were rebuilt. Fr. Downey was with Immaculate Conception for 22 years. Even when his own health was failing, he took care of the sick. Fr. Downey died suddenly of a heart attack on the morning of September 19, 1935. More than 1,000 attended the Requiem High Mass including 4 Monsignors, 110 priests and 50 nuns.
In May of 1959 ground was broken for a new school and in the fall it was ready for students. It replaced the small four-room school. In 1966 the new school building was enlarged to add a wing of 8 new classrooms. In 1971 the parish school was closed due to reduced state funding. With a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of the parishioners, the school was reopened in the fall of 1976.
To celebrate the reopening of the school, Fr. Harry Paul held a special Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, August 22, 1976. Today over 150 preschool thru 8th grade students are enrolled in the school.
On December 8, 1991 at Immaculate Conception Parish the Au Lac (at the Lake) Council #10724 of the Knights of Columbus was chartered. The council has grown steadily ever since. The council continues to do many good works for the parish and the surrounding community.
On May 15, 2004 we broke ground on a modern parish hall built behind the church and a gymnasium was constructed as part of the school; both were opened for use in 2005. The former Citizens State Bank building along M-29 was purchased, with the parish offices being relocated there.
The above is a brief history of Immaculate Conception Parish. Some of the information was taken from the publication Immaculate Conception Parish, Anchorville, Michigan 150 Year Anniversary and History Book (1853 - 2003). This project was put together for the 150th Anniversary celebration in 2003. A complete and comprehensive history can be found within the pages of the 150th Anniversary and History Book (ISBN-0-9744140-0-x)
Pastors of Immaculate Conception & Dates of Service
Rev. Charles Anthony Chambille - October 1853 to 1859
Rev. Theophilus Buyse - 1859 to 1869
Rev. John F. Elsen - 1869 to 1973
Rev. Henry H. Meuffeles - 1873 to 1892
Rev. Henry DeGryse - 1892 to 1913
Rev. James S. Downey - 1913 to 1935
Rev. Victor Renaud - 1936 to 1938
Rev. John Koezler - 1938 to 1955
Rev. Harry Paul - 1955 to 1977
Rev. Daniel Bogus - 1977 to 1991
Rev. Phillip Briffa - 1991 to 1993
Rev. Zigismund Kowalczyk - 1993 to 1999
Rev. David Burgard - 1999 to 2008
Rev. Tomek Maka - 2008 to 2012
Rev. Joseph Esper - 2012 to present
Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish - 9764 Dixie Hwy, Ira Township, Michigan 48023 • 586.725.3051