CHEBOYGAN, Michigan, July 30, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In the 17th century, French Jesuit priests like Fr. Jacques Marquette arrived in Northern Michigan and converted thousands of Native Americans to the Catholic faith. Today, towns across the region have historical markers and monuments erected in his honor.
Much like the wider Church, a crisis of faith shook the Catholic community in Northern Michigan following the Second Vatican Council. Eventually, the Diocese of Gaylord was forced to close several churches, including St. Charles Borromeo, one of the largest in the area, in the 1980s.
St. Charles, which was built in the early part of the 1900s, was eventually sold to a group of Protestants. Decades of neglect finally caught up with the building. By the mid-2000s, it had become practically unusable due to water damage and structural issues.
Bill Price, a former Marine, saw the church was listed for sale in the 2010s after he and his wife, who grew up in Cheboygan, were visiting the town. Price told LifeSite he was “inspired” to purchase the property because of what it represented to the area.
In 2019, Price purchased the dilapidated church, which can hold upwards of 500 people, for $25,000, eventually taking out a mortgage on it. Since then, he’s been essentially single-handedly restoring it to its former glory. A small group of volunteers have helped install air conditioning and other amenities.
In recent years, Price has done extensive work patching up holes in the roof to prevent further water damage. He’s also built the base of the altar, fixed the windows, and installed donated altar rails.
While financial support has generally been sparse, Price told LifeSite he’s received several donations higher than a thousand dollars, which he immediately put back into the building. There is currently a GoFundMe site to help Price pay for the restoration. (Click here if you would like to help restore St. Charles to its former glory.)
Although there remains much work to be done, including the installation of new floors and bell towers, Price announced the grand re-opening of St. Charles on Sunday, July 11. Traditional Catholics from across the state, including some from Cheboygan who attended and were married at St. Charles before it closed, responded to the announcement with much celebration.
Five choirs from various Latin Mass churches in Michigan, along with approximately 300 laypersons, attended the liturgy, which was offered by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, who in turn was assisted by several others. It was the first Latin Mass offered at St. Charles in over five decades. Price said he initially approached the Gaylord Diocese about St. Charles but they responded that they weren’t interested.
Fr. William Kimball told LifeSite that the restoration of St. Charles is similar to the restoration to the church as a whole, explaining that the building is still marred by decades of poor treatment and that it has scars from the past, but that it’s still the Bride of Christ and that God will restore it in due time.
College student Erika Grondin, who attends a Latin Mass in Grand Rapids, which is nearly four hours from Cheboygan, drove to St. Charles with her boyfriend Xavier Webster for the Mass. Her father had been baptized at the church as an infant. She told LifeSite she “had to come” to the re-opening because of what it meant to her family, as well as what it means for tradition.
“During COVID, it became clear the mainstream church viewed the sacraments as disposable. I hope more young people will see the sacrality of the Latin Mass and appreciate the effort these priests are making to bring the faith to us during these times.”
Price said he’s excited about the possibility of other priests who want to say the Latin Mass coming to St. Charles. He had special praise for Fr. James Altman, who he said is more than welcome to visit St. Charles any time, as well as all priests who defend the Latin liturgy.
If you would like to help complete the restoration of St. Charles Borromeo, there is currently a GoFundMe page setup. Click here if you would like to help restore St. Charles to its former glory.