2018-07-15 / Insight

St. Patrick’s Chapel, a Clifford anchor for more than a century

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


St. Patrick’s parishioners installed new carpet and had the original 1896 stations for the Cross and pews professionally cleaned and restored to mark the church’s 125th anniversary in 2011. 
Photo by Phil Foley St. Patrick’s parishioners installed new carpet and had the original 1896 stations for the Cross and pews professionally cleaned and restored to mark the church’s 125th anniversary in 2011. Photo by Phil Foley CLIFFORD — St. Patrick’s Chapel will be hold its 28th Heritage Days festival Aug. 12, but Catholics have been gathering in this tiny north Lapeer County community for a lot longer.

Fr. Clement Krebs first came to Clifford in 1979 to say Mass and by 1886 the Archdiocese of Detroit decided to build a church there because with two railroads intersecting, they thought it would become a bigger town than Marlette.

Kerry Seers, a member of the Heritage Days Committee, noted in 1885 there were 30 businesses in Clifford. “We had two of everything,” he said. “At one time, (Henry) Ford considered building a factory in Clifford.”


St. Patrick’s Chapel parishioners Eleanor Wasilewski, Donna Sherman, Nancy Bussure and Kerry Seers are looking forward to seeing people join them Aug. 12 for the church’s Heritage Days. St. Patrick’s Chapel parishioners Eleanor Wasilewski, Donna Sherman, Nancy Bussure and Kerry Seers are looking forward to seeing people join them Aug. 12 for the church’s Heritage Days. But times changed, the railroads went away and Clifford began to fade. The bar and the general store closed in the last five years. But St. Patrick’s endures.

Between 65 and 70 parishioners attend Mass at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday. “Midnight mass (at Christmas) is packed,” said Donna Sherman, another festival committee member.

In 2002, Clifford’s St. Patrick’s was merged into what was then the Tri- Parish Cluster, along with St. Mary’s in Burnside and St. Peter and Paul’s in North Branch. Since then with the addition of Sacred Heart in Brown City, it’s become the North Lapeer Parish Cluster.

St. Patrick’s remains the northernmost church in the Archdiocese of Detroit. “We have people here from four counties,” Seer said. Sherman, who’s lived in the Kingston area her whole life, has been coming to St. Patrick’s since she was in middle school. St. Patrick’s draws the faithful from Lapeer, Tuscola, Genesee and Saginaw counties.

Seers noted that “half the parish is really actively involved (in Heritage Days). We’re a close-knit group.”

He said that while the official start of the festival’s roast beef and pork dinner is 11:30 a.m., “We begin serving right after Mass.”

St. Patrick’s, said Seers, is the kind of church, “If you find something loose in a pew, you bring a screwdriver next Sunday.”

Nancy Bussure, the church organist, said she gets six or seven people for choir practice at 4 p.m. every Tuesday. There’s a copy of her 1952 wedding picture in the church’s basement, which doubles as a parish hall.

Seers noted the church’s three altar boys range from age six to 75.

Sherman expects to serve between 175 and 200 meals at Heritage Days. She added they’ll also get a mob of hard core bingo players and rummage sale enthusiasts.

She said Heritage Days hasn’t changed a great deal over the years, and that’s part of the attraction. Sherman said a lot of people who come to the festival grew up in the area and moved away. It’s kind of a touch stone.

Tickets for the dinner are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for children 5 to 11 years old and free for children under five.

Marie Czelusniak, another committee member, said the festival will include bingo with cash and prizes, a flea market, a country store, free kids games, an activity tent and a display by the Burlington Twp. Fire Dept. and a presentation from the Clifford Library.

St. Patrick’s is located at 9851 Main St.

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