Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids

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Diocese of Grand Rapids
Dioecesis Grandcataractensis
Diocese coatofarms Color.jpg
Grand Rapids Diocese Coat of arms
Country United States
Territory Counties of Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Montcalm, Mecosta, Lake, Mason, and Osceola
Ecclesiastical province Detroit
Area 6,795 sq mi (17,600 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2006)
166,000 [1] (12.7%)
Parishes 82
Schools 29
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established May 19, 1882 (133 years ago)
Cathedral Cathedral of Saint Andrew
Patron saint St. Andrew
Secular priests 110
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop David J. Walkowiak
Metropolitan Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron
Vicar General William H. Duncan
Emeritus Bishops
Diocese of Grand Rapids map 1.png
Cathedral of St. Andrew

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids (Latin: Dioecesis Grandcataractensis) is a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in western Michigan, in the United States. It comprises 102 churches in Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Montcalm, Mecosta, Lake, Mason, and Osceola counties in Michigan. It is a suffragan see to the Archdiocese of Detroit. The motherchurch of the diocese is the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. On April 18, 2013, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Walter A. Hurley's resignation and appointed the Rev. David J. Walkowiak to be the twelfth Bishop of Grand Rapids.


The diocese was created on May 19, 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. Its territory was taken from the Diocese of Detroit. It lost territory in 1938 when the Diocese of Saginaw was established and again on December 19, 1970 when both the Diocese of Gaylord and the Diocese of Kalamazoo were created.[1][2] St. Adalbert Church in Grand Rapids was raised to a minor basilica in 1979.[3]


  1. Henry Richter (1883–1916)
  2. Michael J. Gallagher (1916–1918)
  3. Edward D. Kelly (1919–1926)
  4. Joseph G. Pinten (1926–1940)
  5. Joseph C. Plagens 1941–1943)
  6. Francis J. Haas (1943–1953)
  7. Allen James Babcock (1954–1970)
  8. Joseph M. Breitenbeck (1969–1989)
  9. Robert John Rose (1989–2003)
  10. Kevin Michael Britt (2003–2004)
  11. Walter A. Hurley (2005–2013)
  12. David J. Walkowiak (2013–present)

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

  1. Charles Salatka (1962-1968)
  2. Joseph Crescent McKinney (1968-2001)

High schools[edit]


In 2014, Michael Wawee Jr. pleaded no contest to embezzlement charges while using his position with the Diocese to overcharge grieving families for the engraving of grave markers at its cemeteries and then pocketed the money, according to court documents.[4] Earlier in the year while facing charges and in connection with those charges, he resigned as District 6 Commission from the Kent County Board of Commissioners.[5] He was later sentenced to one year behind bars along with three years of probation, in addition to making restitution to his victims, which could exceed $200 thousand.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]

Arms of Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Diocese Coat of arms in color
Arms was designed and adopted when the diocese was erected
The arms of the diocese are composed of a silver (Argent) field on which are seen wavy blue (Azure) bars that proceed from the upper right to the lower left (bendy sinister). Emblazoned over the watery background of the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Grand Rapids is a red (Gules) Cross moline.
The wavy blue (Azure) bars is a representation used to recall the site of the rapids in the Grand River where, in 1833, missionary priest Frederick Baraga (later the first Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette) established the first permanent Catholic mission while the area was still a part of the Northwest Territory. From this missionary outpost at Grand Rapids, and traveling mostly by water, Bishop Baraga, his successor Bishop Ignatius Mrak and Father Andrew Viszosky (the first resident priest at Grand Rapids) established mission stations at Beaver Island, Grand Traverse, Cheboygan, Manistee, Muskegon, Grand Haven and Ionia.

Today, the Diocese of Grand Rapids encompasses the Catholic community in eleven counties in the mid-western part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. This water image further underscores the defining presence of Lake Michigan, the western boundary of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and in religious terms, the defining presence of Christ: “Jesus stood up and exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’.” (John 7:37-38)

Emblazoned over the watery background of the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Grand Rapids is a red (Gules) Cross Moline, the arms of which peel off into two curls at the end. The word “moline” comes from the French moulin or “mill” since this cross resembles the curved extremities of a millrynd, the iron which supports an upper millstone. The agrarian roots of this cross shape suggest the wheat of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian community. While interpretations of the Cross Moline vary, some heraldic experts say that this particular Cross symbolizes the mutual convergence of human society – thus adding to its Eucharistic meaning. “As this broken bread was scattered upon the hills, and was gathered together and made one, so let thy Church be gathered together into thy kingdom from the ends of the earth.” (Didache Apostolorum c.110 AD).

In the context of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, the shape of the Cross Moline also has an extended symbolic meaning, which is an “anchor” firmly set in the water. The anchor is an image of Jesus Christ, the security of the soul, and a sign of hope in troubled waters: “...we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm ....” (Hebrews 6:18-19)


  1. ^ a b "Diocese of Grand Rapids". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  2. ^ "Diocese of Grand Rapids". Giga Catholic. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  3. ^ "Basilica of St. Adalbert". GCatholic. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  4. ^ 24 Hour News 8 web staff (26 September 2014). "Fmr commissioner pleads to embezzlement charges". WOOD TV 8. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Evans, Pat (13 February 2014). "Kent County commissioner resigns". Grand Rapids Business Journal. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Henry Erb and 24 Hour News 8 web staff (25 November 2014). "Wawee sentenced for upcharging gravestones". WOOD TV 8. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Hogan, John (25 November 2014). "Ex-commissioner gets jail for cemetery embezzlement". WZZM TV 13. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Hogan, John (13 March 2015). "Ex Kent commissioner on the hook for gas, gravestones". WZZM TV 13. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°57′28.8″N 85°40′02″W / 42.958000°N 85.66722°W / 42.958000; -85.66722