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Holy Family Church in Saginaw turns 100 years old

Sun beams through the colorful mosaic windows and onto the Italian marble. On the walls, paintings from the Vatican hold symbolic meanings.

Holy Family Catholic Church in Saginaw turned 100 years old around the end of May.

Church Administrator Gilbert Urban said the church preserves old architectural traditions and he considers it a hidden gem of Saginaw.

“This church means a lot to me because I’m a cradle Catholic, and this is one of the very few churches left in the diocese that is still original,” Urban said. “The natural beauty of it just really touches me.”

The building, located 1525 South Washington near Ojibway Island, has never been renovated, Urban said.

For Anne Hamilton, Holy Family Church is a home parish, where she has spent 50 years. Hamilton said she has always been interested in its history.

“It’s a beautiful church,” she said. “The style was an early basilica, which is a lot different than a lot of churches around here.”

The parish was started in 1893 by French Canadians who came to Saginaw to work in the lumbering industry, Hamilton said. At first, they were holding meetings at another church, but then decided to build their own.

In 1916, the first cornerstone was laid, but the work had to stop because of World War I, Hamilton said. It resumed in 1921, and three years later the church was completed and open.

Hamilton said most of the marble, including what covers the interior walls and hallways in the church, was brought from Italy.

“That’s a very high-quality marble ... and ties to the Vatican have a lot to do with why it was brought here. People felt it was important to have that tie to Italy,” Hamilton said.

She said the high altar was replaced in the 1960s and was brought from Italy as well.

However, some of Hamilton’s favorite parts of the church, the windows, come from Germany and from Wisconsin.

“You look at the combination of those windows and the stations of the cross, (and) the message that they send is just spectacular,” she said.

But today, Hamilton said the church needs some maintenance, such as repairing basement walls, upgrading smoke detectors and making sure the glass is not so heavy that the windows could fall. She said this work will all be possible with the help of donations.

Hamilton and Urban said the Holy Family Church draws people from all over the Tri-Cities.

It offers a traditional Latin mass on Sunday afternoons and traditional types of worship, while “trying to bring back some of the old stuff that has been lost,” Urban said. The church also hosts different programs, such as a vocational Bible series, he said.

“It’s a good, holy place to worship,” Hamilton said. “It’s a place of beauty, a place of art, but it’s (also) a community.”

Masha Smahliuk is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at the Midland Daily News.
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