Our Church History
A BRIEF HISTORY OF STS. CORNELIUS AND CYPRIAN PARISH, BUNKER HILL TOWNSHIP, (LESLIE), MICHIGAN
“The James Markey family were one of the first Catholic families to arrive in the Bunker Hill area in 1839. Their longing for the Eucharist led to Rev. Patrick O’Kelly coming from Livingston County in February 1845 to celebrate their first Mass in their home. In 1849 Patrick Markey donated land for a Catholic cemetery. When Rev. Cornelius Moutard took up his pastorate at St. John the Evangelist in Jackson in 1857, he was also given the care of the Bunker Hill Catholics. In 1863 a wood frame church was erected in the cemetery. A petition was soon sent to Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere of Detroit for a resident priest. In November 1868 he sent Rev. Theodore Hilary Driessen.
Bunker Hill lost its parochial status in 1873 and remained a mission for the next thirty-two years. For most of this period the mission was under the care of the pastors from St. Mary Pinckney, St. John Jackson and St. Mary Williamston. During the pastorate of Rev. John J. Connolly at Williamston, the Bunker Hill community experienced expansion. A new brick veneer church was built opposite the cemetery and dedicated December 1, 1899. In early 1905, plans were made to build a rectory, convent and school. Fr. Connolly secured the services of the Sisters of St. Joseph from Nazareth to staff the school, which opened in the converted old church.
Upon Fr. Connolly’s transfer in July 1905, Bunker Hill was given its first resident pastor in over thirty years. Rev. James O’Brien’s pastorate (1905-1919) combined the best of times with the worst of times. The 1899 church burned down in 1906. The 1905 rectory was destroyed by fire in 1910. A new church (1907), a new rectory (1910), and a school (1912) were built. The school closed in 1964.
The Catholic faith was greatly treasured by the community at Bunker Hill. Thirteen of the parish’s daughters and six of her sons entered religious life or the priesthood. During the pastorate of Rev John M. Duffy (1923-1942, Bunker Hill became famous for its picnics. The first one had been held in 1869 but probably the largest was in 1937 when 1500 attended the dinner. Since 1938 Bunker Hill has also hosted the San Ippolito Festival sponsored by the Italian American Catholic community of Lansing. From 1986 until 2003 Rev. Eugene J. Beiter led the Bunker Hill community. Rev. Michael A. Petroski followed till the end of September 2015.” (Excerpts from LIVING IN JOYFUL HOPE - A History of the Diocese of Lansing by George C. Michalek)
“Over the years the number of parishioners had gradually diminished. The descendants of the immigrants and early members of the parish had moved away from the region. Those who remained had found pastoral service in other parishes of the area. So for the sake of a united Catholic presence and due to the need to utilize both human and financial resources most effectively for the service of the Catholic population and as a witness to the entire community of central and southern Ingham County and Northern Jackson County, a merger was most beneficial.
Sts. Cornelius & Cyprian Parish was then clustered with St. James in Mason in October 2015 under the pastorate of Fr. Kusitino Cobona. After subsequent consultations with the Staff, Pastoral and Finance Council members of both parishes with the pastor and Bishop Earl Boyea, the merger of the two parishes was deemed the best course to follow. On June 8, 2018 a decree was issued by Bishop Boyea to merge Sts. Cornelius & Cyprian Parish in Bunker Hill Township (Leslie) with St. James Parish in Mason. This decree took effect July 1, 2018. The new consolidated community was named – The Catholic Community of Saints James, Cornelius and Cyprian- The current pastor of St. James, Rev. Fr. Kusitino Cobona shall remain pastor of the consolidated community.”
(Excerpts from the Decree to Merge Sts. Cornelius & Cyprian Parish in Bunker Hill Township (Leslie) with St. James Parish in Mason)