SAGINAW (WJRT) -
(06/18/14) - Parishioners are preparing for the final mass at Saginaw County's oldest Catholic Church.
Saint Andrew Church was established as a parish in the early 1850's, but in recent decades, as the city's population declined, so did the number of church-goers.
The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw announced parish changes about a year and a half ago, so the parishioners at St. Andrew knew this day was coming, but it's still a difficult time.
"Church was the site of everything you did, this was our social center," said Tom Polzin, St. Andrew parishioner.
That's how it used to be. For residents on the west side of Saginaw, that social center was St. Andrew on Michigan Avenue, just a few blocks from the County Courthouse. It was the first Catholic Church in Saginaw County.
"It's not only from birth, this parish has the ability to become home to you, within just a short period of time," Polzin said.
Polzin's family is one of about 150 that still call St. Andrew home. He knows after Sunday, he won't be able to go home again.
"We are concentrating on the music, just to get through this Sunday, it's not going to be easy after that. I am getting a little choked up right now," he said.
The church will be used for certain occasions, but Sunday's mass will be the last. The church is merging with the St. Helen parish, with the new name being Christ the Good Shepherd.
Becky Racette has been the St. Andrew church secretary for the last three years.
"A lot of our parishioners have been baptized here, married here, they have raised their families here," she said. "Even though you understand it, it's hard to wrap your head around. The beauty of the church, how long we have been here."
"The wonderful part about St. Andrew history is that its virtually the same as Saginaw history," Polzin said. "We face the boom eras together, almost like brother and sister."
Now, with population declining, a sad chapter is written in the history of the city and the church. Polzin says while the masses will come to an end, St. Andrew's will continue in a different way.
"We are kind of taking the whole spirit of St. Andrews outward from this place into a wider world," he said.
The last mass at St. Andrew will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Sunday.