by Sister Kathleen Phelan, OP
In anticipation of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli’s death (1864), in September all six Council members set off on a Father Samuel Mazzuchelli pilgrimage to northern Michigan. We wanted to experience first-hand the sites where Father Samuel ministered in the early years of his active ministry (1830–1833). It was our intention to gain a better understanding of his travels and the daily challenges he faced, be it a drastically changing climate amidst the striking beauty of this area, the reality of his spiritual and physical isolation, language/communication barriers, or tensions in religious beliefs among the populations living the Michigan Territory. “The shores of the lake and of the river were covered with dense forest where nature showed herself solemn and mysterious in an eloquent silence …” (Memoirs).
We journeyed not in birch bark canoes nor on horseback as was Father Samuel’s custom but by high-speed car ferry and overland by car. Off we went to historic St. Anne’s Parish in Mackinac Island, where an informative museum within the church tells the story of the influence of church leaders and Native American co-ministers who formed the enduring faith of Mackinac. We were glad to see Father Samuel portrayed prominently among those leaders. Standing together in the middle of this charming church, we prayed the prayer for the Beatification of Father Samuel. “You called your servant, Samuel, even in early youth to leave home and all for a Dominican life…” Praying the familiar words of that prayer in the site of his early ministry gave new meaning to the power of its words.
Other sites visited included Holy Cross Church and museum in Cross Village. There, Father Samuel’s religious and civic contributions are commemorated in a stained glass window in the church and artifacts displayed in the museum. It was amazing to learn how Father Samuel’s memory and contributions are still revered.