Diocese: Romanian Episcopate
Deanery: Michigan Deanery
2522 Grey Tower Rd
Grass Lake, Michigan 49201-9120
PO Box 309
Grass Lake, MI 49240-0309
Grass Lake, MI 49240
The Chapel of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is at the Diocesan Center for the Romanian Episcopate, is located in the township of Grass Lake, Michigan, on Grey Tower Rd, which is approximately 10 miles east of Jackson, Michigan.
From the east
Use the Ohio Turnpike to exit 59. Follow US 23 north toward Ann Arbor until you reach I-94, then turn west towards Chicago to exit 150—Grass Lake. At end of exit ramp turn left (south) on Mt Hope Rd. Go approx 2 miles. At stop sign (Michigan Ave) turn right. Go through the village of Grass Lake. Turn left on Wolf Lake Rd (Frank’s Shop Rite on corner). Go approx 1/4 mile, and turn left on Grey Tower Rd.
From the west
Follow I-94 east to exit 142 (127 south / Hudson). Follow 127 south to second exit (Page Ave). At end of exit ramp, turn left onto Page Ave. Follow Page Ave through the town of Michigan Center and continue for approx 5-7 miles. Turn right on Grey Tower Rd. If you reach Wolf Lake Rd (end of Page Ave), you have gone too far; go back 1/4 mile.
Schedule of Services
There are no regular services celebrated at this chapel, due to the fact that there is no resident priest and the hierarch is usually visiting parishes over the weekend.
Services for Feast Days are usually held for the benefit of the Chancery staff; call for information.
Mornings of Great Feasts
The origin of the Chapel of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Grass Lake, MI, was closely tied to the arrival, in 1935, of the first bishop for the Romanian Orthodox in North America, namely, His Grace, Polycarp (Morusca). He wanted the Episcopal residence to be located in a rural setting similar to that of the Hodosh-Bodrog Monastery in Transylvania from which he was elected bishop.
On his arrival in North America, Bishop Polycarp found no designated residence and although he lived first in Cleveland, OH, this was not a permanent solution. Although he was determined not to remain in the “city smog of Cleveland” the faithful were adamant in wanting him to be among them in a metropolitan area, such as Cleveland.
Bishop Policarp went to Romania for a visit during which “Grey Tower Farm” in Grass Lake Township, Jackson County, MI was purchased by a group of energetic laymen from Detroit. They wrote to their hierarch who was pleased to hear of this development. On returning to the United States and Michigan, the bishop accepted the site and it became his official residence much to the chagrin of the Cleveland community.
On July 3-4, 1938, the diocesan center “Vatra Romaneasca / The Romanian Hearth” was dedicated and a cornerstone was laid for a chapel dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Once the ancestral home of the Ottawa and Chippewa Tribes, “Grey Tower Farm / Vatra Romaneasca” was part of a 1,000 acre holding of the Boland Family. Of Scotch origin whose family came to America in 1710, the family came west and settled the land on a grant by President Jackson. From Native Americans to Scotch settlers to Romanian Americans, the land has a rich history and the “Vatra” is a well-known local landmark.
The Romanian name of the chapel was “Schitul Macii Domnilui,” “Hermitage of the Mother of God,” and it was established: “...as a city of prayer, an altar at which unceasing prayer to God was to be offered in thanksgiving and in petition, especially in these times (1938) when so many of our people have forgotten how to pray.”
A monastic community did not materialize nor was the intended grand monastery church erected but a church of wood was built by the second bishop, Archbishop Valerian D Trifa in 1957. A lower level chapel dedicated to the Romanian “Pioneers” was established with a rich hand-carved iconostasis, hierarchical throne and cantors stand carved in the Romanian style and still in place. Icons were painted by Christoloveanu, an artist known for his portrait of President Dwight Eisenhower. The upper church is wood-paneled and the iconostasion has icons written by Bishop Mark (Forsberg).
There are no regular services held at this Chapel due to the fact that there is no permanent priest assigned and the hierarch is usually visiting parishes over the weekend. Feast day services are held for the benefit of the chancery staff. During the months of July and August, the chapels are used for the student children of two summer religious education programs and the annual diocesan assembly is held in the upper church over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The feast of the church, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on September 8.