Father Zorn is coming home
Father Francis Partridge, a priest at the Augustine Center Sacramentine Monastery in Conway. Jane Cardinal of Harbor Springs painted a portrait of Father Seraphim Philip Zorn for the celebration of his reburial at Holy Childhood Church in Harbor Springs. (Morgan Sherburne/News-Review / July 5, 2013)
Zorn’s misspelled name did not sit well with the Rev. Francis C. Partridge, a priest at the St. Augustine Monastery, in Conway.
“I thought, that’s a disgrace!” said Partridge. “This venerable old missionary should have his name spelled correctly on his stone.”
Partridge’s concern didn’t stop with the spelling of Zorn’s name.
Residents and visitors familiar with Harbor Springs will see that Zorn shares his name with the city’s Zorn Park — in fact, the park was named for Father Zorn.
That’s because Zorn, who died in 1900 in Manistee, spent the majority of his priesthood as pastor of Holy Childhood Church in Harbor Springs. He was ordained here — in 1856, by Bishop Frederic Baraga. He assisted at Cross Village Church in 1857, was pastor there until 1861, and then was made pastor of Holy Childhood Church in 1862, where he remained until 1884.
And now, Father Partridge believes Zorn should be buried here.
Partridge has been working on and off for nearly 40 years to make that happen.
Zorn came to Northern Michigan in 1855. He was just 30 years old — born in Germany in 1825, where he entered the Franciscans in 1848. After he came to the United States, Zorn became a member of the Benevolent, Charitable and Religious Society of the St. Francis. Rev. Francis John B. Weikamp founded the society in 1855 in Chicago, and moved to Harbor Springs in the same year.
Finally, the society landed in Cross Village in 1856, and operated a monastery on a 2,000-acre piece of land.
The same year, the Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga ordained Zorn into the priesthood at Holy Childhood Church in Harbor Springs.
He was made pastor of Cross Village Church in 1861, then moved back to Harbor’s Holy Childhood in 1862.
As pastor of Holy Childhood, Zorn oversaw four missions and nine stations, ranging from St. Mary’s church in Cheboygan and St. Ignatius on Beaver Island to St. Mary’s in Lake Leelanau and St. Michael’s in Suttons Bay.
Travel between Harbor Springs and those parishes would have been incredibly difficult during that time period, said Partridge.
“And yet he’s considered the pastor of these places,” said Partridge.
Zorn remained in Harbor until 1884, when he was moved to St. Joseph Church in Elbridge, in Oceana County. He was there through the late 1880s, when his health began to fail.
He was made chaplain of the Big Rapids Catholic hospital, then chaplain for a year at the Manistee Catholic hospital.
Zorn died there in April of 1900.
For whatever reason, said Partridge, no family members claimed his body, and he was not sent to be buried in Harbor Springs.