The Catholic Information Center offers a deeper and more reflective awareness of the faith for those who are already members of the Catholic Church. We also invite seekers from other faiths or no faith at all to an understanding of the teachings and way of life of the Catholic Church. Our courses are offered in the welcoming spirit of the Paulist Fathers whose mission is to give the Good News of Jesus a voice in today’s world.
Fr. René Constanza, CSP
Rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew
Fr. Rene is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (Paulist Fathers). He is Rector of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew and oversees the mission of the Catholic Information Center. Fr. Rene was born in Belize and is the 7th of 9 children. He did his undergraduate studies at Spalding University and graduate studies in higher education administration at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Prior to getting his Masters of Divinity (with concentration on Hispanic Ministry) at the Catholic University of America in D.C. and being ordained a priest in 2012, he was principal of a Catholic diocesan high school in Belize.
Fr. Rene has a passion for evangelization, young adult ministry, Hispanic ministry and ecumenism, which was fueled by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” where Pope Francis highlights the importance of Christians to put aside suspicion and work to build trust as “pilgrim people journeying alongside one another.”
Phone: 616.456-1454 ext.1905
Irene Strom, M.A.T.
Director of Programming
Irene has been with the Catholic Information Center for 40 years. Irene received her B.A. in Education and M.A. in the Art in Education from Aquinas College. She is responsible for the development, execution and follow up for CIC programming and special events. Irene also designs the CIC program guides and brochures.
Phone: 616.459.7267 ext.1801
Fr. Michael Hennessy, CSP
Fr. Michael Hennessy, CSP, is a native of Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in southern Connecticut. He is a 2004 graduate of Saint Anselm College In New Hampshire where he studied history and taught that same subject for eight years at Central High School in Manchester, NH. He was ordained a priest on May 19, 2018, at the Paulist mother church, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, in New York City. Fr. Michael discovered the Paulist Fathers through “The Busted Halo Show,” on SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel and entered the Paulist novitiate in the fall of 2012.
Fr. Michael serves as the associate pastor of the Cathedral with a focus on outreach to young adults and evangelization at the CIC.
Director of Religious Education
Sean Donovan coordinates religious education and youth ministry at the Cathedral of St. Andrew. He has worked in the Diocese of Grand Rapids for the past 20 years as a parish staff member and elementary school principal. He received his B.S. from The United States Military Academy, West Point and his M.Div. from The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. He grew up on a small family farm in upstate New Hampshire. When he wasn’t mucking out horse stalls, feeding the pigs, or splitting wood for the kitchen stove, he spent much of his youth backpacking through the White Mountains. He served as an Airborne Ranger in several light infantry units, based in Georgia, Hawaii, and Alaska, and he has traveled throughout the United States, Japan, Korea, China, Guam, and Panama. However, West Michigan is where his heart resides. In addition to helping children, youth and their parents encounter Christ Jesus as the Cathedral’s Director of Religious Education, he enjoys re-discovering God’s love with his wife, daughter, two cats, and an overly enthusiastic Weimaraner mix monster puppy.
Karen is responsible for hospitality, database management, scheduling and calendar systems, social media updating, and coordinating materials and information for meetings, events and presentations. Karen is a Davenport graduate and worked for Meijer Corporate Headquarters before joining the CIC. She is married and has one son, who is a junior in high school this year. She and her family enjoy long bike rides, boating and attending baseball games.
Phone: 616.459.7267 ext. 1803
Director of Communications
Eulene Freeland has worked for the Paulist Fathers for over 17 years. She has been the Director of Communications for the Cathedral of Saint Andrew for over 8 of those years and has recently added the duties of communications for the Catholic Information Center.
Eulene helps out by designing and managing print, web and social media communications. She proudly claims the descriptor of ‘geek’ and loves technology, especially her Xerox Print Press, aptly named ‘the Beast’. Her office is located in the Cathedral offices at 215 Sheldon SE. If visiting her and the beast, please come prepared for humor and pop culture references.
Phone: 616.456.1454 ext. 1904
Esperanza welcomes guests to our evening programs.
Phone: 616.459.7267 ext. 1803
The Catholic Information Center of Grand Rapids has physically existed in three different locations and has undergone numerous changes over its 69 year history. When the first two Paulists arrived here in July of 1947, there was no Information Center. Together, the two Paulist priests conducted pulpit dialogues for non-Catholics in St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Stephen’s church. They also alternated in giving radio talks and conducting retreats. The Paulist’s mission was spread through their zeal and enthusiasm to many lay people in the Grand Rapids area forming the nucleus for the first center community even before it had its own facility to call home.
With the help, support, and prayers of this growing community and of the diocese, a building at 329 Monroe Ave, NW was purchased and renovated. Although this first building was initially purchased by the diocese, it was the increasing dedication of the Center community which provided the donations of cash and material to renovate and furnish their new home.
Renovation of the building formerly known as Jack’s Cut Rate, a men’s and boy’s clothing store was started on September 28, 1947. On May 28, 1948, the first Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids was dedicated by Bishop Haas and the cornerstone was blessed and laid. On June 4, 1948, the Center’s Chapel of Christ the King was also dedicated and blessed Bishop Haas.
During this time the Center community continued to grow and to assist in the Paulist mission. The Center’s home on Monroe fell victim to urban renewal in 1964. Through the tremendous efforts of the dedicated Paulist staff and the members of the Center community, the building at 246 Ionia Avenue, NW, was obtained and renovated. The new Center and Chapel of Christ the King were dedicated by Bishop Allen Babcock on March 21, 1965 and word of the Center continued to spread and its work expand.
Several renovations occurred during the years the Center was located on Ionia Street. The first was the new brick facade that was added in 1977. The brick facade replaced the badly deteriorating exterior stone and stucco. By the 1980?s both the Paulist staff and members of the Center community felt the need to renovate the Center once again. Renovations to the chapel were felt to be important for several reasons. Additional seating was needed to accommodate the large number of people gathering for worship. More efficient and effective heating was needed and the chapel space needed to be barrier free to allow access to handicapped member of the community. The newly renovated chapel was dedicated on Sunday, September 9, 1984 by Bishop Joseph M. Breitenbeck.
A new chapter began for the Paulist Father’s Catholic Information Center on July 1, 2008 when the Center left its Ionia Street location for Cathedral Square in order to expand its evangelization ministry in full partnership with the Diocese of Grand Rapids. We are now located on the second floor of the Cathedral Square Building, in a space especially designed for adult religious education. Our location in Cathedral Square has placed us in close collaboration with other diocesan ministries enabling us to be of greater service to the people of our diocese.
The first CIC on Monroe St.
The CIC on Ionia St.
The CIC on Ionia St with renovated façade.
Chapel of St. Paul at CIC on Ionia St.
Current site of the CIC at Cathedral Square.