Monday, August 22, 2016

Immaculate Conception (Ira Township)

Christian history around Anchor Bay dates back as far as 1679 when Fr. Louis Hennepin, a missionary who accompanied LaSalle, planted a cross in the Anchorville/Fair Haven area. French-Canadian, Catholic immigrants began to settle the area, then called Au Lac (near the lake), in the 18th century. Canadian and French missionaries ministered to the area followed by priests from Grosse Pointe, Mt. Clemens and Marine City.
Statue of Fr. Louis Hennepin outside Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, MN. Wikipedia
One of the first settlers, Etienne Rose, deeded a portion of land for a church and cemetery. A log church was built on the site where the current church now stands off the northern shore of Anchor Bay, in Ira Township.
The original church. parish website
Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere appointed Rev. Charles A. Chambille as the first pastor in 1853. A rectory was yet to be built so Fr. Chambille resided with parishioners at the time. Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish was dedicated on October 15, 1853. Fr. Chambille was later transferred to Dearborn's St. Alphonsus Parish six years later. On December 4, 1885, Au Lac was renamed Anchorville when a post office was established there.

A massive fire on August 26, 1917, destroyed the church, rectory, convent and school. Rev. Fr. James Downey, pastor at the time, led the parish in the reconstruction efforts. Less than a year later, both the church and four-room school were rebuilt.

Fr. Downey led the parish for 22 years and continually ministered to the sick, even when his own health declined. He died suddenly of a heart attack on September 19, 1935. More than 1,000 attended the Requiem High Mass including 114 priests and 50 nuns.

The parish continued to grow in the coming decades. Ground was broken for a new school in May of 1959 and opened the following fall. An additional 8 classrooms were added in 1966. Reduced funding in 1971 forced to school to temporarily close for five years until enough funds were raised. To celebrate the reopening of the school, Fr. Harry Paul held a special Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, August 22, 1976.
Marble altars follow a Gothic Revival style; a mural covers the illuminated apse.
A Knights of Columbus council was chartered on December 8, 1991. A parish hall and school gymnasium were added in 2005. Today, over 150 preschool thru 8th grade students are enrolled in the school. Fr. Joseph Esper has been pastor for the last four years and is assisted by permanent deacon Ken Nowicki.

Side altars for the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

A holy water font near one of the entrances; the Sacred Heart of Jesus stands above a doorway.

Stained-glass windows and a plaque in the vestibule of the church.

Most of the nave windows depict scenes from the gospels

The Adoration of the Magi in the west transept; Resurrected Christ in the east transept

Pastors of Immaculate Conception & Dates of Service
Rev. Charles Anthony Chambille - October 1853 to 1859
Rev. Theophilus Buyse - 1859 to 1869
Rev. John F. Elsen - 1869 to 1973
Rev. Henry H. Meuffeles - 1873 to 1892
Rev. Henry DeGryse - 1892 to 1913
Rev. James S. Downey - 1913 to 1935
Rev. Victor Renaud - 1936 to 1938
Rev. John Koezler - 1938 to 1955
Rev. Harry Paul - 1955 to 1977
Rev. Daniel Bogus - 1977 to 1991
Rev. Phillip Briffa - 1991 to 1993
Rev. Zigismund Kowalczyk - 1993 to 1999
Rev. David Burgard - 1999 to 2008
Rev. Tomek Maka - 2008 to 2012
Rev. Joseph Esper - 2012 to present

For more info: parish website + bulletin archive
Another blog post: Discovering Detroit Catholic Churches

Friday, August 05, 2016

Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima (Riverview)

Riverview's Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is home to Detroit's local of the World Apostolate of Fatima (a.k.a. Our Lady's Blue Army). The apostolate’s mission is to “help people learn, live and spread the message of Our Lady of Fatima in communion with the Church and in concert with the New Evangelization.” Their motto, Orbis Unus Orans, translates as One World Praying. Their logo also depicts two hallmarks of the group: a rosary and a scapular.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart of Jesus shown near the main entrance.

They appear again in the sanctuary, on each side of the tabernacle.

While the chapel is a relatively new construction, the sanctuary is very traditional. There's no freestanding altar and all Masses are offered ad orientem. An altar rail is used for Holy Communion.

Two of the three children that witnessed Our Lady of Fatima, Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto, shown in an illuminated window.

A row of four stained-glass windows line one side of the chapel.

Two statues of St. Anthony of Padua, with the Child Jesus,  stand near the entrance to the chapel.

St. Michael the Archangel in front of the Passion of Christ; St. Joseph with the Child Jesus.

A large crucifix and Sorrowful Mother stand at the rear of the chapel.

Our Lady of Fatima, along with the three children, in the rear of the chapel.

Mass is at 7:00pm on First Fridays and 8:00am on First Saturdays. Confessions are heard 30 minutes before these Masses. Mass is also at 7:00pm on the 13th of each month, May–October, and the rosary is prayed before each Mass. 


Fr. John Hedges is Chaplain and Spiritual Director, as well as pastor of St. Stephen Parish in New Boston.


A men's prayer group meets on the second and fourth Saturdays, 9:00am10:30am. St. Joseph Bookstore is located next to the shrine and is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 11:00am–4:00pm, as well as before and after all Masses.

Two depictions of the Blessed Virgin near the social hall.

In anticipation of next year's centennial of Our Lady of Fatima, the group will bring in visiting priests for Mass and lectures. On the centennial of the first apparition, May 13, there will be Mass at Old St. Mary's and procession through Greektown.

For more info: Fatima Shrine Detroit + World Apostolate of Fatima

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

St. Mary Church (Rockwood)

During the early 1800s, French-Canadian farmers began to settle along the mouth of the Huron River. In 1818, Fr. Gabriel Richard wrote to the bishop (then the Diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky), informed him of eight Catholic families living in the area, and began the process of starting a mission. It wasn't until 1834 that Fr. Vincent Badin supervised the building of a small, wooden church near the river, presently where Lee Road meets Jefferson Avenue in Brownstown Township.

Many years passed before there was a resident priest. By 1847, the congregation had grown so large that Redemptorist priests replaced the chapel with a larger frame church and dedicated it under the title of St. Mary Parish. The Bondy family donated land to be used as a cemetery six years later.

The parish continued to grow and decided to move in 1873 and, three years later, the church was moved to Rockwood to be near an interstate railroad as well as the river. In 1880, Stephen Mannausa donated land for a new church. The frame church was torn down and a brick church, with a capacity for 400, was dedicated on July 11 of that year. The church was built at a cost of $5,000 (~$110,000 after inflation), a rectory for $3,000 (~$67,000), as well as a carriage shed.

Fr. John Helton became the first resident pastor in 1899 and was succeeded by Fr. Toussaint Rose four years later. A large fire soon caused extensive damage to the church. The parish decided to tear down the damaged church and replace it with a larger one in 1911. However, many of the stained-glass windows were recovered and some of the bricks were reused in the new belltower.

IHM Sisters from Monroe began teaching weekly catechism classes. Construction of a parish school began in 1929 and the school opened in September of 1930 under the direction of Sisters of St. Francis from Rochester, Minnesota.

Fr. Archibald Soest was appointed pastor in 1934 and guided the parish through the financial problems of the Great Depression. Fr. Gerald LeVasseur became pastor and Adrian Dominicans replaced the Sisters of St. Francis at the school. Enrollment grew rapidly in the 1960s and an extension was built, allowing twice as many classrooms. 

Fr. Francis Zarrett served 1966-1969 until he was replaced by Fr. Thomas Sauter. Fr. Sauter soon realized that the parish had a $800,000 debt and there was a possibility that the school would be closed. A partnership with the public schools allowed St. Mary School to stay viable for 15 years until state Supreme Court ruled it to be unconstitutional. A “Save Our School” campaign raised enough money to make the parish and school solvent.

Fr. Sauter retired in 2002, after 33 years as pastor, and was replaced by Fr. Marc Gawronski. Fr. Sauter eventually passed away on March 20, 2004. The following year, Fr. James Rafferty began his first assignment as pastor and remains there today.


In the last 15 years, St. Mary's has seen many renovations such as new altar rails, a wheelchair ramp, new stained-glass windows, repainting walls and refurbishing floors and stairs.  Some of the windows (below) have been reused to make Christmas ornaments and jewelry.

St. Mary later clustered with St. Victor Parish (est. 1963) in Gibraltar. In 2013, the two parishes merged to form St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish and St. Victor Church closed.

The parish's Changing Lives Together campaign raised enough money to continue future enhancements such as a narthex, restrooms, kitchen, and meeting space.

New murals in the transepts and above the side altars.

St. Michael the Archangel in one of the nave windows; two separate transept windows show the Annunciation.

An inscription from John 1:14 frames the sanctuary and translates “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” A monstrance is shown at the apex of this arch.

The church does not have a freestanding altar and all Masses are offered ad orientem. Not surprisingly then, Holy Communion is often administered at the altar rail with a paten.

Detail of the altar rail; a shrine to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Our Lady of Fatima in the south transept; the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin in the north transept.

Arched, stained-glass windows in the nave; each window includes a Marian symbol with an 'M' and a crown. From left:  St. Jude, St. Therese, St. Faustina and Blessed Margaret of Castello.

Moses is depicted beneath the stairs to the choir loft; a Divine Mercy window overlooks the choir loft

For more photos: AOD Film Services
For more info: parish website + bulletin archive