Friday, December 02, 2016

Synod 16 in review

I was fortunate to be one of those who participated in the recent Synod 16. Per the request of my pastor, I took some time to gather my thoughts and write about the experience. The following is an unabridged copy of what will appear the the December 11th edition of the SS. Peter & Paul Parish bulletin.


Evangelization is a topic that is often overlooked, even stigmatized, by most Catholics. We tend to imagine people going door-to-door or standing on a soapbox while shouting through a megaphone. However, both of these perceptions are cliché and narrow-minded. The purpose of the Church is bring people to Christ and to led them in the path to holiness, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Evangelization has, for a long time, been a concern to Archbishop Vigneron and, appropriately,  he has often said that he wishes to “change the DNA of the archdiocese”. That is, he wants us to be more mission-oriented, to bring people into the Church, to bring back those who have been away, and to challenge casual Catholics to take their faith more seriously. The archbishop tempered this zeal by repeatedly saying “this is not a membership drive”. While bringing people back to the Church and bringing in converts certainly is important, it is not our only goal. Simply getting people to take up space in a pew is not the end goal — transforming them into faithful Catholics is the goal. In other words, quality and not just quantity. 
Across the archdiocese, in 2014 and 2015, we followed a Year of Prayer for a New Pentecost. At the end of this year of prayer, the archbishop said “we have been asking God to awaken in us the hearts of disciples of Jesus in order first of all to encounter Christ anew, secondly to grow daily in fidelity as His disciples, and thirdly to witness the power of His mercy to all who need it.” It was at this time that Archbishop Vigneron announced his plans to hold a synod (a meeting of church representatives).

Last year, every pastor nominated three people from his parish as possible synod members. I was nominated, accepted this nomination, and was chosen by a several-person panel from the archdiocese. Like all of those chosen, I was asked to prepare for the synod by receiving the sacraments, namely Holy Communion and Reconciliation, reading Scripture and spending time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This past spring, our parish, like all others in the archdiocese, held a meeting to discuss issues relating to outreach and spiritual growth. The feedback that people gave at this time helped determine the agenda for the synod.
The three-day synod began with a Mass on the afternoon of Friday, November 18. In his homily, Archbishop Vigneron reminded us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith, that everything we do is an extension of the Eucharist. He said “when you're at the (meeting) table, please remember this (altar) table and take that table as a sign of this one”. The archbishop said that is our mission to heal a broken world, to heal the “spiritual wounds” that people suffer from. This reminded me of the words of Pope Francis when he said that he wants the Church to be like a “field hospital”, a Church that meets people where they are, whatever state they are in, and bring them to Christ. The pope's phrase of “joyful missionary disciples” was often repeated during the synod. This threefold name identifies us as (1) disciples of Jesus Christ, (2) missionary in reaching out to those around us, and (3) joyful in knowing the Good News of salvation.

Over the course of three days, more than 400 people from across the archdiocese, at least one from every parish, met to discuss ways to improve our ministry and outreach. We were broken up into tables of ten during four in-depth conversations about evangelization, specifically how it applies to individuals, families, parishes, and the archdiocese as a whole. After each small group discussion, all of the groups gathered again to discuss their findings.
On Friday evening, we discussed how to focus on individuals. We acknowledged that catechesis is often lacking, that many Catholics have not studied the Faith in decades. Many have forgotten the teachings of the Church, never learned catechesis, or simply do not know why the Church teaches what we teach. The large group came to a consensus that ongoing spiritual formation is important and that we should not focus only on preparation for sacraments. We go through different phases throughout the course of our lives, not only when we are preparing for Confirmation or Holy Matrimony, and sometimes religious education doesn't address the issues that people are facing now.

Saturday morning began with Mass, again reminding us of the importance of the Eucharist in our Faith. After that, we talked about the challenges of evangelizing families. A family is a “domestic church” where the involvement of both parents is critical for the faith formation of children, even after the children have matured. If parents, especially the father, do not take their faith seriously, then it is highly unlikely that the children will. We talked about ways to improve marriage preparation as well as marriage counseling. We addressed the pain and discouragement people experience when family members leave the Church or are not actively following the Faith.
That afternoon, we talked about how a parish can evangelize. We were given three different issues: parish culture, parish functions, and parish leadership. Within each category, we were given at least four different options to address each issue. In each case, we had to focus on which one was the highest priority or would provide the greatest benefit. For example, under parish functions, it was decided that parishes must seek out, invite, and welcome those from outside of our parish.

On Sunday, we focused on Archdiocesan Central Services. We were given eleven options of how the archdiocese can help individuals, families, and parishes. Of these eleven options, we chose the top three that would be most beneficial. One example of these solutions was to partner with Sacred Heart Major Seminary to provide ongoing training for priests, parish staff, and lay volunteers to prepare them for evangelization and outreach.
At the end of the last discussion, we had an opportunity for final thoughts. At this point, we were able to discuss anything that wasn't already covered. The synod ended with Mass on Sunday afternoon and, at the end of this Mass, the retired Cardinal Maida said “it doesn’t end with this Mass; you are called to share, share in your challenge, to witness to the love of God and the love of Christ.”
While the synod may be over, this initiative of the archdiocese is only beginning. Archbishop Vigneron will analyze all of the content from the synod and release a pastoral letter at Pentecost, June 4, 2017. He said “this will not be put on a shelf and forgotten” as he promised to follow up with parishes periodically in the following months. Several times, he repeated the words of Venerable Solanus Casey, saying “thank God ahead of time”. We do not know exactly what is ahead of us, but we must trust in Divine Providence and be thankful for what God gives us, even if we do not fully understand it. I am thankful to God, to Archbishop Vigneron, and to Fr. Jerry Pilus for choosing me to attend this Synod. Most importantly, thank you to the entire parish, to friends, family, and everyone else, for your prayers and support.


More about Synod 16: The Michigan Catholic + Archdiocese of Detroit
A blog dedicated to the Synod: Renew, Rebirth, Resurget

Other news articles:
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Detroit synod aims to create ‘joyful band of missionary disciples’

The Detroit NewsArchdiocese of Detroit aims to become ‘more missionary’
Synod 16' embarks on transforming the Catholic church

Port Huron Times HeraldCatholics will gather for synod on Nov. 18-20
Gospel won't be shared unless we share it

Synod fills local Catholics with the fire

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Upcoming events: November 30–December 9

It is piously believed that whoever recites the below prayer fifteen (15) times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30th ) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

+ MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897


Wednesday, November 30–Thursday, December 8
St. Joseph Oratory, various times
For more info, see flyer

Daily Rosary, Homily on the First Seven Words of Mary, Novena Prayer & Benediction

Wednesday, November 30, Feast of St. Andrew
6:30 pm Rosary,  Homily on the First Word of Mary - “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Luke 1:34), Novena Prayer and Benediction

Thursday, December 1
6:30 pm Rosary, Homily on the Second Word of Mary - “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38), Novena Prayer and Benediction

First Friday, December 2, Sacred Heart of Jesus
6:00 pm Holy Hour, 7:00 pm High Mass, Homily on the Third Word of Mary - Mary greets Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), Novena Prayer

First Saturday, December 3, Feast of St. Francis Xavier
9:00 am Low Mass, Homily on the Fourth Word of Mary, Part I - The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Novena Prayer

Sunday, December 4, Second Sunday of Advent
9:00 am Low Mass & 11:00 am High Mass (St. Joseph Cappella)
Homily on the Fourth Word of Mary, Part II - The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
Novena Prayer

Monday, December 5, Feast of St. Sabbas
6:30 pm Rosary, Homily on the Fifth Word of Mary - “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (Luke 2:48)
Novena Prayer and Benediction

Tuesday, December 6, Feast of St. Nicholas
6:30 pm Rosary, Homily on the Sixth Word of Mary - “They have no wine.” (John 2:3), Novena Prayer and Benediction

Wednesday, December 7, Feast of St. Ambrose
6:30 pm Rosary, Homily on the Seventh Word of Mary - “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5), Novena Prayer and Benediction

Thursday, December 8,
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
***Holy Day of Obligation***
8:00 am Low Mass & 7:00 pm Solemn High Mass (St. Joseph Cappella), Consecration to the Immaculate Conception


Friday, December 2
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, 7:00pm
No tickets necessary, free-will offering, refreshments afterwards


Friday, December 2
See the Twelve Promises of the First Friday Devotion


Saturday, December 3
See the Five First Saturdays Devotion


Sunday, December 4
Sweetest Heart of Mary
10:00am Mass followed by breakfast with Santa
St. Hyacinth Church
11:00am Mass followed by breakfast with St. Nicholas


Thursday, December 8
***Holy Day of Obligation***


Friday, December 9

Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament
5:30pm Rosary
6:00pm Music & Dancing
7:00om Rosary

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Our Lady of Grace (Dearborn Heights)

Our Lady of Grace Parish was established in 1945 as an outgrowth of nearby Our Lady of Grace Monastery. Mariannhill priests were originally in charge of the parish but it later came under the direction of diocesan priests, though Mariannhills still assist today.

The current church was built in 1951 as the area, then known as Dearborn Township, grew quickly. Child parishes of St. Anselm (est. 1955) and St. Sabina (est. 1957) were soon created. Our Lady of Grace continued to grow, established a grade school, and had 1,500 registered families in 1959. The following year, the City of Dearborn Heights was incorporated.
1957-1958 yearbook - Source

Deacon Robert DeWitt has ministered at the parish for 29 years. Fr. Donald Walker was ordained in 1958 and briefly retired in 2006 before becoming administrator at Our Lady of Grace in 2007. Two years later, he also took over leadership of St. Hilary in Redford Township.
Photo courtesy of Abby Hansen Bernhardt

Our Lady of Grace School closed in 2000 and the parish clustered with nearby St. Sabina in 2012. St. Hilary Parish closed and merged with St. John Bosco in 2014. However, Fr. Walker remains administrator at Our Lady of Grace today.

The church stands on Joy Rd., two blocks east of Telegraph, in the northeast part of Dearborn Heights. Saturday Vigil Mass is at 4:00pm, preceded by Reconciliation 3:00pm-3:30pm; Sunday Mass is at 9:30am. Daily Mass is in the chapel at 8:30am on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

A tall steeple/smokestack stands in between the church and school; the Blessed Virgin Mary above the center door on the Joy Road side. 

St. Anne with Child Mary as well as St. Joseph perched above side doors.

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands outside the sacristy.

The Infant of Prague and Our Lady of Grace stand near the entrance to the chapel.

Stained-glass windows above doorways depict Christ the King (left) and Baptism (right).

Unfortunately, Our Lady of Grace will close next June and merge with St. Sabina. The final Mass is scheduled for June 18, 2017.

For more info: bulletin archive
History of churches in Dearborn & Dearborn Heights: E-Gov Link (pdf)
A virtual tour of the church: Multi-View Productions
A 1988 article including interview with Fr. Walker: Chicago Tribune

The Michigan Catholic articles on Deacon DeWitt and Father Walker:
“Priest, 80, taps into youthful energy”
“Deacons Marking Milestones”
“St. Hilary Parish To Close”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Manresa Retreat House (Bloomfield Hills)

During the late 1910s and early 1920s, laymen from the Detroit area frequented St. Stanislaus Retreat House (now Jesuit Retreat House) in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1923, they established "The Laymen's Retreat League" to build a Jesuit retreat house in the Detroit area under the direction of Fr. John Donoher, SJ. They purchased land in modern-day Grosse Point Park but, after struggling to build a retreat house, they began to look for a new location. Fr. Donoher died in 1925 and  and Fr. William Cogley, SJ, replaced him as chaplain.
St. Ignatius of Loyola being tempted by Satan,
a statue outside of Cleveland's Jesuit Retreat House - Source

In March, 1926, the Edsel Ford Estate purchased the Grosse Pointe Park property. The group then bought William Murphy's 39-acre "Deepdale Estate" in what was mostly a farming area. The location, on the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Quarton Road, in what is now the southeast corner of Bloomfield Hills. 
The location was ideal for their needs as it was central to Detroit and Pontiac and easily accessible. With the approval of the Provincial of the Chicago Province, Fr. Jeremiah O'Callaghan, SJ, the purchase was completed in August of 1926. 
The Deepdale Estate and original retreat house

The manor house was already built and the first retreat took place September 23-26 of that year. 16 men participated in the first retreat and the house had a capacity for 23. The Superior General wanted the property and activities to be owned and administered by the Society of Jesus. However, in the meantime, laymen owned and operated the facility but ownership was eventually transferred years later.

The Retreat Office was originally located in the Gabriel Richard Building in downtown Detroit.  In the early years, it was customary for men from a single parish to make a retreat together. Retreats ended with Benediction at 4:00PM on Sunday and the diocesan pastor normally participated. 
A rendering of the Manresa Retreat House and surrounding grounds

Manresa Retreat House borrowed its name from the Spanish city near where St. Ignatius of Loyola lived for a year while he composed the Spiritual Exercises. 
Cova de Sant Ignasi, a church built around the cave in Manresa

Stations of the Cross, a Lourdes grotto, and gateway were added in the late 1920s. 
A monumental gate at the northwest corner of Woodward & Quarton
Fr. Cogley grew produce and raised cattle to provide food. Like many, the group struggled during the Great Depression. To make matters worse, the manor house caught fire and burned to the ground on March 22, 1934. That same year, Manresa received an invaluable gift: a chalice which once belonged to the 17th-Century missionary Fr. Jacques Marquette, SJ. This chalice was preserved for over two centuries while in the custody of Native Americans in the Upper Peninsula. It is now displayed in a corner of the main chapel.

Despite the financial challenges of the time, the group raised enough funds to rebuild at the same site. The cornerstone was laid in early 1935 and the building, constructed under the guidance of Henry Brennan of the W.E. Wood Co., was completed by August 27, 1936. Fr. Marshall Lochbiler, SJ, directed the first retreat with a full capacity of 31 retreatants. The house was built in a style that came to be known as Detroit Cotswold, a style inspired by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, completed just a few years earlier.

Fr. Cogley, the "founding father" of Manresa, died on July 2, 1945, and was soon replaced by Fr. Gerald Fitzgibbons, SJ. The number of retreatants grew and in 1951 the present chapel wing was built. This added rooms on the second floor and raised the capacity to 42 retreatants. In 1952, Fr. Clement Singer, SJ, became Director. As the number of retreats continued to grow, the possibility of a second retreat house in the Detroit area was considered. Midweek youth retreats became very popular and eventually Manresa needed to expand again.
The empty tomb on the northeast corner of the grounds

Fr. Bernard Wernert, SJ, was named Director in 1963 and he moved the offices from downtown to onsite at Manresa. On Palm Sunday, April 3, 1966, ground was broken for the substantial new addition. 1,400 people celebrated the dedication of this extension on May 21, 1967, and capacity rose to 70 retreatants.
Our Lady of Lourdes grotto with altar

High school "Kairos" retreats became very popular and Manresa began to offer women's retreats in the 1970s. On September 12, 1976, Manresa celebrated its Golden Jubilee with an outdoor Mass, presided by Bishop Walter Schoenherr, with over 1,200 in attendance.

Fr. Werner retired in 1977 and he was replaced by Fr. Eugene Simon, SJ. A second-story chapel was soon added. Our Lady of Manresa, an original statue, was donated by Peter Grande in 1980. A courtyard was added the following year and the main chapel was expanded in 1987.
Our Lady of Manresa standards immediately north of the retreat house
 Manresa went through a series of short-term directors until Fr. James Serrick, SJ, arrived in 1995 and remained there for several years. The former pump house, which was powered by a waterwheel, was converted to a small chapel in 2000.
Former pump house, now chapel, on the southern edge of the grounds

The Stations of the Cross were refurbished in 2012; the original Stations were encased in new, granite monuments engraved with a corresponding Gospel quote.

Manresa Retreat House continues to host conference retreats every week, with a capacity of 78 persons per retreat, with a total of 2,600 men and women each year. Individually-directed retreats, Bible studies, Days of Recollection, etc. take place throughout the year.

A brief promo video includes commentary from Archbishop Vigneron

A. A. groups meet regularly at Manresa,  once fostered by Fr. Jack Schuett, SJ, who ministered to our A. A. constituency for 21 years. Fr. Francis Daly, SJ, is the current Director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House while Fr. Peter Fennessy, SJ, is Superior of the community.

Fr. Peter Fennessy, SJ, on Ignatian Spirituality

Daily Mass is celebrated at 8:00am, most weekdays, in the main chapel. On First Fridays, a light breakfast follows Mass. 

An abbreviation of the Jesuit motto, "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" (For the Greater Glory of God), is inscribed in a chapel window. The "IHS" abbreviation of the Holy Name on a chapel door.

St. Joseph with Child Jesus stands behind a fountain; St. Thomas Aquinas outside the offices.

Resurrected Christ near the main road; a St. Ignatius shrine on the path to the chapel. 

A branch of the Rouge River runs throughout the grounds.

There are several areas for private reflection or conversation scattered around the grounds as well as a nature trail.

Manresa publishes two periodicals, both are available online: biannual Manresa Matters and bimonthly Manresa Memos.

A book on the history of Manresa Retreat House, published in 2014, is available at the office.

For more info: + Facebook
Manresa Matters archive: