With the construction of Chicago Road, now called Michigan Avenue, people gradually moved west from Detroit. In the late 1850s, Jeremiah O’Connor opened a general store in what was then called Derby's Corners and permitted use of the building as a house of worship.
In March of 1862, a fledgling congregation of 45 families petitioned Bishop Peter Paul Lefevre for their own parish. He said it was too early to establish a new parish there but did create a mission called St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception under the direction of Fr. Edward Van Pammel, pastor of St. John Parish in Ypsilanti.
Construction of a new church began in the fall of 1865 and the City of Wayne was incorporated four years later. In 1871, St. Mary Mission came under the jurisdiction of Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn. Finally, the church was completed and dedicated in January, 1873. It wasn't until 1912 that Bishop Foley established St. Mary Parish with Fr. Joseph Connors as the first pastor.
The parish continued to grow in the 1910's & 20's; construction of the current church began on August 26, 1923. A year later, the previous church was reused as a school for 125 students. A permanent school was completed in 1929 and the previous church/school was converted into a parish hall.
Laborers continued to move to the Wayne area to work at Ford factories and Willow Run Airport. In October 1948, Fr. John Haney added 10 classrooms to the existing elementary school in order to add a high school.
The first senior class graduated in 1951. the church was expanded three years later and a larger convent completed in 1958. In the early 1960s, the student body exceeded 1,000 students. A high school 1960 yearbook is available online. In June, 1971, St. Mary High School closed after 24 years.
Fr. Haney retired in December, 1972, but remained in residence. Fr. Sayers was pastor for three years before being replaced by Fr. John J. Sullivan in August, 1975. Fr. John F. O'Callaghan succeeded as 9th pastor on August 6, 1983.
St. Mary celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1987. The pastor suffered a debilitating stroke that same year and the parish was placed under the direction of a temporary administrator. In June, 1989, Fr. O'Callaghan was allowed to step down as pastor and Fr. Raymond Bucon took his place.
In 1997, the parish choir performed in Italy, Spain, and Ireland. They assisted for a High Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and, on January 29 of that year, had an audience with Pope St. John Paul II. The following March, Fr. Bucon took a medical leave-of-absence and was replaced by Fr. Jack Baker.
Confessions are heard at 6:00pm on Tuesdays followed by 6:30pm Mass and Rosary. 9:00am Daily Mass is celebrated on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Ralph Luddecke, a permanent deacon, arrived at the same time.
Raredos showing he Blessed Virgin is visible most of the year but covered for the Easter season.
The parish school was administered by IHM Sisters for decades, the parish has record of sisters who have taught at the school.
St. Mary is currently clustered with Holy Family in Inkster and St. Richard in Westland.
For more info: parish website + school website
For more local history: City of Wayne
For more photos: AOD Film Services