Sunday, May 14, 2017

St. Paul Albanian Catholic Church (Rochester Hills)

St. Paul Parish, in Rochester Hills, was established in 1981 to minister to Albanian immigrants, many of whom settled in Oakland County during the 1970s. St. Paul is one of two Albanian, non-territorial parishes in Michigan with the other being Our Lady of Albanians in Southfield. Text on the parish crest translates "From Jerusalem to Illyria". Illyria was a historic region in modern-day Albania.

Bamir Topi, President of Albania 2007-2012, visited the parish in 2010.

Fr. Anton Kcira served as pastor for 22 years until his retirement in 2011. During Fr. Kcira's tenure, the parish grew from 50 families to 1,200. He was replaced by Fr. Frane Kolaj and, a few years later, Fr. Frederik Kalaj succeeded as pastor. Fr. Kalaj remains pastor today and is assisted by Deacon Aleksander Stanaj, Sister Gabriela Vuljaj and Sister Luljana Marku.

A 2014 interview with Fr. Kalaj, before his assignment to St. Paul, on Opus Bono Radio (audio only). He talks about the Church in Albania, his priestly formation, and persecution under Communism.

Cardinal Ernest Troshani Simoni visited the parish in March of this year to honor 38 Albanian martyrs who were beatified. Cardinal Simoni was confined to a labor camp labor camp in Albania for 18 years.

While the church is a modern construction, it is built in a fairly traditional style with its twin steeples and choir loft. The church is located in the southern part of Rochester Hills, on Auburn Road, between Livernois and Rochester Roads, immediately northeast of M-59.

Statues of prominent Albanians near the parking lot  St. Mother Teresa and Skanderbeg, a 15th-Century military commander who repeatedly defended Albania and other states from Turkish invasion.

A large crucifix in the narthex; a statue of the parish patron near the entrance.

Two large windows in the narthex, at the bottom of the stairs leading to the choir loft. The window on the right depicts Our Lord with a book that reads “Ego sum via, veritas, et vita” — “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.

Ten large, double-tier chandeliers hang over the nave.

Elaborate, carved wood altars are transplants from a closed Chicago church. These were installed sometime within the last six years, after a $300,000 fundraising drive by the parish.

The St. Joseph altar is on the left side, this also shows the Beheading of John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus. The Immaculate Conception is on the right side, it also depicts the Annunciation and the Visitation.

The central, high altar depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus along with St. Peter, St. Paul, and a the traditional image of the Last Supper.

Scenes from the life of St. Paul are depicted in the back of the nave. 

Easter scenes are depicted in the right transept of the church: Thomas places his finger in the the side of the Risen Jesus and the Apparition at the Sea of Galilee.

The Ascension and Pentecost are also depicted in the right transept.

The parish also manages the adjacent Albanian American Club, a large banquet facility.

Currently, the parish numbers over 2,000 families. Daily Mass is 7:00pm, Monday-Friday, in the chapel. Saturday Vigil Mass is at 6:00pm while Sunday Masses are at 10:00am, 12:30pm, and 6:00pm.

A crucifixion scene above the choir loft. These windows, like many in the church, were created by Liturgical Environments & Co.

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For more info: parish website

More about Fr. Frane Kolaj:
1. Fr. Kolaj has beautiful vision for Albanian Catholic Church
2. ordination anniversary

More about Fr. Anton Kcira:
1. Congressman Gary Peters remarks
2. Letter from Fr. Kcira on relationship between Muslims and Christians
3. Detroit parishes lose hundreds to deportation
4. Rally held for Sterling Heights siblings facing deportation
5. The Embodiment of the Corporal Works of Mercy


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