Friday, April 17, 2015

Return to Assumption Grotto

German immigrants first arrived in Detroit circa 1830 in the middle of a cholera epidemic. Some settled in what is now Greektown but many moved to the northeast outskirts of the city and settled along with a handful of French-American Catholics.

They built a log chapel, the second Catholic establishment in Detroit, where the current church stands and called it Kirchen Wald (Church in the Woods) and Redemptionist missionaries ministered there. The name was later changed to Chapel of the Assumption and later St. Mary's in the Woods.

In 1847, the parish was officially established as Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and they received their first full-time pastor, Fr. Amandus Van den Driessche, in 1852. By the end of that year, the parish had its first "permanent," brick church completed with a capacity of 500.

Like many parishes at the time, a nearby cemetery was added at some point. In 1876, Van den Driessche visited France and was so impressed by the recently-constructed Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes that he commissioned a replica of the grotto. This was designed by Peter Dederichs, also architect of several Catholic churches. It was constructed of limestone, standing at the far end of the cemetery, finished in 1881, and was the first outdoor shrine in Michigan.

On April 30, 1882, Pope Leo XIII signed a proclamation granting partial and plenary indulgences for anyone who visited the Grotto and prayed for the propagation of the faith. The grotto became a popular place for local pilgrimage, especially on the last Sunday of May and the Solemnity of the Assumption (August 15). The interior rim of the grotto shows each pope and the duration of his papacy.

The second church burned in 1907, and the current church was built in its place. The rectory dates to 1918 and convent to early 1920s, both constructed from red brick. 

Detroit architectural firm Aloys Frank Herman designed the current church that was built 1928-1929 and dedicated on September 22, 1929. The church was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1990 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places the next year.

A plaque at the gate commemorates all of Assumption's pastors. Amazingly, in more than 160 years, the parish has had only 9 pastors and some have served as long as 45 years. Fr. Eduard Perrone has been pastor since 1994 and is assisted by Fr. John Bustamante as well as (permanent) Deacon James Wilder.

A large statue of Our Lady of Lourdes stands near the gate; small, narrow windows are found in the side aisles. Large windows depicting saints and symbols are in the clerestory.

Buttresses line the exterior walls on both sides.

Clerestory windows show various saints and Church symbols.

Windows in the northeast and southwest transepts.

The Blessed Virgin is depicted in the choir loft windows, surrounded by angels.

Communion rails are crafted from Italian marble. Angels holding a ciborium and chalice are shown on the gates.

Carved wooden details above confessionals.

Mass is offered everyday, at least twice a day. Most Masses are ad orientem with the priest facing the tabernacle during Liturgy of the Eucharist. Mass is at 7:30am and 7:00pm, Monday-Friday. 


Saturday Mass is at 7:30am and 4:00pm (Sunday Vigil). Sunday Mass is at 6:30am, 9:30am (Tridentine), and Noon. Confessions are heard half an hour before each Sunday Mass. The congregation traditionally recites the rosary after every Mass.

For more info: parish websiteTe Deum blogprevious blog postAODDetroit1701RCNet
For more photos: Flickr,  Te DeumAOD Film Services,

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