Monday, April 25, 2016

Sacred Heart Church (Dearborn)

European immigrants first settled in Dearborn during the 1780s but it was a rural area for decades. Fr. Gabriel Richard, the first priest to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, petitioned Congress to fund a highway between Detroit and Chicago in March of 1824.  Permission was granted and the route was surveyed the following year. Construction started in 1829, residences were built up along the path, and Chicago Road was finished in 1833.

Dearborn Township was established the same year and the interior Dearbornville founded in 1836. At that time, Fr. O’Kavanaugh, pastor of Detroit's Most Holy Trinity Parish, traveled to Dearbornville and celebrated Mass in the homes of Irish-Catholic immigrants. Locals began the process of establishing their own parish in 1840. Eight years later, with the support of Fr. John Farnam, what was then called St. John's Parish was established.

Fr. Patrick Kelly, previously an assistant to Fr. Richard, was assigned pastor on April 26, 1856. He later changed his name to O'Kelley to distinguish himself from the area's many Kelly families. Father O'Kelley died on October 7, 1858, and Mt. Kelly Cemetery, a mile northwest of the church, was established in his memory. Fr. O'Kelley's remains were interred beneath the cemetery chapel. Fr. O'Kelley Knights of Columbus, representing Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, also bears his name.
Chapel on a hill in the small cemetery - source

In 1874, the church was moved but soon underwent massive renovations to the point that only the original frame and steeple remained. The renovations were completed the following year and the pastor,  Fr. Matthew Schaeken, sought to consecrate himself and the parish to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Bishop Borgess soon came and rededicated the parish as Sacred Heart.

Fr. A.X.M. Sharpe began his 37-year pastorate in 1916 and sought to expand the parish immensely. A new convent was built in 1926 but the Great Depression delayed construction of a new church. Finally, after years of sacrifices, the new church was dedicated on the Feast of Christ the King, in 1937, a century after the first Mass in the area.

The church wasn't completed for another two decades until the stained-glass windows were added. A parish high school opened in 1954 but closed in the mid 1970s. The grade school remains in operation today.

A medallion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus above the main doorway; an excerpt from George Washington's 'Prayer for the United States' in the vestibule

Several plaques in the vestibule remember previous pastors, veterans, and benefactors respectively.


St. Cecilia, along with other saints and angels, above the choir loft.

Images of saints appear in the clerestory and transept windows


Painted Stations of the Cross line the walls and are framed by windows depicting scenes from the Gospels.


At some point, the main altar was moved, the choir and organ are seated where the high altar once stood.

The tabernacle stands at what was once a side altar; a large crucifix and baptismal font on the opposite side.

The Blessed Mother stands in the east transept; St. Joseph & Child Jesus on the west side

A museum houses artifacts from the parish and is open after most weekend Masses. Daily Mass is offered at 9:00am, Monday-Friday. Saturday Vigil Mass is at 4:30pm preceded by Reconciliation at 3:00pm; Sunday Mass is at 7:30am, 9:30am, and 11:30am.
For more info: parish website
News article: AOD Changing Lives Together
More photos of the church: AOD Film Services
More photos of the cemetery: My Michigan Trails


1 comment:

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