Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mariannhill Mission Society (Dearborn Heights)

Servant of God, Fr. Francis Pfanner
In 1879, there was a request for Trappist monks to go to Africa and Cistercian Abbot Francis Pfanner responded, “If no one goes, I will go.” On December 26, 1882, Fr.  Pfanner established Mary-Anne-Hill (Mariannhill) Monastery in the English colony of Natal in South Africa. Nine days later, on January 4,  Abbott Francis Pfanner sent a monk to the United States to raise funds and foster new vocations. 
The South African monastery
Monastery chapel
The brother traveled across the U.S. for three years before returning to South Africa. Soon, three more brothers were sent to replace him in 1899 and they rented an apartment in Detroit. These brothers traveled the country, spoke at parishes, raised funds to support African missions, and distributed their own magazine which was printed in Europe.
The active life of missionaries was not compatible with the strict Trappist rule, so the Apostolic See separated the congregation from the Trappist Order in a decree on February 2, 1909. The community then became known as the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill (CMM). Fr. Pfanner died less than a later on May 24, 1909, and was later declared a Servant of God.
Br. Dorotheus Kaiser
Br. Benignus Loga

World War I prevented the distribution of their magazine so the missionaries purchased their first residence in Detroit and soon printed their magazine locally. They printed four editions of Mariannhill Missionary with each in a different language: English, German, Polish and French. Within two years, the French and German editions were discontinued because of insufficient circulation. 1922 saw the arrival of the first Mariannhill priest in the U.S. as he joined the brothers in their mission.

Mariannhill Missionary was soon renamed The Apostle and shifted its focus to a Catholic family periodical. Mariannhill bought a farm near Brighton with the intent of building a seminary there. However, in 1936, the Diocese of Sioux Falls solicited the missionaries to establish a seminary in South Dakota. The congregation quickly doubled, going from 13 brothers to 30 in two years.

St. Bernard Seminary opened in 1937, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The following year, there were enough brothers to start a new province in the United States. Also in 1938, Mariannhill began a second publication, Leaves,  a bi-monthly devotional. The South Dakota seminary closed after only six years and the building was sold to the federal government. The congregation moved to a temporary home in Brighton, Michigan. St. Bernard Seminary soon reopened in Dearborn Heights and remained open until a decrease in vocations forced the seminary to close in 1969.
The original facade of the Dearborn Heights chapel. The signage has changed but the statue remains
Our Lady of Grace Monastery, the Dearborn Heights location, currently is used as a retreat house, residence for Mariannhll brothers and priests, office of the vocation director, as well as a vocation formation center. I could not confirm, but it would be reasonable to assume, that the Mariannhills have ministered at nearby Our Lady of Grace Parish, located 4 blocks to the north.
An undated, aerial view of the monastery and seminary
Thomas Merton wrote about the Mariannhills , saying:
Here was the astonishing spectacle of a Trappist mission in which the contemplative monks had achieved in few short years, a success more spectacular than many active order had dared dream of. The most astounding thing about this new mission was that it was operating on purely Benedictine lines. It was an apostolate of prayer and labour (ORA ET LABORA), of liturgy and the plough. What was taking place in the outposts established by Dom Francis Pfanner was exactly the same process that had marked the Christianization of Germany and all northern Europe by the Benedictine monks hundreds of year before
- In The Waters of Siloe, Harcourt, Brace and company, New York, 1949, (1st edition), page 1157.
Leaves remains in publication today with about 37,000 subscriptions. Mariannhill Missionaries currently minister in more than a dozen nations around the world.

The belltower as seen from the main entrance from Ann Arbor Trail.

St. Bernard near the main entrance; Infant of Prague inside a shrine

Celtic crosses and details above exterior doorways: St. Thérèse of Lisieux (left) and the symbol for Mariannhill Missionaries (right).

Shrines to St. Anne with child Mary; St. Joseph with child Jesus

Stations of the Cross with Latin inscriptions

All of the chapel windows are clear and geometric

The high altar of the main chapel at the front and center of the monastery.

The Mariannhill Missionaries are currently in the midst of their annual Novena to St. Anne (July 17-25), patroness of both their community and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

For more about the global community: CMM Mariannhill
For more history: YouTube


Unknown said...

Yes the Marianhill fathers do help minister to our lady of grace but olg is closing next year. I believe they help minister to st. Sabina too.

detroitchurchblog said...

Thanks for the confirmation. I knew OLG and St. Sabina were clustered but didn't know that OLG was closing. I'll have to go there before they do