Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Our Lady of Grace (Dearborn Heights)

Our Lady of Grace Parish was established by Edward Cardinal Mooney on July 16, 1944. Fr. Anthony Kirschner, a Mariannhill priest from nearby  Our Lady of Grace Monastery, was the founding pastor. The founding 123 families worshipped at the monastery chapel until a parish church could be built. Franciscan Sisters from St. Raphael Parish first taught religious education and were later replaced by IHM Sisters from Sacred Heart Parish. The parish soon built a six-classroom school which opened on September 13, 1948. It originally had 176 students in grades 2-6 and taught by Dominican Sisters from Grand Rapids. More classrooms were added four times in the next fifteen years.

Ground was broken on December 3, 1950, the cornerstone blessed on July 1, 1951, and the current church was completed in early 1952. The first Mass was on Palm Sunday of that year and Bishop Zaleski dedicated the church on September 21, 1952. A permanent convent was completed the same year. Fr. Albero Amrhein became the second pastor in 1953 and ministered at the parish for five years. A parish hall was added in 1953 and a gymnasium added in 1957.

Child parishes of St. Anselm (est. 1955) and St. Sabina (est. 1957) were soon created. Fr. Timothy Mock became third pastor in 1958 and the parish had 1,500 registered families at the time. He helped establish a Bishop Borgess high School, regional, multi-parish school. In 1963, Fr. Mock was replaced by Fr. Egbert Heinlein. Fr. Heinlein retired in 1977 and replaced by Fr. Reinhold Schmitt. Fr. Polycarp Versteijlen began a two-year pastor in 1980 until his sudden death from heart attack on July 23, 1982. In January, 1983, Fr. Kevin O'Doherty became pastor after serving a mission in Africa. After eight year, Fr. O'Doherty returned to missionary work. At this point, the Mariannhill Fathers ended their direction of the parish but remained as weekend assistants. 
1957-1958 yearbook - Source

Fr. Ron Cyprys, a diocesan priest, became pastor in August of 1991 with retired Fr. Charlie O'Neill. Fr. Ron was pastor for 16 years, until his death on July 29, 2007. Deacon Robert DeWitt has ministered at the parish for 29 years. Fr. Donald Walker was ordained in 1958 and briefly retired in 2006 before becoming administrator at Our Lady of Grace in 2007. Two years later, he also took over leadership of St. Hilary in Redford Township.
Photo courtesy of Abby Hansen Bernhardt

Our Lady of Grace School closed in 2000 and the parish clustered with nearby St. Sabina in 2012. St. Hilary Parish closed and merged with St. John Bosco in 2014. However, Fr. Walker remains administrator at Our Lady of Grace today.

The church stands on Joy Rd., two blocks east of Telegraph, in the northeast part of Dearborn Heights. Saturday Vigil Mass is at 4:00pm, preceded by Reconciliation 3:00pm-3:30pm; Sunday Mass is at 9:30am. Daily Mass is in the chapel at 8:30am on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

A tall steeple/smokestack stands in between the church and school; the Blessed Virgin Mary above the center door on the Joy Road side. 

St. Anne with Child Mary as well as St. Joseph perched above side doors.

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands outside the sacristy.

The Infant of Prague and Our Lady of Grace stand near the entrance to the chapel.

Stained-glass windows above doorways depict Christ the King (left) and Baptism (right).

Unfortunately, Our Lady of Grace will close next June and merge with St. Sabina. The final Mass is scheduled for June 18, 2017.

For more info: bulletin archive
History of churches in Dearborn & Dearborn Heights: E-Gov Link (pdf)
A virtual tour of the church: Multi-View Productions
A 1988 article including interview with Fr. Walker: Chicago Tribune

The Michigan Catholic articles on Deacon DeWitt and Father Walker:
“Priest, 80, taps into youthful energy”
“Deacons Marking Milestones”
“St. Hilary Parish To Close”

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