Sunday, February 26, 2012

Detroit’s Lesser-Known Historic Churches

Tridentine Community News (February 26, 2012):
In this column – and in numerous other articles and web sites – much has been written about the Archdiocese of Detroit’s “A Class” of historic churches: 1) St. Josaphat, 2) Sweetest Heart of Mary, 3) St. Joseph, 4) St. Albertus, 5) Old St. Mary, 6) Assumption Grotto, 7) St. Paul on the Lake, 8) St. Florian, 9) St. Hyacinth, 10) National Shrine of the Little Flower (Royal Oak) and 11) St. Hugo (Bloomfield Hills), eight of which happen to have hosted Tridentine Masses. Occasional mention is also made of the underappreciated: 12) Holy Family, 13) Ste. Anne, 14) Transfiguration, 15) Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Wyandotte), 16) Holy Cross (Hungarian), 17) St. Hedwig, and 18) St. Francis d’Assisi, however photos of the interiors of those churches are scarce. All of these churches are splendid examples of traditional architecture, with minimal if any modifications made since Vatican II.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that there is an entire second set of churches of particular architectural or artistic merit, churches that may not host particularly conservative liturgies, but which nevertheless are lovingly maintained by their congregations. Some of these churches were built during the great construction era of the early 20th century, while others are 1940s-50s era edifices still built to the traditional standards codified by St. Charles Borromeo after the Council of Trent. This “B Class” of churches includes: 19) St. Charles Borromeo, 20) Ss. Peter & Paul (Jesuit), 21) Ss. Peter & Paul (west side), 22) Annunciation, 23) Holy Redeemer, 24) St. Leo, 25) Our Lady Queen of Apostles, 26) St. Cunegunda, 27) Our Lady Queen of Angels, 28) St. Alphonsus (Dearborn), 29) St. Augustine & St. Monica, and 30) St. Matthew; and the more modified “C Class”: 31) St. Raymond, 32) St James (Ferndale), and 33) St. Elizabeth.

Many local Catholics, this writer included, are barely aware of some of these churches’ existence. Virtually no attempt to publicize them is made in the Catholic or secular media. However, a visit to another, newer or wealthier diocese, where few unaltered historic churches exist, is a reminder that we in this region are blessed with a surfeit of such inspirational edifices. We may lament the closure of some of our Catholic churches, but do we even know the gems that remains open in our midst?

Fortunately, a young man has embarked upon a project to photograph the interiors and exteriors of all of Detroit’s architecturally significant churches, A, B, and C Class. In the past, we have reported on the Andrew Fanco’s Detroit Church Blog, and [Sacred Heart Major Seminary] seminarian David Keyser’s DET Catholic Churches blog, wonderful efforts indeed, but an even more comprehensive volume of content can be found in Andy Hoxie’s Flickr set “cath4ever”. The home page for this set is at:

Detailed photos for each church abound. Some are real eye-openers. For example, St. Charles Borromeo, Annunciation, and St. Leo have constructed projectile platforms for freestanding altars in front of their communion rails, but the rails, high altar, side altars, and traditional sanctuaries remain entirely intact. Andy also includes photos of churches in Grand Rapids, Chicago, and elsewhere, an important and unique catalog of sacred art.

As always, the photos themselves tell the story:

St. Charles Borromeo

Nativity of Our Lord

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 02/27 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria of Lent)

Tue. 02/28 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Feria of Lent)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for February 26, 2012. Hat tip to A.B.]

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