The Resurget Cineribus family of parishes is now entering its third year of collaboration. As we continue to grow in relationship, I thought it would be beneficial for us to take some time to learn a bit more about the history of our parishes. As I begin my fifth year primarily serving at St. Aloysius, and as we begin the celebration of our 150th anniversary, I’d like to share more about “Everybody’s Church in Downtown Detroit.”
The first Catholic services were held at St. Aloysius on August 24, 1873, after Bishop Borgess purchased what was the Westminster Presbyterian Church located on Washington Boulevard. St. Aloysius Church existed before the cornerstone of either the old public library or city hall was laid, before the first telephone was installed in the city, before the completion of either Harper or Grace hospitals, before the purchase of Belle Isle or the opening of Grand Boulevard. Our community is older than most things that are now looked upon as part of ancient Detroit of happy memory.
In April of 1930, the church was razed to make way for its present magnificent structure, which stands as a modern-day monument to the history of Catholicism in Detroit. Its origin was in a passing thought of the Pastor, Monsignor John M. Doyle, as he knelt during the Holy Year of 1925, above the miraculously preserved body of St. Charles Borromeo in Milan, plainly visible below the main floor of that Cathedral and protected by a circular railing. After much research, the idea of the “well” was adopted—something new in the diocese, in the country, and the world. Without losing its place on Washington Boulevard, St. Aloysius church grew from a capacity of 750 to over 2,300.
While certainly unique, St. Aloysius Parish has always been so much more than a building. It is the people of God—those who were born within the confines of the parish, who were baptized, confirmed, received Jesus for the first time, and married within its walls, who attended its school, who worshipped as they continue today at lunchtime services during a busy workday, and devoted parishioners in every moment of our history—who bring the Church to life.
Our history includes the presence of the Franciscan Friars who served the parish for 27 years. In that time, they, with the help of many other devoted parishioners and benefactors established St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services to serve those in need in the downtown community. These ministries which continue today, have become among the most respected in the City of Detroit.
We have a full schedule of activities to celebrate our sesquicentennial. A special invitation to the parishioners of the Cathedral and Old St. Mary’s to join us for our block party on Sunday, August 20, from 12pm-3pm. Stop on over after Mass at your parish for an afternoon of food, music, and fun. This will double as our annual family picnic, so plan to join us if you can!
Fr. Mario Amore