Historic Detroit Parish Seeking Repairs

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 17, 2017   

Downtown Detroit's St. Joseph Oratory begins campaign

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Saint Joseph Oratory, a Catholic parish exclusively having the Traditional Latin Mass, is announcing a $2.5 million renewal campaign.

Saint Joseph Oratory (SJO), one of downtown Detroit's most beautiful and iconic Catholic parishes is in dire need of repair. At a press conference on October 16, Canon Michael Stein, a Catholic priest in the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, announced the St. Joseph Oratory Historic Renewal Campaign.


Stein is hoping to raise $2.5 million during the three-year campaign, with $1 million raised in the first year and $750,000 in the next two years.

The first installment would restore the steeple, which at one time was the highest structure in Detroit. It was damaged in a 2016 windstorm and will take up more than $600,000 of the first year's fundraising.

Stein also noted to parishioners on Sunday that money raised in the campaign will remain separate from the regular financial needs of the parish.

He added that SJO has been cutting operating costs because parishioners volunteer to fulfill duties that secretaries, groundskeepers and maintenance personnel normally do.

After the steeple is repaired, leaks in the church roof will receive attention, allowing subsequent repair to water-damaged walls inside the church.

The church's rich stonework, some of which has fallen or crumbled, will be restored along with electrical systems and parking lot repairs.

Stein noted Abp. Allen Vigneron is enthusiastic about the campaign and is allowing it to continue without requiring the usual diocesan tax, which would have skimmed nearly $200,000 from donations going towards necessary restorations.

Since Vigneron handed the dying parish over to the Institute of Christ the King a year ago the parish has grown by hundreds of people. Unlike many parishes in the United States, SJO has a high number of men in attendance, as well as young families.

The parish has daily Mass in the traditional 1962 Latin form, as well as daily confession and over 60 children at four different levels, attending catechism weekly.

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Canon Michael Stein, pastor of St. Joseph Oratory

Stein noted that he and the other priest, Canon Jonathon Fehrenbacher, conduct sick calls, house blessings, marriage preparations, funerals, baptisms and other functions proper to a Catholic parish. He added, "As a parish, we not only pray together, but we also work together, our entire staff is volunteer-based, and we recreate together" with many parish outings, including trips to local parks, the nearby farmer's market and Detroit Tigers baseball games.

Built by German immigrants between 1870–1873, the Victorian gothic church is one of the oldest churches in Detroit with most of its original appointments still intact. Most noticeable are the stained glass windows and hand-carved wooden furnishings all over the church, including the high altar and pulpit.

Detroit is home to a large and young group of Catholics devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass. Archbishop Vigneron had previously commented that they deserve to have comprehensive pastoral care, requiring pastors who have been formed exclusively to offer the TLM and are dedicated to it.

Stein noted, "We are grateful for the vision of Abp. Vigneron in inviting the Institute of Christ the King to Detroit to create a parish center for the traditional sacraments, catechesis and devotions."

There is a GoFundMe page where people around the world can help St. Joseph Oratory.

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