HISTORY – Beautiful Reminiscences
written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
Father John Nader was appointed to the pastorate of St. Mary’s in 1968, and Father Thiefels stayed on as assistant. Together they planned for the $110,000 sandblasting of the church’s old bricks back to “nearly mint” condition.
A description of the church, published by the parish at that time, explained in detail its beautiful furnishing and decorations:
The Main Altar, built of wood by the Redemptorist Brothers for the original church, contains relics of the martyrs, St. Felix and St. Emerita. The Main Altar statue of the Blessed Mother, patroness of the church, has St. Stephen on her right and St. Elizabeth of Hungary to her left. At the Sacred Heart Altar, Jesus of the Gentle Heart has St. Philomena on his left and St. Barbara on his right. The statue near the altar is St. Joseph. To the far right of the Sacred Heart Altar is Our Mother of Perpetual Help. This altar is flanked by statues of Pope Pius X and the Infant of Prague.
St. Anthony’s Altar, with St. Anthony in the center, has St. Rita on his left and St. Theresa on his right. The statue near the altar is St. Anne. To the far left of St. Anthony’s altar is the Altar in honor of the Holy Ghost. To the right of the Holy Ghost is a statue of Mother Frances Cabrini.
The paintings above the clarestory depict the fifteen mysteries of the rosary. The ones above the sanctuary depict the seven sacraments. The large circular canvas on the ceiling portrays the Immaculate Conception.
There are three grottoes at the rear of lovely old St. Mary’s. On the Epistle side, behind gold gates, is the Baptistry showing the scene of St. John baptizing Jesus, as the Holy Spirit hovers over Him. Next to the Baptistry, amid tiny candles burning night and day, is a replica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes as she appeared to the shepherd girl. In a niche carved in the stone walls of the grotto is an altar dedicated to the Immaculate Conception where weekly mass is celebrated, along with devotions to Our Lady of Lourdes.
The third grotto on the opposite side of the church depicts the scene at Gethsemane where, just hours before His crucifixion, Christ prayed to His Heavenly Father to “Take this Chalice from Me…” but…”Not My Will, but Thy Will be done.” Off to the side, His apostles sleep.
At the center rear door of the church is a statue of St. Vincent DePaul where the faithful may give alms to help those in need. And, in the far left hand corner, a statue of the crucifixion where daily many pray the “Prayer Before the Crucifix” in reparation for sins.
In the small alcove between the confessionals on the right hand side of the church, there is a statue of the Pieta. Behind it are stained glass windows with the names of early German donors. Another distinctive architectural feature of the church are the enormous columns of solid polished granite. They were purchased for only $4,625 but could not be replaced today. In fact, the initial cost of the entire church was $81,210.53, while the 1968 sandblasting was $110,000. The generosity of all of the dear friends of ‘dear old St. Mary’s” makes the continuing restoration possible. And the restoration keeps St. Mary’s an inspiring haven of peace and serenity.
A beautify tribute to the gracious old church appeared in a December 1969 issue of the Detroit News Magazine. It said, in part:
Across the Chrysler freeway live the new parishioners – in Lafayette, Towers, the Pavillion Apartments, 1300 Lafayette, the Rivard – buildings that rise coldly on land that contained slums and clusters of nationality groups which once made up the central parish. The old church stands amid a neighborhood worn through use and reuse by generations of Germans, Greeks, Alsatians, Mexicans, and Negroes, who came, stopped for a generation and left. Now they are all gone. All that remains is the beautiful hulk of “dear old St. Mary’s” as its former parishioners fondly refer to it from the comfort of their suburbs.
With thousands of Catholics within earshot of its carillon bells, St. Mary’s claims a mere 70 registered parishioners…
A very important year in Father Nader’s life was 1950. A church bulletin of that February stated:
On Sunday, February 19th, at 10 o’clock, Father John Nader, C.S.Sp., will celebrate his First Solemn Mass at St. Mary’s Church. All his friends and members of the parish are cordially invited to attend. A native of the Diocese of Detroit, he will be ordained to the priesthood on February 17th in the chapel of the Senior Seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Norwalk, Connecticut.
Father Nader, son of the late John and Mrs. Anna Nader, was born in Detroit and baptized at St. Mary’s in 1924. It was while attending our Grade School from 1930-1938 that he received his first Holy Communion and was confirmed. From his youngest years, he showed a keen interest in the Divine Service, becoming an altar boy when he was hardly tall enough to reach the table of the altar, and even then, at times, having to be helped by the celebrant to place the book upon it. Undoubtedly, much of his determination to follow his vocation was due to the influences of his grammar school days.
On graduating from St. Mary’s in 1938, he entered the Holy Ghost Missionary College at Cornwells Heights, Pa., where he received his High School and two years College education. Completing his studies there in 1943, Father entered the Novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Ridgefield, Conn. A year during which the novice is schooled in the art of “Living with God” and much time is devoted to the serious reflections on the duties and obligations of religious life. He made his profession as a religious in 1944. His studies in Philosophy and the Sacred Sciences were made at the Senior Seminary, Ferndale, Norwalk, Conn. During the summer months of these last years, he devoted much of his time to the study of Sacred Music or Chant, attending the Pius X school in New York for this purpose. After singing his first mass here, Father Nader will return to the Seminary to complete his studies. In June he will be ready to place himself in the hands of his Superiors for work in the Mission fields. Like every true Holy Ghost Father, he has hopes of being assigned work in the foreign Missions of the American Province of this Congregation.