CELEBRATION OF THE FUTURE
written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
The world was shocked in 1978 when a beautiful and humble man who had been chosen to lead the world’s Catholics, and who had chosen to use the names of both of his beloved predecessors, Pope John Paul I, died suddenly after a pontificate of only 34 days. His revered successor, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, has that same humble demeanor combined with a stalwart nature that has brought him the admiration of people in all walks of life and all religions throughout the world.
In December of 1982, Pope John Paul turned his attention to Detroit Archdiocese when he named three new bishops – Patrick Cooney, Dale Melczek, and Moses Anderson – to serve as auxiliaries to Archbishop Szoka. Their names and ethnic heritages were typical of the kaleidoscopic archdiocese, typical of St. Mary’s Parish most of all.
When the Detroit Free Press published a special Sunday edition covering Detroit’s Catholics on March 6, 1983, the cover blurbs read:
Detroit’s Catholics: The city and the diocese, like neighborhood kids, grew up together. Since Father Gabriel Richard’s time, the two have taken different paths, destined to intersect though 150 years of history. The schools: The student body has shrunk by more than half; lay teachers outnumber nuns and priests; tuition has quadrupled. The only thing that hasn’t changed about Catholic education is its mission.
The fascinating history inside began with some statistics: “Nearly 35 percent of the population of the six-county Archdioceses of Detroit is Catholic. Twenty-five years ago, the percentage was even higher – closer to 50. Catholic thought and tradition, as well as its institutions, have been at the core of the community for the 282 years since Antione de la Mothe Cadillac stepped onto the banks of the Detroit River to establish a French territorial outpost.”
Detroit’s 1.2 million Catholics celebrated the 150th anniversary of the official establishment of the Church of Detroit on Tuesday, March 8, 1983, with a mass in St. Anne’s Shrine. That celebration is now continuing there, here, all over the Archdiocese, as the Church expands to meet the new challenges that each year brings.
That feeling of joyous vibrancy fills beautiful Old St. Mary’s, now looking back on 150 years of faith and service to all people – and looking forward, enthusiastically, to accepting that same responsibility for the next 150 years.