written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
In 1887, Bishop Borgess resigned due to ill health. He died three years later and was buried in St. Augustine’s Parish cemetery in Kalamazoo. His successor, John Samuel Foley of Baltimore, Maryland, was installed on November 25, 1888. During the thirty years of his episcopate, tremendous growth – mainly spurred by the automotive industry – saw a proliferation of nationalities and parishes in the diocese. In fact, from 1900 to 1930, Detroit’s population more that quintupled (285,704 to 1,568,662, representing as many as 85 different ethnic groups) and has fluctuated only slightly since then. The Greek population was typical. The 1880 census showed just one Greek person in Detroit. Fifteen years later, the Hellas Café opened on Monroe Street to an enthusiastic patronage and it is still a popular “Greektown” attraction.
St. Mary’s Charity Society, providing sustenance to those in need since it was founded to help those in distress after the Civil War, changed its name in 1889 to St. Mary’s Poor and Orphan Society. Its principal concern was widows and their children, to whom it provided small monthly grants of cash, as well as clothing when needed. The organization’s services would be needed for a long while to come.
Father Lings retire in January 1890 and from then until August, Father Webersinke facilitated the transfer of the parish back to the Redemptorists. The Franciscans were withdrawn as teachers in the school (where the enrollment had dropped to about 500) and the School Sisters of Notre Dame assumed all of the tutorial responsibilities. They moved into the house on Macomb Street that the Brothers had vacated.
Father Charles Kern became pastor until 1891, when Father Bolte took over for the next two years.
A pontifical high mass and a great celebration and reunion banquet marked the Golden Jubilee of the church in June of 1893. Another exciting happening of that year was the installation of the Fathers of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost with Father Francis Schwab as the first Holy Ghost pastor at St. Mary’s. Father Charles Laenget was his assistant. Together, they conducted a house-to-house visitation of parishioners which helped to unify this flock-in-flux.
In 1894 the church was decorated, with electric lights being installed around the coping of the 86-foot-high ceiling, above the granite pillars, and on standards rising above the pews. According to an old parish history:
The painting of the interior was one of the most remarkable undertakings of this nature ever attempted in the city. People came from far and wide to gaze at the mass of lumber used for the scaffolding. The oil paintings were made in Cincinnati, except the large circular painting of the Immaculate Conception on the ceiling. This picture was painted in New York and was a gift of Mrs. John Schlitt. The rest of the work was done by local artists.