ST. MARY’S PASTORAL “TEAM”
written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
The summer of 1967 brought race riots to Detroit, but just six years later the city elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young, again serving as a model to other racially disturbed communities. It is interesting to note that Mayor attended St. Mary’s Grade School.
In the meantime, Archbishop Dearden was elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul VI and was later elected the first president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; he was to represent America’s fifty million Catholic in the International Synod of Bishops.
In 1973 the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers celebrated 100 years of service to the United States. Read into the Journal of the Michigan legislature on that occasion was House Concurrent Resolution No. 486:
From the office of the Mayor of Detroit came a congratulatory letter ending with these words:
Therefore, I, Roman S. Gribbs, Mayor of the City of Detroit, proclaim June 11, 1972, as HOLY GHOST FATHERS DAY and urge all citizens to recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices of this religious order during its century of service in the United States.
Other congratulatory messages published in a souvenir booklet were from Cardinal Villot of Rome, representing the Pope, Cardinal Dearden, President Richard Nixon, and the City Council of Detroit.
The Holy Ghost Fathers began with a young French lawyer, Claude Francis Poullart des Places, who became a priest at the age of 26 and began an apostolate among the chimney sweeps of Paris. Later he founded a seminary to help poor students attain the priesthood to which they aspired. Founded in 1703, the society grew beyond his wildest dreams and soon members of the Holy Ghost Congregation were actively engaged in apostolic work in China, India, Africa, Canada, South America, and Indo-China.
Shattered by the French Revolution, the Congregation received a new lease on life when in 1848, Father Francis Libermann, son of Jewish rabbi, joined his new congregation of the Holy Heart of Mary to the older Spiritan group. Elected first Superior General, Venerable Father Libermann brought with him a number of priests and seminarians who wished to devote themselves to the poor, and the deprived.
In 1872, because Bismarck banned the Order in Germany, the Holy Ghost Fathers could accept a mission in the United States, in Covington, Kentucky. But when four priest arrived in Covington, they found that facilities were not ready for them. Subsequently, they accepted parishes in Piqua, Russia, and Berlin, Ohio, which were made available by the Archbishop of Cincinnati.
In 1874, the Order expanded its works into the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, first in parish assignments and then, in 1878, forming what is now Duquesne University. The University’s Institute of African Studies is one of the very few in the United States; it was established in 1958.
St. Emma’s Academy, Powhatan, Virginia, was founded in 1895 to educate the freed slaves of the South. The Holy Ghost Fathers, chaplains to the school for many years, took over its direction in 1947.
One of the unique works of the Holy Ghost Fathers is St. Joseph House in Philadelphia, an institution for homeless boys which has been in operation since 1890. Two other secondary schools operated by the Fathers are the Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, and Notre Dame High School, Riverside, California. They also teach at St. Francis De Sales High School in Chicago.
As of their U.S. Centennial date, the Order was serving in 46 black parishes in the South and industrial cities of the North and in 27 white parishes originally founded for the benefit of German, Polish, Portugese, and other immigrants who came to this country during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Abroad, there were 58 American Holy Ghost Fathers serving in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Africa. All could truly be said to be carrying out the commitment made by Father des Places: To serve the most difficult and most abandoned works in God’s vineyard.