Two days later, they
dedicated the first structure, which was Ste. Anne’s Church, to God. Mass was
celebrated on that July 26, 1701 day, the Feast of Ste. Anne, the grandmother of
Jesus and mother of Mary.
stockade were the little oak buildings of the settlement…Ste. Anne’s
church, the warehouse where the furs were stored, and the log houses of
the soldiers and settlers. All the buildings were one story high…made of
logs set upright in the ground…Ste. Anne’s Church and warehouse…built
with logs lying on their side. The roofs were made from bark and
thatched with straw or grass. The streets of the village ran east and
west or north and south, and except for Ste. Anne were about ten feet
wide. Ste. Anne Street, which was the main street, was about twenty feet
wide. It ran about where Jefferson Avenue now is. (Lewis, Ferris E., Detroit,
A Wilderness Outpost of Old France, 1951.)
Fr. Delhalle’s challenges were many as
the first pastor of Ste. Anne’s. How to keep these rough men in line. How to
curtail their drinking, swearing and gambling. How to entice God-fearing French
women to come to this region, marry and begin new families were day-to-day
challenges for this simple man of faith. An answer to his prayers came the
following autumn when Marie-Thérèse Cadillac and Marie-Anne de Tonti—the first ladies—arrived
at the settlement, leading the way for more women to come within a year. Surely
Fr. Delhalle sighed with relief and smiled at the thought of future weddings and
baptisms at Ste. Anne’s.
As births, deaths and
marriages occurred, Pastor Delhalle entered names into the parish registry.
However, as the list began to grow, a suspicious fire broke out on October 5,
1703 in one of the barns, destroying the bastion, as well as Ste. Anne’s.
Unhappily the parish records, which would have been the oldest in the country,
By February of 1704,
Fr. Delhalle had established a new parish register. In it was the record of the
birth of Cadillac’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse, and her immediate baptism. Until a
new church could be built Cadillac lent his barn to Fr. Delhalle for church use.
A rough altar was set up for worship services, and there was plenty of room for
other community gatherings.
Despite fires and
uprisings, the parish endured. Four years elapsed before a new Ste. Anne’s arose
from its former ashes with Fr. Cherubim Deniau at its head. That church, which
was located outside of the palisade, was torched in 1711 for defensive purposes
during an uprising of the Fox Indians from Wisconsin. In 1723, Fr. Lienhard
restored Ste. Anne’s. A fifth Ste. Anne’s was consecrated in 1755 and spared
eight years later by a brilliant Ottawa chief, Pontiac, who had great respect
for the white man’s God. All the while Ste. Anne’s was the only church inthe
region. All the while, births, deaths, and marriages carefully were entered into
the parish registry.
Levadoux was Gabriel Richard, Ste. Anne’s most famous pastor from 1802 to 1832.
After shepherding his flock for scarcely three years, fire broke out consuming
most of Detroit, including Ste. Anne’s. This time, however, the parish records
were in safe hands. Fr. Richard made sure the parish continued, celebrated Mass
in Macomb’s Orchard in the summer and used the Meldrum Warehouse later in the
year as a temporary church until a new one could be built. He also worked
closely with city leaders to rebuild Detroit, saying "Speramus meliora; resurgit
cineribus. We hope for better
things; it will arise from the ashes." For his unceasing efforts on behalf
of the city, Fr. Richard was named the Second
Founder of Detroit. He established the sixth Ste. Anne’s at Spring Hill Farm
and moved the church to the Loranger Farm in 1811 following the sale of the
Spring Hill property.
The War of 1812 dealt
harshly with Detroit, leaving famine and devastation in its wake. During a time
when people were leaving the area in search of food and building materials, Fr.
Richard again stood firm in his belief in Detroit and administered the first
federal relief program to feed the hungry.
rebounded, and the cornerstone for the seventh Ste. Anne’s was laid on Larned
Street. The Detroit Gazette printed
the following advertisement on August 18, 1818:
Offered by Gabriel Richard, rector of Ste. Anne, 200 hard dollars will
be given for twenty toises of long stone, of Stony Island, delivered at
Detroit, on the wharf of Mr. Jacob Smith, or two hundred and forty
dollars, if delivered on the church ground. 100 barrels of lime are
wanted immediately. Five shillings will be given per barrel at the river
side, and six shillings delivered on the church ground.
With Richard as his own contractor, the
work progressed. J.B. St. Amour and Louis Desolcour provided the limestone.
Richard bought pine from Messrs. Young and St. Barnard, and gradually the church
took shape. With money at a premium, Richard issued his own script
(shinplasters) with which to pay his workmen. An unscrupulous printer flooded
the countryside with this script, costing Richard several hundred dollars, a
huge sum which he could ill afford to repay.
But repay he did, and
the twin spires of Ste. Anne’s finally rose into the air dominating the
landscape, becoming the focal point for the city of Detroit. Ten years from
start to finish, Ste. Anne’s , known as "The Stone Church, "stood as the
region’s "Mother Church" for more than 40 years. The funeral mass for Fr.
Richard, the last victim of the cholera epidemic of 1832, was held at Ste.
Anne’s with Fr. Baraga, the Snowshoe Priest, visiting from the Upper Peninsula,
officiating. The church was not large enough to accommodate 2,500 people—more
than the population of Detroit—who wished to attend the Mass.
As the city grew and
businesses emerged, Ste. Anne’s property became extremely valuable. Pastor
Theophilus Anciaux, Bishop Borgess and Ste. Anne trustees agreed to sell the
property and begin the construction of a new church at an alternate site. A
major rift occurred among the parishioners, some strongly in favor of building
the church east of downtown Detroit, others urging construction of Ste. Anne’s
farther west of the center city. A break in Ste. Anne’s parish rolls came when a
portion of the congregation built their own church—St. Joachim’s—on the near
east side of the city. The remaining parishioners chose the present site in
southwest Detroit for Ste. Anne’s eighth church home. The artifacts from The
Stone Church were divided between the two new ones.
The current Ste.
Anne’s dates from 1886, the year the Basilian Fathers of Toronto assumed the
care of the church and its parishioners. Architect Albert French designed the
church, and Ste. Anne parishioner Léon Coquard is believed to have designed the
other historic buildings in the complex, as well as the church altar. Leander
Picard, another parishioner, did most of the wood carving, and probably the
stone carving as well. The neo-Gothic church was completed in a year and a half
at a cost of $100,000. Gabriel Richard’s body was given a place of honor under
the main altar. In 1976, Ste. Anne’s celebrated the U.S. Bicentennial by moving
Fr. Richard’s body into the newly renovated chapel behind the church sanctuary
for all to see.
For more than 100
years Ste. Anne’s was the religious
presence in Detroit. The Irish came to Detroit in the 1820’s, some 20 or more
years before the
Irish Famine. Fr. Richard mentions in his writings "150 Irish Catholics
scattered here and there [in Detroit]," all of whom he welcomed at the
predominantly French-speaking Ste. Anne’s. A good number of Irish remained in
the St. Anne community until the 1960’s.
The first wave of
Hispanic peoples arrived in Detroit during the 1940s. Since they wished to
continue their worship traditions, a delegation of Hispanics requested the use
of the chapel for their services. Agreeing to clean and maintain it, the
Hispanics found not only a home at Ste. Anne’s, but history would recount how
hard they worked to keep the church open to this present day in 2001.
Seventy-five percent of Ste. Anne parishioners are Hispanic.
Riots, flight to the
suburbs, urban blight, recessions, unemployment are a few of the major factors
that greatly impacted Ste. Anne’s and the greater Detroit Metro community during
the past four decades. Renewal has been painstakingly slow. Nonetheless,
positive signs are visible throughout the city.
Ste. Anne’s has been a
major catalyst for change. During my years as pastor, I have envisioned the
spiritual, social and physical renewal of this parish community. Spiritual
renewal can be seen in the growing number of parishioners (850 families knowing
and following Jesus, the Lord), larger Sunday school enrollment, larger
religious education classes, bible study groups, vibrant youth ministry,
participation in healing masses, food distribution programs and an increasing
number of parish ministries.
continues in programs such as Freedom House and the Jeremiah Project. Freedom
House welcomes political refugees, housing and helping them until they can gain
entry into the U.S. or Canada. About 26 people currently live at this facility
on the Ste. Anne campus.
As members of the
Jeremiah Project, Ste. Anne parishioners join with other churches to improve
their neighborhoods through collaboration with law enforcement agencies,
businesses and other community groups to eliminate toxic dumping, keep
prostitution and drug traffic at a minimum, clean up parks and provide enhanced
recreational, cultural, health and education programs for youths, senior
citizens, single parents and families.
Art classes. Dances
and dance classes. Tae Kwon Do. Theatrical productions. Town Hall meetings.
Language and tutorial programs. Rites of passage. Gangland truces. All are part
of the burgeoning social renewal of the Ste. Anne community.
Physical renewal is
seen in the renovation of more than 45 houses and the construction of 111 new
ones. Seventy-five more affordable homes are planned to attract people to the
community and keep them here…all done by the Bagley Housing Association, led by
Vincent Murray, a parishioner and many other parishioners as board members,
Across from Ste.
Anne’s stands a new 65-unit senior citizen complex, Rio Vista, that provides
safe, clean, low income housing for older members of the community. These people
bring deeper wisdom and prayer to our community
Ste. Anne’s school
building is restored and renovated to house the SerCasa Academy for the
Environmental Sciences. The school is producing the first high school graduates
for many families in the community. It also is increasing its enrollment to meet
the growing needs of the area.
At its tricentennial
celebration on July 26, 2001, the parish announced plans for a capital campaign
through its fundraising arm, the Gabriel Richard Historical Society. To renovate
the community center and bring more recreational and educational programs to
southwest Detroit is the primary goal of this $5 million effort.
In its fourth century,
Ste. Anne’s sees itself as a member of the global family, administering to those
in need by providing a helping hand, rather than a handout; by taking advantage
of technological advances to keep the people it serves on the communication
highway to success; by building bridges of understanding between individuals and
communities; by cultivating a vibrant commercial and residential area where
people will live, work and worship with a sense of pride and hope for the
A greater spiritual
presence, new businesses, more schools, more jobs, affordable housing, better
recreational facilities, greater economic security…an area that will continue to
attract people…where generations will set down roots to raise families of solid,
productive citizens. This was Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac’s vision on that hot
summer’s day 400 years ago; Gabriel Richard’s vision following the Great Fire of
1805; and certainly my own compelling vision on July 26, 2001…a true city of
One hundred years from
now? We may well have journeyed to other planets, galaxies, universes. As we
reach outer space we also are reaching the inner space of quantum physics,
quantum theology, quantum spirituality. I pray we rediscover the worth of the
self in the midst of family, and that all families, in all cities, in all
nations, in all races, religions and cultures celebrate deeper unity, all
children of God.
I pray that each child
will grow with a strong knowledge of self worth before God and others…that each
child knows "I am a gift" and have a valuable contribution to make in this
world. I pray that these children will grow to lead our governments in such a
way that there is no need to eliminate or conquer one another.
Robert J. Duggan, CSB,
Ste. Anne de Detroit
December 31, 2001