Pastor’s Pen – June 23, 2023

This week of course I want to reflect on our parish 175th anniversary, a wonderful celebration for all of us, and a time to be renewed in the Spirit for God’s good work in this world. But first, a few current notices.

Freedom WalkThe 60th commemoration of the march in Detroit led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – where he delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech – is tomorrow, June 24. The Catholic parishes of the city will gather at old St. Patrick’s (98 Parsons St) around 9:00 AM, near where the march itself begins at 10:00 AM. You are encouraged to wear clothing with your parish logo.

Gun Violence. A hand-out from the Michigan Catholic Conference is now available at the doors of the church; it brings Catholic Social Teaching to bear on the problem of gun violence, and demonstrates why Catholics should support Michigan legislative and other solutions to this plague.

Renewal Assembly. The priests from all the Archdiocesan Families of Parishes will be gathered for two days of prayer and renewal of their sense of mission, followed by a third day with the members of their parish staffs next week, June 27-29.  Please pray for us, especially our own SSPP and Gesu staffs.

And now, about that 175th Anniversary! Our work on the just-published pictorial history of our parish (make sure to buy copies for your family and friends!) has caused me to think a lot about the amazing good work of God that has been accomplished here by those who went before us over the many preceding decades – and at the same time to ponder how we are called today as a parish to co-labor with God, as St. Ignatius puts it in the Spiritual Exercises.  And thus I find myself with a series of historical reflections, and prayers for us today.

Our church served in its first three decades as the Cathedral church at the center of the Detroit diocese.  I pray that we can see ourselves today as living and serving at the heart of the church. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises put one’s relationship with Christ at the center of our lives, and our lives in service at the heart of the church. There are some in the church, now as in centuries past, who erroneously think the Jesuits and their ministries are on the fringes of the church – but nothing could be further from the truth of how Ignatius and his companions saw themselves, and how we can see ourselves today.

In the decades after the Jesuits arrived, many in the parish rose up to provide incredible outreach to the poor immigrant populations in the neighborhood. I pray that today we can continue to welcome and serve those who are on the margins, who have known racism, discrimination, exclusion or poverty.

In the first decades of the 1900s, parishioner Josephine Brownson pioneered new approaches to the religious formation of children that became the model and inspiration for Catholic children’s “CCD” programs throughout the country. Sisters ran our parish grade school for over 100 years. I pray that today we can come together with great love and care to support the many children in our parish, as well as their parents in their efforts to share their faith.

In those same years, thousands of people would flock regularly to our church to hear the sermons and lectures of Jesuit preachers at feast days and novenas.  I pray that we can offer the in-depth spiritual nourishment that today’s adults hunger for, to be able to find God in all things, and know the love of Christ that moves us “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” – toward the greater glory of God.

Of course the principal and only reason the Jesuits were invited to this parish in 1877 was to begin Catholic higher education in Detroit. They founded what is today the University of Detroit Mercy and U of D Jesuit High School, and eventually Loyola High School, leading generations to become “men and women for others.” I pray that today we can continue to accompany our youth and young adults in the creation of a hope-filled future.

A hope-filled future must now include a clear commitment to address the challenges of climate change and care for the environment. Our parish has no significant history on that point – because it was unknown to the previous generations. I pray we can rise to that calling that is peculiar to our own times, one that Pope Francis says is the most urgent of all that God asks of us, the church today.