St. Anne declared patroness for Church of Detroit

Icon image of St. Anne courtesy of Donna Rathert.

Detroit — On a day where the Archdiocese of Detroit had three men ordained to be successors of the apostles, it also received another gift: A patron saint.

At the close of the episcopal ordination Mass for Bishops Donald Hanchon, Michael Byrnes and Arturo Cepeda, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron disclosed that, by Vatican decree, St. Anne is — and always has been — the patron saint of the local Church.

Reminding the nearly 1,000 people at the Cathedral — and audiences on television and a live Internet feed — that the faithful of the archdiocese were invited to make suggestions regarding who the patron saint should be, Archbishop Vigneron said, “from the day that the Church was established on the 26th of July in 1701, it has been the grandmother of Jesus Christ — St. Anne.”

Archdiocese of Detroit Chancellor Michael Trueman read a translation of the Vatican’s decree, recognizing the archdiocese’s longstanding devotion to St. Anne and acknowledging that she is not only the new patroness of Detroit, but she is now recognized to have been its patroness from Detroit’s founding.

St. Anne, who is known about from early Christian writings — though not from the Bible — was known to have been childless until later in life. She and her husband Joachim prayed to God for a child, and were told by an angel that they would conceive. St. Anne did conceive, and gave birth to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While Catholics may pray to any saint to intercede for them to God, a patron saint is designated as a special intercessor for an area or activity.

After having received hundreds of suggestions from the faithful in the archdiocese — many of whom felt St. Anne should be the patroness — Archbishop Vigneron in January of 2010 wrote the Vatican and suggest that St. Anne officially be made Detroit’s patron saint.

Over the centuries, it had been assumed by many that she already was — though it never was officially recognized or declared by the Vatican. When French settlers first came to Detroit, the first Mass was said on St. Anne’s feast day of July 26, 1701. The same day, construction of Detroit’s first church was begun. Today, Ste. Anne de Detroit Parish, which is situated at the base of the Ambassador Bridge, is the second-oldest continually operational parish in the United States.

When Archbishop Vigneron came to be named archbishop of Detroit in January 2009, he learned that, on record, Detroit had never been officially given a patron saint. Respectful of the history with St. Anne, he still wanted to receive feedback from area Catholics. Feedback was solicited via parish bulletins, flyers, Catholic schools, The Michigan Catholic newspaper, Catholic Television Network of Detroit and Ave Maria Radio (WDEO, 990AM).

Masses celebrating Detroit’s newly recognized patron saint will take place on St. Anne’s feast day at Ste. Anne in Detroit; St. Anne in Warren; St. Anne in Ortonville; and St. Anne in Monroe. According to a release from the Archdiocese of Detroit, more details about the celebrations will come at a later date.