Detroit — St. Bernardine of Sienna Parish in Westland will celebrate its final Mass at 11 a.m. on June 26. As of July 1, the parish will be canonically merged with Westland-based St. Damian Parish. Archbishop Allen Vigneron in May signed a decree that the two parishes would merge. The pastors – Fr. Salvino Briffa of St. Bernardine and Fr. Lawrence Zurawski – requested the merger after it was endorsed by both parish councils and the pastors of the Northwest Wayne Vicariate. Fr. Briffa will serve as temporary administrator of St. Damien after July 1, and will retire upon the naming of a new pastor for the parish. Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss will preside at St. Bernardine’s final Mass.
St. Bernardine was founded on Sept. 17, 1957, with Fr. Joseph Kress as its first pastor. The first Masses took place at the nearby Hawthorne Valley Country Club.
St. Bernardine Grade School opened in 1959, run by the Bernardine sisters. And in 1963, nearly 400 families from the parish branched out to start a new parish — St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish on Wayne Road.
Though St. Bernardine’s school closed in 1971, the parish community remained vibrant. The parishioners embraced the parish’s identity as being a smaller parish among larger neighboring parishes. In recent years, however, membership at the parish was in the low hundreds. Through the Together in Faith process – a long-term strategy by which people from different parishes explore ways to share resources – the plan to merge the parish into St. Damian eventually emerged.