Southfield ministry working to buy, restore Pontiac chapel and mission

Established in 1923, the St. Joseph Chapel in Pontiac seats 80 and houses one of six Marian shrines in Michigan.

Established in 1923, the St. Joseph Chapel in Pontiac seats 80 and houses one of six Marian shrines in Michigan.

Pontiac — For six years, the founders of Terra Sancta Pilgrimages have led Detroit-area faithful on spiritual tours to the Holy Land. In recent months, they’ve been praying, working and fundraising to relocate their Southfield office to a restored St. Joseph Chapel and Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary about 10 miles away in Pontiac.

The 2.25-acre site is on the former St. Joseph Parish property and is now owned by St. Damien of Molokai Parish in Pontiac. The site is in need of repairs and includes the chapel, the Marian Shrine and outdoor Stations of the Cross. Proceeds from the sale would largely eliminate the parish debt at St. Damien.

“The St. Joseph building and grounds need work and loving care beyond the maintenance we’ve been able to provide” said Fr. James Kean, pastor of St. Damien. “Terra Sancta has beautiful plans to make it an active shrine and pilgrimage site again as well as base for their evangelization ministry. It would be wonderful to see St. Joseph remain as consecrated ground with a new life.”

The goal of the “Gift for Our Mother-Restoring Terra Sancta” campaign is to raise $300,000 by May 31 to acquire and renovate the St. Joseph property. So far, about $105,000 has been received in cash and pledges.

Terra Sancta was co-founded in 2008 by a Franciscan friar, Fr. Alex Kratz, and Patti Giangrande, a Secular Franciscan.

“We organize two pilgrimages to the Holy Land annually,” Giangrande said. “We also provide Scripture-based presentations to parishes, lead retreats and conduct parish missions.

“In organizing Detroit-area pilgrimages, we learned St. Joseph was a popular pilgrimage site in the 1950s and 1960s. We would love to bring that opportunity back to the faithful,” she continued. “Since our ministry has been connecting people to the holiness of pilgrimage sites and helping them grow in their own spirituality, the St. Joseph opportunity seems like a natural fit for us.”

St. Damien had been preparing for an open-market sale of the St. Joseph property when Giangrande and Fr. Kratz became aware of its availability.

“St. Joseph is the patron saint of Terra Sancta, and after learning more about the site in Pontiac, we became convinced the Lord was pointing us to advance our ministries from that location,” said Fr. Kratz. “We seek to bring souls to Jesus through Mary, His mother, by a renewal of Marian devotion.

“We’re working hard on a deadline, and if God wills it to happen, the funds will come and we’ll take it as God’s will that we should be there.”

The May 31 deadline was set to enable St. Damien to market the property on a timely basis if Terra Sancta is not able to purchase the property. Proceeds from any sale will go to St. Damien, while the Archdiocese of Detroit will retain possession of the Shrine statuary.

Help the cause

To donate to the campaign, visit