Southwest Detroit parishes prioritize financial stability, begin merger planning

Bill Blaul
Special to The Michigan Catholic

Detroit — One-half mile from each other in southwest Detroit, Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish and St. Stephen / Mary Mother of Our Church Parish have withstood decades of economic, demographic and social change. Founded respectively in 1915 and 1917, both parishes have taken a step forward in financial stability through Changing Lives Together campaigns launched in March this year.

First communicants at St. Stephen/Mary Mother of Our Church, which has about 650 registered parishioner households, many of them Spanish-speaking.

The successful Changing Lives Together efforts are also providing an important backdrop as lay leaders and their pastor, Fr. Marie-Elie Haby, begin preparing a merger plan to be submitted to Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon this fall. The parishes are currently clustered under the pastoral leadership of Fr. Haby, who has served as pastor of both for the past two years. Through the cluster arrangement, the parishes have separate identities, staffs, finances and ministries while they share the pastoral leadership of Fr. Haby, assisted by Fr. Bernardo Cruz, associate pastor.

Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Angels have pledged more than $75,000 to the parish Changing Lives Together campaign, nearing the $89,000 archdiocesan target. The funds are primarily being used to provide a stronger financial footing for the parish. As campaign pledges are fulfilled, some proceeds might be put toward repairs to the church building and parking lot.

Changing Lives Together leaders at St. Stephen/Mary Mother of Our Church. The campaign, launched in March, has already exceeded the archdiocesan goal for the parish.

“These priorities will help provide the budget for Our Lady Queen of Angels to function better, reduce utility costs and make our worship space and property a better place,” Fr. Haby said. “Our hope is that will enable us to focus more on living our faith, witnessing the wonderful love God has for us and taking the light of Christ in our hearts, homes and neighborhoods.”

At St. Stephen/Mary, Mother of the Church, parishioners have pledged nearly $166,000, surpassing the archdiocesan goal and nearing a higher target set by parish leaders. Most of the funds are being applied to the parish debt. Some proceeds may be applied to building and property repairs or neighborhood outreach.

“Evangelization is our real priority, but we need financial stability and our buildings and properties need some work as well,” Fr. Haby said.

The Changing Lives Together leadership team at Our Lady Queen of Angels. About 275 households are registered at the parish, many of whom have Polish and Hispanic backgrounds.

Merger planning typically involves consolidating the finances, ministries and staffs of previously separate parishes into one new parish entity. In some situations, all parish worship sites remain open. In others, a worship site is closed and offered for sale with any proceeds going to the parish that resulted from the merger.

“The faithful in this area are very willing to work together,” Fr. Haby said. “They want to maintain relationships with other parishes, and we already have some experience in sharing ministries like religious education, Christian services such as a food pantry, which we started through our parish cluster.

“We’ve witnessed a lot of turmoil in these neighborhoods over the years, but we intend to evangelize and invite people to come and know Christ.”