Henry Ford Village Catholic community cultivates faith in full-service chapel
Dearborn — It’s no small secret that people tend to become more religious as they age.
Whether it’s because they have more time for God as career and family obligations ease, or the passing of time gives them greater spiritual perspective, seniors often find solace in things divine.
With that in mind, retirement communities often reserve spaces to gather and pray, but one Metro Detroit facility has taken campus spiritual life to another level.
Henry Ford Village in Dearborn features a large, permanent chapel that serves all denominations, a 24/7 tabernacle for Catholic residents and a full-time Catholic minister on staff to serve the active faith community.
Sr. Mary Downey, IHM, is a full-time pastoral minister at Henry Ford Village, serving the community’s Catholics while also assisting her Protestant colleague in caring for the spiritual needs of the residents.
“As people age, they become more spiritually attentive,” Sr. Downey told The Michigan Catholic. “They can’t get around as much, so it’s nice to have an on-site facility where people can come to pray, take part in Communion, participate in the rosary or perpetual adoration.”
The chapel, constructed in 1997, hosts Masses, prayer services, Advent and Lenten events, Stations of the Cross and community gatherings.
The Henry Ford Village Catholic community is as a satellite of St. Alphonsus-St. Clement Parish, with Fr. Linus Kinyua serving as pastor for the community, celebrating Mass every Sunday and Tuesday at Henry Ford Village.
The investment in the chapel shows Henry Ford Village cares for the spiritual well-being of its residents, according to Adam Sterling, the community’s resident life director.
“At our heart, we have a mission that’s very spiritual,” Sterling said. “We have cornerstones with quotes from Scripture that reflect our mission and the essence and importance of aging. This is a generation that’s always been invested in the community and churches, so I definitely think the current generation we serve values the opportunity to gather as a religious community.”
For the residents of Henry Ford Village, the chapel serves as a second parish for their later years in life, with all the amenities of parish life inside the comfort of Henry Ford’s campus.
“It’s my favorite spot in the whole community; I’ve never missed a Catholic service,” said resident Eleanor Vallie-Floetke. “I met my husband here at Henry Ford. He’s a Lutheran, so I help out at the Protestant services which follow the Catholic service. Faith has always been a big part of my life, since I was born. I was a raised a good Catholic and I try to continue to be. For me, faith is the most important thing in the world, and it means a lot that we have this space.”
The opportunity to adore the Blessed Sacrament around the clock is what makes Henry Ford’s chapel unique, a good recruiting tool for the facility in attracting Catholics to live and continue their faith journey.
“Having this complete chapel is what decided it for us when choosing a place to live,” said Carol Bussa, a Henry Ford Village resident who lives with her husband, Deacon Steve Bussa, formerly of St. Sebastian Parish in Dearborn Heights. “We looked at other places, but this was the determining factor. We have a noon prayer group, a prayer for peace, funeral Masses for members of the community. It’s just a nice place to pray.”
The adoration chapel is unique among senior living communities, and is something Deacon Bussa said is important for people as they age, contemplating their relationship with God.
“Seniors tend to be more aware of the end, a lot of the other issues in life are diminished,” Deacon Bussa said. “The adoration chapel is available to us whenever we want to be in the presence of the Lord. It really is a nice thing to have, a chance to talk to God.”
The Henry Ford Chapel Catholic community hosts meetings, special prayer services for members of the community and acts like its own “mini parish,” providing a spiritual outlet, Sr. Downey says.
“Seniors know that this is the last part of life, and they don’t have to work anymore, so they spend more time thinking about life and God,” Sr. Downey said. “There is something that’s spiritually awakening when you’re in the last part of your life; more time to reflect. We have a great community that lives for today, but hopes for tomorrow, knowing nothing is guaranteed but God’s love.”