At St. ‘Con-stance,’ standing together in faith a way of life

Fr. Leo Sabourin, the 19-year pastor of St. Constance Parish in Taylor, holds a sign depicting the parish's many ministries during the parish's 50th anniversary Mass on June 19. Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic

Fr. Leo Sabourin, the 19-year pastor of St. Constance Parish in Taylor, holds a sign depicting the parish’s many ministries during the parish’s 50th anniversary Mass on June 19.
Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic

Taylor — As 83-year-old pastor Fr. Leo Sabourin bounded to the microphone on June 19, the energy inside the tiny St. Constance Church was palpable.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron was in attendance, as was the mayor of Taylor and other elected officials, not to mention scores of parishioners who have called Taylor parish home for half a century.

Thanking everyone for helping celebrate the parish’s 50th anniversary, Fr. Sabourin started a familiar slogan:

“Every Sunday we end Mass the same way,” Fr. Sabourin said. “‘May we go always with love in our hearts, and put our faith into …”

“ACTION!,” the congregation shouted in unison.

Putting faith into action isn’t a foreign concept at St. Constance. With “Unleash the Gospel” emblazoned on the ambo and youth group members wearing purple shirts reading “Putting our faith into action, and that’s no coincidence,” the parish celebrated 50 years with all the gusto of an evangelization center with a message to share.

“As I heard the congregation sing the ‘Gloria,’ I was impressed at how you all sing so very well,” Archbishop Vigneron said during his homily. “It’s very rare that I see that in a parish, but having seen Father at the ‘Alleluia,’ I have a better sense,” he said, referring to Fr. Sabourin, who emphatically waved his arms during the Gospel acclamation to encourage the congregation to sing boldly.

Archbishop Vigneron said that their commitment to the Mass “when we could be playing golf or lounging around in our sweatpants,” was a sign that God is present at St. Constance.

“For 50 years you have been God’s dwelling place. He has lived among you. Because as St. Paul said, ‘You are not strangers and sojourners.’ We are fellow citizens with the saints, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalen, Lazarus, saints Peter and Paul, St. Therese — that’s who we are: members of God’s household, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.”

Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars, who himself was baptized at St. Constance, presented Fr. Sabourin with a proclamation from the city, and after Mass the parish sold cookbooks with recipes submitted by parishioners.

Fr. Sabourin, the parish’s third pastor following the late Fr. Emil Dussia and Fr. John Canavan, said he’s seen the parish grow in his 19 years at St. Constance from approximately 400 families to more than 1,000 now.

“St. Constance means to ‘stand together’ — ‘con-stance’ — and so we continue to do that,” Fr. Sabourin said.

Janeen Redman, along with friends Anne Beaudrie and Nancy Chappo, recalled the parish’s early days before the church was even built on Kinyon Street, celebrating Mass in the Robert West Junior High auditorium.

Chappo said Fr. Sabourin’s energy inspires the parish to continue the work of the Church.

“He never quits, no matter what,” she said, adding the priest is still an avid cross-country skier and loves to go camping. “No matter what time of day or night it is, whether somebody is from this parish or not, when they need him, he goes.”