New oratory brings traditional Latin liturgy to historic east side church
Detroit — One of the oldest churches in Detroit will be home to one of the newest religious communities in the Catholic Church.
On Oct. 7, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will be entrusted with the care of St. Joseph Church on Jay Street on the city’s east side, beginning what Auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon said will be a “new chapter” in the church’s history.
“They specialize in the extraordinary Latin form of the liturgy,” said Bishop Hanchon during a Mother of Divine Mercy town hall meeting Aug. 28 at the St. Joseph Social Hall. Noting that the parish and
archdiocese were interested in hosting the institute, he said the religious community saw coming to Detroit as a “beautiful opportunity.”
The institute and Mother of Divine Mercy Parish, of which St. Joseph Parish is a part, are expected to sign an agreement of understanding Oct. 7. Under Church law, St. Joseph Church will become the site of a seperate parish, called St. Joseph Oratory, and be placed under the care of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Mother of Divine Mercy Parish would retain its other two church buildings, Sweetest Heart of Mary and St. Josaphat.“This (oratory) will operate independently of the other two parish sites,” Bishop Hanchon said. “They’re looking to continue a new life for the church. I’m hoping we’ll look back to this day as a day we turn the page in the history of St. Joseph’s Church.”
Founded in 1990, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is a society of apostolic life of pontifical right. The institute’s charism is the use of the traditional Latin liturgy of 1962 for Mass and other sacraments. The institute is expected to bring in two members when it takes over St. Joseph Church and celebrates its first Mass Oct. 16.
The institute has 12 other churches in the United States, with its U.S. provincial headquarters at the Shrine of Christ the King Church in Chicago. St. Joseph will be known as St. Joseph Oratory, with no geographic boundaries, and its pastor will be called a rector.
“They recognize the long tradition and history of people attending Mass at St. Joseph,” said Lory McGlinnen, director of parish life for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “The archdiocese is looking at putting together a schedule for celebrating ordinary-form Saturday vigil Masses at St. Joseph. All weddings and funerals already scheduled, (the institute) will allow a priest from the archdiocese to come in.”
Nearby St. Josaphat Church will still celebrate a Tridentine Mass, and the occasional German Masses celebrated at St. Joseph will continue, provided there is still a demand and they can arrange for a priest to celebrate.
Members of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish who wish to be registered at St. Joseph will have to re-register with the newly established oratory. The oratory will keep all St. Joseph sacramental records prior to the 2013 merger of St. Joseph, St. Josaphat and Sweetest Heart of Mary, but sacraments that took place at St. Joseph Church post-merge are considered to have taken place within Mother of Divine Mercy Parish and will be kept within the parish.
“They call their parishes oratories, and the pastor is called a rector,’” McGlinnen said. “It will be run as a parish, with its own parish council, giving to CSA, and operate just like any other parish.”
The institute moving in will not affect this year’s Oktoberfest celebrations, scheduled for Sept. 24-25 for the benefit of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish. Bishop Hanchon and McGlinnen said the archdiocese will work with both the parish and oratory through the transition process to make sure all needs of the surrounding community are met.
With issues still to be raised and sorted out, questions are bound to arise, but some church members expressed optimism as St. Joseph begins a new chapter in its rich history.
“For St. Joseph Church, I think Lory said it best, ‘God smiled on St. Joseph Church,’” said Frank Greenia, a Mother of Divine Mercy parishioner who attends Mass at St. Joseph and whose father was a St. Joseph High School alum. “I think it’s appropriate that God will save our church. We were asking for a miracle, a religious order moving in was discussed. We hoped it would happen, but I didn’t know if that was realistic.
“We will lose certain things, gain others, but we can work through those problems together. What’s good for St. Joseph is good for the parish. But it does feel like we’re going back to being our own community.”