Group of priests seeks to form new oratory community at Our Lady of the Rosary
DETROIT — Between the construction of Little Caesars Arena and the Q-Line, change is in the air down Woodward Avenue.
Now, more change is in store for the church on M-1 that overlooks Interstate 94.
Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, which has been clustered with the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and St. Moses the Black Parish since May 2014, will soon have a new pastor and a renewed sense of mission in Midtown Detroit as a group of archdiocesan priests seeks to develop a community of faith centered on fraternity and a commitment to evangelization in the city.
On July 1, Fr. Dan Jones, an associate professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, will begin serving as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish as he and two other priests seek to begin formation with the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a pontifical society of apostolic life in which priests and lay brothers live in community under the bonds of charity.
“The Oratory of St. Philip of Neri is a community of priests who will live together as a family in the tradition of St. Philip of Neri, who lived in Rome in the 16th century,” Fr. Jones said. “Cardinal (John Henry) Newman brought that form of priestly community to England in the 19th century.”
Following Newman’s example, Oratories of St. Philip Neri began to spring up in many English-speaking cities, and today can be found in about 15 U.S. cities, including St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Fr. Jones said an oratory can be made up of diocesan or order priests and brothers, who live in community according to a common rule, but do not take any formal vows or promises.
As the future oratory community begins its formation phase at Our Lady of the Rosary, Fr. Jones will be joined by Fr. Marko Djonovic, associate pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia, and Fr. Ryan Adams, associate pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak.
“We happen to be archdiocesan priests, but the project could also involve priests from other dioceses, religious priests or brothers,” Fr. Jones said. “Once it’s up and going, members of the oratory would form a distinct congregation. What’s probably unique with the Oratory of St. Philip Neri is the fact that we make no vows or promises. St. Philip wanted love to be the only bond that held an oratory together.”
Caring for Our Lady of the Rosary Parish will be just one of the three priests’ ministries, according to Fr. Jones. The community will also focus on being a center for the new evangelization in Midtown Detroit, working with the Newman Center at Wayne State University and reaching out to the growing number of young people moving into the neighborhood. It will also reach out to the poor, sick and needy in the city of Detroit, adopting the model championed by St. Philip Neri.
“There is a tremendous need in the Church for priestly community,” Fr. Jones said. “Many diocesan priests desire a life together as brothers.”
“But the oratory is not just about priestly life together,” Fr. Jones added. “Its members strive to live according to the specific charism of St. Philip. Philip’s ideal was tremendously attractive, focusing on humility, prayer, delight in Scripture, simplicity of life, joy and zeal for mission — much like the ideal of the first apostolic community.”
Fr. Jones said the oratory community will be in a period of formation for the next three to six years as they work toward formal establishment at Our Lady of the Rosary.
“The members of the future Detroit Oratory are deeply grateful to Archbishop Vigneron for his invitation to come to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish,” Fr. Jones said. “We believe there is great significance in the fact that we are arriving during this 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, where the Virgin Mary revealed herself as the ‘Lady of the Rosary.’”
While Our Lady of the Rosary once again will have its own pastor, the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament further north on Woodward Avenue and St. Moses the Black Parish, located at the intersection Oakman and Rosa Parks boulevards, will continue to be clustered with one another, with Fr. J.J. Mech serving as pastor of both.
What is an ‘oratory’?
There are two definitions of the word “oratory” in Catholic tradition. The first and broadest meaning of the term is found in canon law, where an oratory is defined as a “place for divine worship” designated for the benefit of a particular group or community — for example, as a place of worship designated for a religious community.
The second meaning of the term is particular to the life of St. Philip Neri, whose religious community came to be known as the “Congregation of the Oratory” and whose members became known as “oratorians.” A community following the rule of St. Philip Neri can be known simply as an “oratory.”