This past Sunday we attended the final mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, where my family has spent nearly every Sunday morning for the past eight years. Though we knew it was coming, and had some idea of what to expect, it was still a sad day both for our family and our friends at church.
My husband and I were introduced to St. Pat’s by his sister, who had been a parishioner there for many years. We enjoyed going there, and began attending St. Pat’s on a regular basis. Since this was well before we were married, and the church’s location in midtown Detroit was perfect for us. He’d drive in from his home on the west side of metro Detroit, and I’d drive from the east side. And we’d meet in the middle. We made the journey week after week, year after year. After we were married we’d still make the drive. A lot of our friends and family wondered why we continued to drive to so far to go to church when there were several churches near our house that were absolutely lovely. Here’s why we stuck around…
St. Pat’s was a church that welcomed everybody – and we really liked that. Never before had we seen such a diverse group of people together in one place of worship. People of all ages, races, nationalities, family types would all join together and forget their differences. We would go to mass each week and make note of the eccentric group of people that gathered there to worship. There were older parishioners speaking out about the evils of nuclear power, younger parishioners trying to occupy Detroit, and everything in between. Before we knew it, our family had become a part of the eccentric group ourselves. We clapped along when the choir sang Alleluia, we walked around the entire church greeting other parishioners, and we said “Lord hear our prayer” whenever a parishioner spoke up and asked for the blessing of the parish.
We experienced so many life events at St. Pat’s. Over six years ago, my husband and I were married in the church. Every time I walked through those doors I was reminded of our wedding day. Being in that building always warmed my heart. A few years after our wedding our son was baptized in that very same church. It was special to me to have our son baptized in the very same church, by the very same priest who had performed our wedding ceremony all those years ago. My first (and only) Godchild was also baptized at St. Pat’s. He, along with several of his siblings, had his First Communion at St. Pat’s, too.
The St. Pat’s community is one of the most caring groups of people I’ve ever met. Each year the parishioner’s, along with the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation holds a massive Halloween party for families living in the Cass Corridor. We’ve gone nearly every year, and The Goose always looks forward to the party. The church provides hot dogs, chips, warm apple cider, candy, and a hay ride in the city, where each kid gets to pick out a pumpkin of their very own.
The Goose learned about giving back at St. Pat’s. Ever since he was old enough to walk, my husband and I would take The Goose with us to deliver boxes of food to the residents of the Cass Corridor over the holidays. This is one of our holiday traditions, and something that he really looked forward to. He especially enjoyed making the Christmas deliveries, when he’d wear his Santa hat and we’d deliver both food and gifts for the children. At St. Pat’s, giving didn’t just happen once a year. They also had a food pantry that was open year round specifically for the residents of the Cass Corridor. My family routinely brought food to the pantry because we knew how important that service was.
We also loved the Parade Day Mass, the one day of the year when the church was so full they had to open up the balcony to accommodate all of the guests (and, per The Goose’s request, we always sat up there, too). We’d watch the Irish dancers to a jig up the center aisle, listen to the musicians play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, and marvel at the idea that, at one time, there were always that many people attending our church.
But, the next week things would always return to normal. And, as time went on, less and less people were attending. We slowly watched families slip away. And who could blame them? Every week there was talk of the dire situation at St. Pat’s. It wasn’t uplifting. It was sad.
During the last mass at St. Pat’s, the church was crowded. So many people were there, and it made me sad to see so many people on the day the church was closing. Where had all of these people been all along? To me, it was equal to attending somebody’s funeral when you never bothered to visit them when they were alive.
During the second to the last mass, our pastor was talking about the things he was going to miss most about St. Pat’s, and he talked about The Goose. How he’ll miss throwing water on his face when he helped to carry up the gifts for communion. How he’ll miss watching him run around the church after Mass has ended. And how he’ll miss watching him grow up.
My family loved going to St. Pat’s. We’ll miss bringing food to the church’s food pantry, and books for the bookshelf that was set up by my nephew a few years ago. We’ll miss going to the Senior Center after Mass and stuffing ourselves full of donuts and juice at the insistence of Sister Mary. But mostly, we’ll miss the people. After all, it wasn’t the building that made the church, it was the people inside it.