Sunday, November 07, 2004

Notes of a Liturgical Tourist.

This weekend I attended Mass at two landmark Catholic churches in greater Detroit - Saturday afternoon at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church near downtown and this evening at Assumption Church in Windsor. Experiences at both well worth reporting.

One of Detroit's oldest and best-known Polish parishes, Sweetest Heart of Mary was founded under unusual circumstances, as this historical synopsis on the church's website explains. Sweetest Heart of Mary's 2400-person seating capacity is reputedly the largest of any church building in the Archdiocese of Detroit, but there couldn't have been any more than 100 people at the Mass I attended yesterday. Like many inner-city ethnic parishes across the country, Sweetest Heart of Mary has to contend with the fact that its congregation has moved away; an added difficulty in this case is that the residential neighborhood that once made up most of the parish is now largely gone, razed to build I-75 and various industrial and commercial buildings. Under the circumstances, I'd say Sweetest Heart of Mary is doing remarkably well. I got the impression that most of the parishioners come in from the suburbs or other parts of the city to attend the church, and an encouraging number of them were younger couples with children. The church itself, an attractive Victorian Gothic structure, appeared to be very well-maintained, suggesting commendable financial generosity on the part of the aforementioned migratory parishioners. The liturgy itself was pretty average, but then again the church's architecture and history would seem to be the greater draw.

Assumption Church in Windsor, as I've mentioned before, was founded by Jesuits in 1767 on the site of an earlier mission established in 1748. Jesuits served off and on at Asssumption until 1859, when it briefly became the cathedral of the Diocese of London. Since 1870, the parish has been in the care of the Basilian Fathers. Like Sweetest Heart of Mary, Assumption has a lovely and well-preserved 19th century building, albeit one more restrained in design and decor. The time of the Mass I attended tonight (7:30 pm) and the parish's location on the campus of the University of Windsor led me to expect a younger-than-average crowd; as it happens, I'd say there were a fair number of young people present, but there were just as many families and seniors as well. One way or another, the church was packed and the liturgy and preaching were very good. Going to Assumption also reminded me how much I like going to Mass at night. When I was at Georgetown I regularly attended Sunday and daily Mass at 11:15 pm, and as a night owl I've long found the late evening hours to be highly conducive to prayer. I've yet to find a Mass in metro Detroit that can match the contemplative quality of Georgetown's 11:15, but in the 7:30 at Assumption I found enough echoes of what I found on the Hilltop that I hope to return to the Windsor parish on a regular basis. AMDG.


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