Archbishop Vigneron celebrates Mass of thanksgiving for historic parish’s new basilica title, honoring the church’s past, present and future
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DETROIT — Almost seven months after Pope Francis named Detroit’s most historic parish a minor basilica, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and nearly a dozen priests and bishops concelebrated a Mass of thanksgiving at the Basilica of Ste. Anne.
With every other pew marked off, the 319-year-old parish — which officially became the nation’s 86th minor basilica on March 1 — came together in worship and recognition of the historic honor, which included a reading of the official decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and a blessing of its new liturgical symbols.
Available seating was limited, but an overflow congregation watched the liturgy from the basilica’s outdoor plaza.
The end of the historic Mass was punctuated by an announcement from Msgr. Charles Kosanke, Ste. Anne’s rector, that the new basilica would take steps to study whether its most famous pastor, Fr. Gabriel Richard, could be considered for possible sainthood.
The Mass, which was delayed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was preceded by a procession featuring the Knights of Columbus, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta and flags representing various nationalities and ethnicities from Ste. Anne’s history, including French, Irish, Mexican and Italian.
The celebration was an observance of the heritage of the parish, calling upon its past, present and future, its role in the universal Church and its significance within the archdiocese itself.
“I think perhaps, what is most significant is that we are here to give God praise and thanks, and that by this church being named a basilica, there is for us an affirmation that we are a Church on mission,” Archbishop Vigneron said.
In July 2018, Archbishop Vigneron requested that the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments grant the title of minor basilica to Ste. Anne, whose current church was consecrated on Oct. 30, 1887. It is the eighth church in the parish’s storied history, which dates to July 26, 1701, the feast of Ste. Anne, two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his companions, including two Catholic priests, established the settlement of Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit.
The Vatican congregation agreed, and Pope Francis approved that request earlier this year, a recognition not only of the parish’s history, significance and architectural grandeur, but also its vibrant parish life and ministries.
“In designating this church as a basilica, Pope Francis intends Ste. Anne’s to be a physical reminder in Detroit of the spiritual union we share with the Church of Rome — and, by extension, with the universal Catholic Church,” the archbishop said in a statement. “In my view, too, this honor is inseparable from our devotion to St. Anne as the patroness of Detroit.”
The archbishop, who used a chalice that belonged to Fr. Richard during the consecration, noted that the use of the term “basilica” dates back to ancient Rome. While some of the most ancient and venerable churches in the holy city carry the title, only four major basilicas exist worldwide — all in the Eternal City.
One percent of Catholic churches worldwide carry the illustrious designation, which carries a special connection to the Holy See. Ste. Anne is the 86th minor basilica in the United States, and the third in Michigan. The Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids was named in 1980, and the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak was named in 2015.
Msgr. Kosanke said Ste. Anne was given the designation in part because of its history as the second-oldest continually operating parish in the United States. The basilica also houses the relics of Ste. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, and has been a pilgrimage destination for years.
“It became a place of pilgrimage, and for over 120 years there has been a novena to Ste. Anne in July to prepare to celebrate her feast,” Msgr. Kosanke said.
While the novena has long been connected to stories of healing and the miraculous conception of children, special privileges come with the designation of a minor basilica, most notably a plenary indulgence connected with certain feast days, including the feast of SS. Anne and Joachim (July 26), the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (Feb. 22), the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul (June 29), and the anniversary of the election and inauguration of the pope.
Archbishop Vigneron said that with this designation, Ste. Anne’s is now counted among the great churches in Rome.
“This nomination of our church of Ste. Anne as a basilica is a way for us to be even more tightly connected to our Holy Father, the bishop of Rome, the vicar of Peter,” the archbishop said. “We are all more deeply in communion with the whole Catholic Church spread throughout the world. This unites us with this great tradition going back to Peter and Paul and all of those martyrs and holy men and women.”
As a basilica, Ste. Anne can display the papal symbol of the crossed keys, which appears on signage, banners and letterhead.
This communion with the Holy Father and the universal Church was solidified further by the presentation and blessing of the ombrellino — a half-opened umbrella that signifies the pope’s authority and the readiness of the basilica to welcome the Holy Father — and the tintinnabulum — a bell that indicates the Church’s special relationship with the Holy Father.
Every basilica has both of these symbols, Msgr. Kosanke told Detroit Catholic in an interview prior to the Mass.
The ombrellino is adorned with images of the basilica’s new coat of arms, as well as coats of arms belonging to Archbishop Vigneron, the Archdiocese of Detroit, Pope Francis and the papal keys.
Msgr. Kosanke led the development of the basilica’s new coat of arms in March.
“In the center is Saints Anne and Mary, which is a copy of the coat of arms of the archdiocese,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “Underneath that are two waves signifying the Detroit River, and beneath that is a fleur-de-lis representing our French heritage. Finally, on either side of Anne and Mary are two silver lilies, which are a traditional symbol of Anne’s protection over the child Mary.”
The Mass itself reverently and proudly honored and celebrated the rich history of the parish, both past and present, as well as the active parish life. Readings were done in French, Spanish and English, and the music selection further represented the long, diverse history of the parish, ranging in styles and hymns sung in English, Spanish, French and Latin.
The parish’s long heritage is rooted in Christ and intertwined with the history of Detroit, Archbishop Vigneron said.
“The first church of the parish of Ste. Anne was built as a kind of outpost on what was then the frontier,” the archbishop said. “It was an outpost of the kingdom of God, planted here by believers so that the Gospel light would shine on the shores of the Detroit River and from here throughout the territory. It was a center for disciple-making, and it has been that for lo these many years, three centuries plus.”
This heritage remains unbroken, Archbishop Vigneron said, as illustrated by the fact that Ste. Anne continues to serve Detroit and continues to be blessed and honored.
Reflecting upon the immortal words of Fr. Richard, etched into the city’s motto, Msgr. Kosanke reflected that Detroit continues to “rise from the ashes,” and encouraged the community to take ownership of the basilica, which was built in 1886 with the help and maintenance of some of Detroit's most prominent families.
Over the centuries, Ste. Anne’s makeup has changed considerably, and today the parish boasts 640 families and a large Hispanic community. It offers two regular Masses each weekend, including one in Spanish.
In his final remarks to the faithful, Msgr. Kosanke expressed hope that Ste. Anne will continue to be a part of Detroit’s history and heritage for many years to come.
“Over my life, I have come close to death more than once,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “I was diagnosed with the coronavirus in March, and recently I was in a serious boat accident on the Detroit River,” referencing the accident in which Fr. Stephen Rooney, a pastor of the archdiocese, and a parishioner, Robert Chiles, lost their lives.
“By many accounts, I should not be here, but I am here before you,” Msgr. Kosanke said, pausing for moment to collect his emotions. “I sincerely believe that God has a plan for me and for his church. God wants his church to be restored, not as a museum, but as a place of worship — a rising city in our glorious archdiocese.”
Basilica of Ste. Anne at a glance
- Parish founded: July 26, 1701, shortly after the founding of Detroit, making it the oldest continually operating parish in Michigan, and the second oldest in the United States. Ste. Anne is the 86th church in the United States to be designated a minor basilica, and one of 89 total.
- Current church built: 1886
- Architectural style: Gothic
- Parishioner families: 640 registered households. The parish is 75 percent Latino, and the majority of the parish is Spanish-speaking.
- Notable clergy: Although not the first pastor of Ste. Anne Parish, Fr. Gabriel Richard is the most well-known, having dedicated himself to the betterment of Detroit and its people. He is attributed with writing Detroit’s motto following a fire in 1805 that destroyed most of the city: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus (“We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.”)
- Current clergy: Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor and rector; Fr. Ryan Adams, associate pastor; Deacon Ken Fry
- Architecture: Although the original stone structure is gone, the current basilica has many artifacts from the original building, including the 1818 cornerstone; the altar in the side chapel; the interior communion rail, which Fr. Richard had carved with the Ten Commandments in Hebrew; the historic Beaubien Bell; and the statue of Ste. Anne and her daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The grisaille windows were removed from the earlier church and now hold the oldest stained glass found in Detroit. The church’s rose window is also unique because it depicts the Star of David — a reflection of Ste. Anne and Mary’s Hebrew origins.
- Mass times: Sundays at 10 a.m. (Spanish) and noon (English); Mondays at 5:30 p.m. (English), Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. (Spanish); healing Masses on the first Tuesdays of the month at noon (English); holy days of obligation at 7 p.m. (English/Spanish); outdoor Masses in the basilica’s plaza are celebrated at 7 p.m. Sundays (English)
- Confessions: Thursdays at 6 p.m. before the 7 p.m. Mass
- Tours: Tours may be scheduled Monday-Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call the parish office at (313) 496-1701.
- Parish features: Novena at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit, every year in July leading up to Ste. Anne’s feast day. Several parish groups, many of which are Hispanic ministries, including Corazon Puro (young adult group), Barrios Unidos de Cristo (assisting those with addictions), Las Guadalupanas (women’s group with a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe), Knights of Columbus and more.
- Contact: Main office at (313) 496-1701 or [email protected]
- Weddings: (313) 496-1701 x14 or [email protected]