WESTLAND — After 64 years, SS. Simon and Jude Parish in Westland celebrated its final Mass on Oct. 1.
Citing a shrinking number of parishioner families and struggling finances, the parish announced in August it had begun the process of requesting to close, in consultation with the parish's finance and pastoral councils.
On Sept. 14, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued two decrees closing SS. Simon and Jude Parish, effective Oct. 2.
SS. Simon and Jude Parish was founded June 26, 1959. Its original church was dedicated on Aug. 7, 1960, and Fr. Arthur Oldani was its first pastor.
Fr. Andrew Nieckarz shepherded SS. Simon and Jude from 1964 to 1989, when Fr. Gerard Bechard was named pastor. Fr. Bechard served as pastor until 2020, when he was granted senior status, and has continued his presence at the parish. In 1992, plans were announced for a new church building, a construction began seven years later, on Jan. 24, 1999.
In a letter to SS. Simon and Jude parishioners in the final parish bulletin, Fr. Bechard urged parishioners to keep memories of the parish alive through their prayers, service to the community and witness to the Gospel of Christ.
"Much like it fell to the Apostles to share the stories of Jesus, it now falls to us to relate stories of how a parish could be and should be," Fr. Bechard wrote. "The influence of SS. Simon and Jude Parish does not end with us, but rather begins with us. Our memories and experiences must now be seeded into the communities and relationships in which we find ourselves."
Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, who grew up at SS. Simon and Jude Parish and on Sept. 26 was named Detroit's newest auxiliary bishop, was the principal celebrant during the closing Mass, which was livestreamed on the parish's Facebook page.
According to news reports, weekly Mass attendance at SS. Simon and Jude had dwindled since the COVID-19 pandemic, with less than 100 people attending on a given Sunday. Detroit's western suburbs such as Westland have also experienced a steady population decline, according to U.S. Census reports.
In recent weeks, the parish has invited current and former parishioners to offer thanks to God and celebrate the parish's history.
SS. Simon and Jude Parish was part of the West Wayne 4 Family of Parishes, which also includes St. Mary Parish in Wayne, St. Richard Parish in Westland, St. Mary, Cause of Our Joy Parish in Westland, and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Garden City.