St. Michael Parish's founding pastor, Fr. Larry Jackson remembered as true leader

Fr. Lawrence “Larry” Jackson, the founding pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sterling Heights, passed away on Jan. 20 at the age of 89. Fr. Jackson served St. Michael's community from the time of its founding 1975 until his retirement in 2004. (Archdiocese of Detroit photo)

STERLING HEIGHTS — Fr. Lawrence “Larry” Jackson was known as a true leader who created a culture of outreach and care for others as the founding pastor of St. Michael Catholic Community in 1975. Fr. Jackson passed away from this life on Jan. 20 at the age of 89.

A funeral was celebrated for Fr. Jackson at St. Michael the Archangel Parish on Jan. 24, followed by his interment at St. Gertrude Cemetery in St. Clair Shores.

Born Oct. 30, 1934, one of eight children of Richard and Geraldine (nee McCann) Jackson, Fr. Jackson attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township before he was ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 4, 1960.

Fr. Jackson served at several parishes throughout his priesthood, including as pastor of St. Dennis Parish in Royal Oak (1970-74), and as associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mount Clemens (1965-70) and St. Gabriel Parish in Detroit (1960-65). He also briefly served as administrator of St. Rene Goupil Parish in Sterling Heights in 2004, and taught at Sacred Heart School in Detroit from 1963-66.

However, Fr. Jackson is best remembered for being the founding pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sterling Heights, where he served from 1975 until he retired in 2004.

“When Cardinal John Dearden (Detroit's archbishop from 1958-80), called Fr. Jackson and said he’d like him to consider being the founding pastor of this parish in Sterling Heights, one of the first questions that he asked himself was, ‘How is it that I want to form a new parish?’” Fr. Michael Quaine, St. Michael’s current shepherd, told Detroit Catholic. “So a lot of the values that he had, especially racial justice, went into forming the parish.”

Fr. Jackson had a heart for social justice and marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965. During his almost 30 years at St. Michael, he created a culture of giving and made the parish a center for service to the underprivileged and created outreach programs for the poor, homeless and incarcerated.

Many of these programs are still in place today, said Fr. Quaine, who succeeded Fr. Jackson as pastor in 2004.

“I knew him as a pastor only by reputation; he was very concerned about people and had lots of outreach programs,” Fr. Quaine said. “He was able to get lots of people involved, and he stressed giving with a generous heart. If there was one thing I could say about St. Michael Parish, it is (known for) outreach and concern for others, and he was behind all that. He wanted people to take the initiative and to run with the programs that they had, and all he did was set the direction.”

Fr. Jackson was close to his large, extended family, who became active in the parish from its founding until long after he had retired, Fr. Quaine said. Fr. Jackson was preceded in death by his parents, three of his brothers and one nephew. He is survived by five siblings and 91 nieces and nephews.

When Fr. Jackson retired, Fr. Quaine said the elder priest took great care to transition his parishioners and staff to new leadership and concerned himself with making sure Fr. Quaine had what he needed to be successful.

“I said at his funeral, he wanted me to thrive — before he even knew me, he just wanted me to do well here,” Fr. Quaine said. "He was a fixture here, and he was the founding pastor, but he wanted me to be my own person. He never interfered once. He was always encouraging.”

Fr. Quiane said he will remember Fr. Jackson as a “real gentleman,” adding Fr. Jackson continued to call him over the years to check up on Fr. Quiane and encourage him.

“He was like a cheerleader throughout the years,” Fr. Quiane said. “He really wanted me to do well and not to give me advice. Largely it was just encouragement like, ‘Hey, I noticed your bulletin and I wanted to compliment you.’”

Fr. Quaine is going to miss those phone calls.

“Even after all these years of being a priest, now almost 40 for me, it was kind of nice to hear every once in a while that you’re doing a good job," Fr. Quaine said. "I just had a deep affection for him — he was a good man and a good supporter.”


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