St. Michael Parish in Livonia nearing completion of $4 million church renovation

Msgr. William Tindall, left, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia, and members of the John DeMattia Construction crew stand in the foyer of the church, which is currently undergoing a $4 million overhaul to its worship space, entrances, bathrooms and fixtures — the largest construction project since the current church was built in 1961. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

New church entrance, roof, kneelers and foyer part of ‘much-needed’ updates to the 1961-built church, Msgr. William Tindall says

LIVONIA — Parishioners at St. Michael the Archangel hope to be worshiping inside a newly renovated church this Palm Sunday.

The Livonia parish has been worshiping in the school gymnasium since May 2020 as it completes a $4 million project that includes restoring the worship space, fixing and securing entrances to the church, a new air-conditioning and heating unit, improved bathrooms and fixes to a leaky roof. 

Msgr. William Tindall, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel, said the renovation has been in the works for 15 years, but the parish finally pulled the trigger on the project after puddles were discovered in the pews last spring.

“Our small vestibule had an opening in the ceiling right into the choir loft,” Msgr. Tindall told Detroit Catholic. “So the choir microphone picked up all the noise from the neighborhood during Mass, creating a lot of noise in church. That’s what got us talking, but it really wasn’t until the roof began to leak in more than one spot that things started to move.”

The Livonia parish has been considering a major renovation for about 15 years, but it wasn’t until the roof began to leak and puddles began appearing on pews that the project was launched in earnest, Msgr. Tindall said. 

The parish began investigating in earnest renovations to the church in 2016, but a moratorium on fundraising connected to the “Together in Faith” campaign delayed the campaign until 2017, when the parish began seeking to raise $2 million. An improved economy led to a great demand for construction materials and labor, which increased the budget to $4 million.

Msgr. Tindall said the renovations are the most significant the church has seen since it was built 1961. The current church is the second in the parish’s history, which dates back to 1931. The original St. Michael Church became the school gym, until it was taken down in the late 1990s to build the current gymnasium.

“The building is outdated in the sense that we could not meet any of the requirements for handicap accessibility, in particular the bathrooms,” Msgr. Tindall said. “The frame of the structure of the front was getting old; we were having a difficult time opening and closing doors, getting the locks to work. Then the roof started leaking. 

“That pushed us to move when we did,” Msgr. Tindall explained. “All of this needed to be taken care of, a little tender love and care because the building was getting older.”

The parish turned to John DeMattia Construction, which has done other work around the archdiocese.

Construction crews work on the entrance to the parish church. The parish is projected to complete the project under budget, with no loans or debt to the archdiocese. 

After raising $3 million in pledges and donations, plus tapping into the parish savings account, St. Michael will able to complete the project — which is projected to come in under budget — without taking out any loans or debt to the archdiocese.

“The pandemic really didn’t hinder the timeline of construction too much, because we’ve been discussing this for a couple of years, then we were approved by the archdiocese to start a fundraising campaign,” said Jim Grau, business manager at St. Michael. “Construction began in June, and we’re hoping to be done and open on Palm Sunday.”

When construction is complete, parishioners will notice a new entrance to the building, including a dividing wall between the foyer and the rest of the church to create a more soundproof barrier and a quieter church.

The renovation also includes some landscaping on the parish grounds, new kneelers and new carpet.

“No. 1, we’ll have a dry environment, a safe environment, because we’ll be able to lock the doors without having to wrap chains around all of the doors and that kind of stuff,” Msgr. Tindall said. “It’ll provide a place for people to gather before and after Mass without disturbing those still praying in the church.”

The altar is covered in plastic and carpet is removed as crews begin the renovation to St. Michael’s worship space. The parish is hoping to be back in the church by Palm Sunday, worshiping in the school gym in the meantime. 

Grau added the renovated church will allow the parish to more easily host retreats and events and to set up information tables in the foyer. 

“When people gathered after church (during the pandemic), it usually had to be outside, so if it was bad day with weather, it’d be harder for after-Mass events to have an area for refreshments,” Grau said. “With the older foyer, the wall didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling. So people praying in the nave could hear just about everyone in the back speaking. With this renovation, adoration and prayer time will be quieter.”

While construction continues, the parish is still celebrating Mass in the St. Michael School gymnasium — not an ideal situation, but the gym setting makes it easier for parishioners to social distance during Mass.

“Moving to the gym has allowed us to design our seating in a way we wanted,” Msgr. Tindall said. “Really, we’ve been able to socially distance ourselves in a far more effective way being in a gym. So it’s sort of a silver lining in all of this.”

The parish community and the neighborhood surrounding St. Michael looks forward to the church doors reopening soon — only this time without puddles.

“We’re just excited about what’s happening,” Grau said. “I don’t know if I can speak enough about how generous our parishioners are. They have backed this from the get-go. It’s just a wonderful parish that sits nicely in the community. A lot of people have gone to school here, are parishioners here. It’s nice piece of history for the area, and we’re glad to start a new chapter.”