Three Dearborn Heights parishes to merge; new parish to be called St. Maria Goretti

St. Sebastian Parish (pictured), will merge with nearby St. John the Baptist and St. Albert the Great parishes, both in Dearborn Heights, to form a new parish community Aug. 17, which will be called St. Maria Goretti Parish. The new parish will worship at the St. Sebastian site. (Patricia Drury | Detroit Catholic file photos)

St. Sebastian, St. John the Baptist and St. Albert the Great parishes to become a new community Aug. 17, will worship at St. Sebastian site

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Responding to changing demographics, a decline in registered parishioner households and financial obligations, three Dearborn Heights parishes will become a new, single parish Aug. 17.

On July 20, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced the merger of St. Sebastian, St. John the Baptist and St. Albert the Great parishes. Together, the new parish will be called St. Maria Goretti Parish.

The new parish will continue to worship at the site of the former St. Sebastian Church, while the other two buildings will be closed by Sept. 28 and likely offered for sale.

The three parishes’ merger reflects an opportunity to join their human and financial resources to better pursue the work of evangelization, the archbishop’s decree said.

The merger comes amid a general population decline in western Wayne County, which has affected parishes, schools and businesses in the area over the past decade.

St. Albert the Great Parish, founded in 1955, is pictured. 

Since 2010, all three parishes have seen steep declines in registered households — St. Sebastian by 58%, St. Albert the Great by 69% and St. John the Baptist by 48%. The three parish communities also have seen significant declines in infant baptisms and first Communions, and two of the three have operating deficits.

Closing St. Albert the Great and St. John the Baptist churches will allow the new parish to attend to past-due financial obligations, deferred maintenance and needed renovations to the St. Sebastian site, the decree said.

All three parishes are currently led by Canon Walter Ptak, who will continue to serve as pastor of the new St. Maria Goretti Parish.

St. John the Baptist Parish in Dearborn Heights, founded in 1926, is pictured. 

The three parishes exist in an area of Wayne County that once was among the most populous areas of the state, with seven current Catholic churches within a five-mile radius. St. John the Baptist Parish is the oldest of the three, having been founded by Polish-American immigrants in 1926. The current church building was constructed in 1954.

St. Sebastian was founded in 1949, and St. Albert the Great was founded in 1955.

The new parish’s namesake, St. Maria Goretti, is among the youngest canonized saints in the Catholic Church’s history. A virgin and martyr, she died in 1902 at the age of 11 after refusing the sexual advances of an assailant, who stabbed and killed her.

Despite the brutal attack, St. Maria forgave him as she was dying. Her assailant later begged her mother for forgiveness, and, receiving it, entered a Capuchin monastery.

St. Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.