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Photographer's Note

When I came on the fire that was ravaging and old factory and warehouse across the street I saw this view that made me think of Naples. I imagined this is what it might look like with Vesuvius billowing out ash over the old churches of Torre di Greco or Pompeii. It was quite a sight to see this thick black smoke blowing just above the bell towers as the warehouse block across the street burned to the ground.

You can see the fire by clicking on the theme link on the left side.

Detroit is a city that boasts a large number of beautiful churches founded by immigrants, unrivaled by many other American cities. The city was founded by French Catholics and has the second oldest parish in the United States, St. Anne de Detroit founded in 1701. Over time the city took in a large number of Catholic immigrants from Central Europe.

This church, St. Francis d'Assisi, was founded in 1889 by Polish immigrants as the fifth Polish parish in Detroit. At the time it was built the area was on the edge of the city, on a former wheat field, but it quickly saw the booming city surround it and its numbers grow. The first pastor of the parish was Father Byzewski who selected the builder, Martin Landczakowski, and architect, Henry Engelbert. Within two years of founding the church was dedicated in 1891.

As the city grew through the automobile industry so did the parish. Father Kieruj, second pastor, added a 22 room school, new rectory, convent and parish hall. But he also left a huge debt of 160,000 dollars. The third pastor, Father Grudinski was able to rally the parish and within 9 years have the debt paid off.

In 1928 the church became the third church in Detroit and the fifth in the nation to be consecrated. In the church were placed the relics of St. Thomas, St. Teophilus, three grains of incense and an attestation written on parchment. Today they are in the main alter.

After having reached a population of 2 million in the mid '50s, Detroit began a slow population loss to the suburbs. Over time many of the old parishes in Detroit proper were closed and the old churches sold and either torn down, converted or abandoned. So many beautiful buildings have been lost this way.

In the 1980s it was feared that St. Francis would be closed, especially after the Sisters of St. Joseph left and the school closed. But at the end of the evaluation the church was saved in time for its centennial celebrations. And with the influx of a thriving Mexican community the church may again see new prosperity in the future, surviving the troubling end of the 20th century.

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Additional Photos by Paul Mastrogiacomo (pamastro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2679 W: 164 N: 2696] (7296)
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