Kathy Trice, director of religious education, lights a candle inside St. Augustine and St Monica. The parish will end the yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary Saturday with Mass, a tour of the church, food and music. (Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Detroit— A Sunday service and celebration will cap an east side church’s century of serving Catholics.
Opened in 1912 as St. Catherine of Siena and now known as St. Augustine and St. Monica, parish organizers will host a Mass, tour and history lesson at the church at 4151 Seminole near Van Dyke and Mack. Afterward, parishioners and alumni will have a dinner at Lakeland Manor Banquet Center in St Clair Shores.
For Mary Seraphinoff, the parish has played an important role. Her middle name is Catherine. She was baptized there, matriculated through its school system and graduated from St. Catherine High in 1962.
Eventually, Seraphinoff moved out of Detroit but returned with her second husband in 1988. “I moved back to Indian Village and I went back to church,” she said.
Many things had changed.
Walking through the doors again in 1989, she was one of only two white members in the predominately black parish, Seraphinoff said.
The last senior class at St. Catherine High graduated in 1967. In 1973, St. Edward School and Parish consolidated with St. Catherine, and the parish took on both names. In 1990, the parish was renamed St. Augustine and St. Monica.
More than a decade ago she decided to extend a welcome to those who grew up in the former St. Catherine parish and attended its school, by starting an Alumni Mass. It’s celebrated on the last Sunday in April, close to St. Catherine’s feast day, April 29.
To see the return of former parishioners after many years is a magical moment, Seraphinoff said. “It is very emotional. You see them being transported back in time to their youth.”
About 40 years ago, the parish had nearly 2,000 families, Monsignor Daniel Trapp said. Now there are nearly 300 families — an improvement from 20 years ago, when there were 115.
Trapp said the parish has been and will continue to be part of the community and help those in it, which he believes is the main reason its doors have remained open while dozens of other Catholic churches in Metro Detroit have closed in recent decades.
“Catholic parishes are rooted in neighborhoods, and the big thing for our neighborhood is to prove itself a good community for people to move into,” Trapp said.
The church has a food pantry and clothing closet, and is a warming site during the winter. St. Augustine and St. Monica’s also offers help to moms-to-be at its Image of God pregnancy center.
It initiated the creation of the Pingree Park Neighborhood Association, which cleans up alleys and cuts the grass at abandoned homes.
One of the church’s buildings is now home to the Cesar Chavez Academy East charter school, a site of Cesar Chavez Academy in southwest Detroit.
The church also is renovating its gymnasium for neighborhood basketball games and youth programming.