Detroit's Ste. Anne Church applies to be named a basilica

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — A  317-year-old Detroit church has applied for a prestigious recognition from the Vatican, the Detroit archbishop and church pastor announced Friday.

Ste. Anne Church de Detroit has submitted its application for the title of "Minor Basilica" — a church of special importance that is accorded certain ecclesiastical privileges by the pope.

Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church on St. Anne Street in Detroit.

"Starting Ste. Anne Parish was among the very first actions of Detroit’s founders in 1701,” said Archbishop Allen Vigneron. "St. Anne is the patroness of Detroit. In asking the Holy Father to consider raising this church to a minor basilica, we are asking for further recognition of the privileged role which this unique place and this unique person have in our community.”

Ste. Anne Church is recognized as the second oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the United States and last year, the church became an archdiocesan shrine. 

If granted, Ste. Anne Parish would be the first basilica in Detroit and the third in Michigan, alongside Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids and National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak. There are 85 basilicas in the U.S. and 1,770 in the world, out of more than 225,000 Catholic churches, according to a statement from the church. 

More than 500 families regularly attend Ste. Anne Parish, at 1000 St. Anne Street, and 10,000 visit each year. While Ste. Anne is the oldest parish in Detroit, the church moved to its current building in 1886, said Msgr. Charles Kosanake, St. Anne's pastor.

"Only 1 percent of churches in the world have been honored as basilicas," said Kosanake. "This is an amazing opportunity for us as a parish and we're thrilled this is happening while Corktown is experiencing a renaissance with the train station being rebuilt. It's another positive development in our neighborhood and future optimism."

The title of basilica signifies historical value, religious significance or architectural and artistic worth.

To qualify, churches have to be recognized as a popular place of pilgrimage and hold historical importance. Kosanake said the parish's 223-page submission took about six months to compile, with responses to more than 100 questions from the Vatican.

The parish also was required to submit historical photos of the interior and exterior with in-depth descriptions of the side altars, wall paintings and large grisaille stained glass windows preserved from St. Anne's "stone church" built downtown in 1818. 

Kosanake said after hosting the Pope's Choir on its visit to Detroit in September, the parish was moved to apply for the recognition. 

"The idea really sparked last year when the Pope's Choir came. They held one of their two special concerts here and the other at the Detroit Opera House," said Kosanake. "To be recognized establishes a special relationship between the church and the Pope." 

The next step in the basilica application process is for Vigneron to refer it to
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., and then, once approved, it will be sent with a letter of recommendation to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome, which will give a recommendation to the pope. The entire process can take more than a year.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_