St. Valentine Church gets visit from Catholic Masses

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Redford — Hundreds of Catholics descended upon an unfamiliar church on Sunday.

There was nothing wrong with their regular places of worship. They just wanted to send a valentine to a church that needed it.

The rolling feast of spirituality known as the Mass Mob has come to suburbia.

The Mobsters, who single out a struggling church by attending one of their Masses en masse, bringing publicity and donations, had limited their travels to mostly Detroit sanctuaries since forming in 2014.

On Sunday 350 people came to St. Valentine Catholic Church in Redford.

“It’s cool seeing other churches,” said Mike McQueen, who came from Keego Harbor. “It’s just good fellowship.”

The 69-year-old St. Valentine, whose membership has been down after bustling growth in the 1960s, welcomed its guests with a service that had several flourishes.

Among them: refreshments, two choirs, an entrance procession and a bishop playing a ukulele.

Strumming the string instrument, the Rev. Donald Hanchon closed his homily by robustly singing “This Little Light of Mine” as congregants clapped and sang along.

The auxiliary bishop lauded the faithful for continuing to come to service even as the church grew more and more empty.

“You might not see a crowd, it may depress you, but week after week, they do it, we do it,” he said. “When Jesus invites you, things change.”

There was nothing empty about St. Valentine on Sunday.

One week before Valentine’s Day, the traveling Catholics delivered their own bouquet.

The normally subdued sanctuary echoed with signs of life. Babies cried. Children squirmed in their seats. Adults sang hymns with full throats and hearts.

“This reminds me of the good ol’ days,” Hanchon was told by one church-goer.

As the congregants sat in wooden pews, dressed in casual clothes, they were bordered by stained glass windows that covered most of the walls on both sides of them.

The windows were installed in 1987 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the church.

“They’re beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off them,” said Carol Nichols, who came from Grosse Pointe Park on the other side of Detroit.

St. Valentine continued making improvements for its 50th anniversary but, like many churches, couldn’t do much to reverse declining membership through the decades.

The church used Sunday’s occasion to tell visitors a little about itself by distributing leaflets before the service started.

It also extolled the merits of its Catholic school.

Whether Sunday’s big turnout will help remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Mass Mob will continue its trek through Detroit and the suburbs by visiting Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Detroit on March 5.

Future trips are planned for churches in Taylor, Warren, Sterling Heights, St. Clair and Onaway.

313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell