Former Assistant Pastors
Source: "Remembrance of 100th Anniversary St. Francis D'Assisi Parish Detroit, Michigan October 15, 1989"
1893 - 1895
Fr. J. Walczak
1901 - 1902
Fr. F. Pattock
Fr. C. Rutkowski
Fr. N. Wybraniec
1906 - 1908
Fr. D. Bonkowski
1909 - 1910
Fr. S. Skrzyski
1911 - 1912
Fr. B. Jarzembowski
1913 - 1917
Fr. J. Utas
1918 - 1919
Fr. P. Kruszka
Fr. J. Bona
Fr. A. Szumowski
1921 - 1925
Fr. S. Posaid
1922 - 1925
Fr. P. Walkowiak
1926 - 1928
Fr. C. Korzeniecki
1927 - 1928
Fr. L. Zygaj
1929 - 1930
Fr. J. Juchniewicz
1929 - 1938
Fr. P. Wyrzykowski
1936 - 1938
Fr. L. Dempz
Fr. B. Poznanski
1939 - 1942
Fr. S. Targosz
Fr. P. Parzych
1941 & 1974 - 1950
Fr. E. Kalinowski
1942 - 1947
Fr. C. Szczensy
1942 - 1945
Fr. F. Kozlowski
1943 - 1947
Fr. M. Witkowski
1946 - 1949
Fr. L. Kulinski
1947 - 1952
Fr. C. Lutomski
1950 - 1951
Fr. S. Radziecki
1950 - 1955
Fr. J. Piekoszewki
1952 - 1954
Fr. B. Zaglanicny
1952 - 1957
Fr. S. Milewski
1955 - 1957
Fr. A. Majewski
1957 - 1961
Fr. E. Wojtewicz
1957 - 1961
Fr. S. Kaminski
1961 - 1965
Fr. S. Kowalczyk
1965 - 1970
Fr. J. Grzelak
1971 - 1983
Fr. F. Kowalczuk
1972 - 1983
The present church located on the Northeast corner of Wesson and Buchanan was designed by Kastler and Hunter. The corner stone was laid in 1903 and completed in 1905. The church is 230 ft long and 123 ft wide, it has the capacity to seat 1,700 people. It is constructed of Malvern brick with carved Bedford trim. The cost of construction was $150,000 dollars (Approximately 2 million 1998 dollars) The style of the church is Italian Renaissance. It was the second Polish Parish on Detroit's booming west side.When you approach the building you cannot help but marvel at the craftsmanship and detail that has gone into the church. Ornate Corinthian columns grace the facade. They hold up a triumphal arch with trumpeting angles, all framing the great west window and main entrance. Great carvings of laurels frame small rose windows in the church towers below are the old side entrances that once opened to the choir loft and bell ringer’s room.
Three very unique carvings are found on the front facade of the church.
To the left of the main entrance is Michael the Archangel, the heraldic symbol of White Russia land once under Polish rule. On the right is the Knight of Lithuania a heraldic symbol of the Lithuanian lands that once were part of Poland.
The last symbol is the White Eagle of Poland herself. A symbol long associated with Polish statehood.
The three symbols are a recurring motif found in many Polish churches of that time. (St. Albertus, in a mural above the right altar, Sweetest Heart of Mary, the great rose window) They are relics of the January 1863 uprising of Poland against the partitioning powers (Austria, Prussia, and Russia). The Revolutionary Government of the Polish uprising used the symbols as a rallying point. When they are together the symbols meant the hope of the reuniting of the partitioned Poland to its former glory. Given Polish nationalism it would only seem proper to display such symbols.
You enter the church thru a two sets of massive oak doors. The ample vestibule, with rich oak panels and mosaic tile floor. A second set of oak doors lead you into the church. Here you are greeted by a harmonious mix of light, color and texture. The vaulted ceiling is supported by a row of arch columns. Cut into the vaulted ceiling are small stained glass windows which include a symbol of the church or one of the sacraments. The ceiling contains medallions of Christ at the center on the church, followed by the four evangelists and then the twelve apostles.
The eastern apse is curved and contains copies of Raphael's Ascension, and Murrilo's Immaculate Conception.
The main altar rises from the floor of the sanctuary to just inside the curve of the ceiling.
Everywhere you look inside of the church an image of an angel can be found. From the four larger than life holding up the roof. To the small cherubs found in the ceilings where the lights come down. Even the lighting fixtures are adorned with angels.
On a sunny day the stained glass windows (Contructed by the Detroit Stained Glass Works 1861-1970, all of the main floor windows depict scenes from the lift of the Blessed Mother) of the church are ablaze with color and detail. The windows were made at the Detroit Stained Works. The windows depict scenes from the life of the Blessed Mother. Two rose windows one on the south, depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus and symbols of his passion and death. The north window is the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the symbols of the seven sorrows.
The main altar's prime focus is St. Francis helping the crucified Christ. Other images found on the main altar are the four evangelists, right above the altar table. St. Peter and St. Paul on the next level up. Three medallions are on the altar the center and highest is the face of God the Father. With St. Augustine on the left and St. Gregory the Great on the right. At the top inside the copula of the altar is St. Michael the Archangel. All were picked to reinforce the teaching authority of the church.
On the left of the main altar is St. Valentine, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and St. Stanislaus. Further down the church is St. Anne and St. Anthony of Padua. To the right of the main altar is St. Rose, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Hedwig. Further down the church is St. Jude, St. Therese the little flower and St. Joseph.
b. 1182 d. 1226
Feast Day: October 4
St. Francis was born at Assisi in 1182. After a care free youth, he renounced his paternal wealth and committed himself to God. He led a life of evangelical poverty and preached the love of God to all. He established a rule which a number of his companions followed and which gained approval of the Holy See. Subsequently, he founded an order of nuns and a society of laypersons who practice penance while living in the world. He died in 1226.
History of St. Francis D' Assisi
Text adapted from:
"Remembrance of 100th Anniversary St. Francis D'Assisi Parish Detroit, Michigan October 15, 1989"
There are many stories about the founding of our parish, none of which can truly be confirmed because there were no real records kept.
If one talks to the families of the "Founding Fathers" you will be told of numerous meetings held to decide whether a new church was needed and where it should be built. Based on these stories, the actual founding of the parish would have taken place in 1888. These stories could be corroborated by a newspaper article in one of the polish papers entitled: The History of Detroit Polonia Upon the 250th Anniversary of Detroit.
What we do have are the minutes of a meeting held on February 24,1889 at St. Casmir’s parish and a second meeting held on February 28,1889 at the home of a Mr. Joseph Malicld. It was at this second meeting that six lots on Wesson and Buchanan and six lots on Campbell and Buchanan were purchased for the amount of $2,900 with a down payment of $275.00.In 1889 the City of Detroit Directory showed that Buchanan ran from Grand River Avenue to Junction. Wesson was not listed in the directory. Michigan Avenue was a street of wooden planks and only 30 feet wide. There was a creek running down what is now Military Avenue.
The area where the church was built had been a wheat field and in recent years had changed to vegetable gardens for homes nearby. This western border of the city was overflowing with new people and new homes. Most of the people were Polish and attended mass at St. Casmir, St. Boniface and also St. Albertus. As time passed, the distance proved tiring for the adults and difficult for the children. The people realized that the churches were becoming over-crowded as well. So looking to the future, they decided it was time for a new church and school.
When the first committee was formed, they chose the area of Wesson and Buchanan over a previously suggested area of Gilbert and Clayton, known as the clay banks. A few men went to Bishop Foley and told him of their plans and asked for a Polish priest to aid them. The Bishop assigned Fr. Romuald J. Byzewski to assist the men in starting the new parish. Fr. Paul Gutowski, pastor of St. Casmir’s also aided the group in their quest.
It did not take long for Fr. Byzewski and the newly formed committee to choose a Polish builder by the name of Martin Landczakowski to build their church. The architect was Henry Engelbert.
In June 1890, the cornerstone was blessed and with that, construction was begun on the first building. It was built on the comer of Buchanan and Campbell. The first floor was the school; the second floor served as the church and the basement was the hall. The church seated 700 people. The cost was about $35,000 for the new brick building. It was the fifth Polish Parish in Detroit, the second on the west side.
On April 19, 1891, the polish catholic societies formed a procession at the comer of Michigan Avenue and Twenty-Third Street to await the arrival of the Bishop and the clergy accompanying him. The procession consisted of the Polish Commanderies of the Knights of St. John, Polish Civic Societies and two bands of music. They led the Bishop and his entourage to the new Polish Catholic Church of St. Francis to bless and dedicate it.
After the Bishop had sanctified the walls of the edifice, there was a great rush and soon all available space was occupied. The services were from morning till 2 p.m.
In 1891, the first Confirmation took place in the new church.
In 1892, a four-classroom school was started with 282 children attending under the direction of four teaching nuns.
In 1898, nine years after he had been appointed as the first pastor of the new St. Francis Parish, Fr. R. Byzewski was transferred to Sweetest Heart of Mary parish.
Fr. Kieruj then built a new and large school, a larger rectory, a convent for the nuns, parish hall and other buildings. The school has 22 classrooms. The hall would be the center of activity.
April 23, 1919, Fr. Felix Kieruj passed away. The tremendous amount of work in the building and maintaining the various functions of the parish took its toll on him. He had gone to Colorado Springs, Colorado to recuperate. It was there that he died. During the period that Fr. Kieruj was away, Fr. Baweja had administered to the needs of the parish.
The body of Fr. Kieruj was brought back to Detroit and lay in state in St. Francis Church. Three days later the Right Rev. Michael J. Gallagher, Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit with the Rev. Fr. F. Gzella as honorary deacon, and the Rev. Fr. A. Grudzinski as the honorary subdeacon, sang the requiem Mass.
After the Mass the body of Fr. Kieruj was escorted by the people of St. Francis Parish, who walked in a solemn procession, along with the church societies and a police escort to the Michigan Central Railroad Station, where it was shipped to La Salle, Illinois, for burial.
May 24, 1919, Fr. Alexander Grudzinski became the pastor of St. Francis and a change was to transpire. The church was $160,000 in debt. The hall would no longer be the center of parish activities. The people were expected to conduct themselves with dignity and piety. He begged and ordered the people to give generously to the collection basket. His plan worked. With a great deal of determination, Fr. Grudzinski paid off the debt in nine years. Many considered it a miracle because he did not hold any bazaars, festivals or any other fund raising activities for this purpose.
On June 3, 1928, in preparation for the consecration of the church, a preparatory service was held. The Rt. Rev. Gallagher, Bishop of the Diocese, placed in a reliquary the relics of St. Timothy and St. Teophilus, three grains of incense and an attestation written on parchment. The reliquary then was placed in an um and a number of candles were lit to burn through the night while Matins and Lauds would be recited.
June 4, 1928 at 7 a.m. began the long and solemn ceremony of the consecration of St. Francis of Assisi Church. About 2,000 Catholics of the Diocese of Detroit, clergy and laity participated in a ceremony which had been performed here only about a half dozen times in the century the diocese had been in existence - the consecration of a church building.
This ceremony took place exactly twenty-three years after the present church was dedicated.
St. Francis D’Assisi Church is only one of three churches consecrated in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and at the time was only the fifth church in the nation to be consecrated.
July 3, 1939, Fr. Maximillian Gannas took over the duties of pastor of St. Francis. There were no debts on the church but there were many necessary repairs needed to the church buildings. The church was painted inside. The lower part of the hall was rebuilt and renovated and the upper portion was redecorated. Fr. Gannas renovated the three altars in the church and the communion rail. He wanted everything looking its best for the Golden jubilee that was to come.
October 13, 1940, the Golden jubilee of St Francis was celebrated. The most Rev. Edward Mooney, Archbishop of Detroit, presided at the Mass, sung by the Pastor, Rev. Fr. Gannas. More than 1,000 parishioners and clergymen participated. In 1941 there was expectation and celebration. In October of that year the Rosary Society of St. Francis celebrated its Golden Jubilee.
The United States was at war and many of the young men of the parish were enlisting in the service. As the men enlisted, those left behind began to do their part to help. For Valentine’s Day the school children sent 500 greeting cards and 200 games and puzzles to soldiers in army camps throughout the country. For Easter they prepared 2,200 presents for the soldiers of St. Francis.
They also purchased $1,045 in defense stamps, contributed $31 for Masses, for the soldiers, and gave $78.50 to the missions. The latter project was done in a five-week period. There were many other projects to follow.
Rallies were being held to get parishioners involved in the war effort. On the hall, movies were shown of the fighting and bombing to encourage people to sign up as Air Wardens.
It was also during this time that Fr. Gannas encouraged the men that were left behind to become ushers and to form an Ushers Club.
The Polish Roman Catholic Union marked its 70th Anniversary in St. Francis Hall in October 1942. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from St. Francis and St. Andrew performed for the group. Among the guest speakers were Fr. Gannas, Gov. Murray D. Van Waggoner, Senator Brown, Judges O’Brien and Moynihan and Msgr. Krzyzosiak, Rector of Orchard Lake Seminary. It was considered quite an honor for Fr. Gannas and the parish to host this affair.
1943 thru 1944 the parish remained active doing their share for the war effort. Fr. Gannas and the parishioners, like other parishes were involved in the war bond effort. In March of 1944 St. Francis received a War Bond because St. Francis led the churches on the west side with sales of $51,800 in bonds in the fourth war loan drive.
In 1945 the war ended and as the men of the parish returned home, things began to return to normal.
1949 proved to be a bad year for the parish. A life size statue of St. Francis was ordered for the parish grounds. The artist that was hired to create the statue changed studios. This lead the parish and the Archdiocese into litigations against the studios and the artist. Eventually the statue was finished and now graces the parish grounds.
1955 saw major repairs and alterations done to the parish buildings. The convent was remolded to give each one of the sisters a separate sleeping room. A change from the large dormitory that made the upper floor of the convent. New steps and doors were placed on the church during this time.
In the mid 1960's permission was granted to paint the church. Archbishop Deardon in a letter to the pastor reminded him of the special nature of the church building. He reminded the parish that this was one of three consecrated churches in the Archdiocese and the cost of painting was to be well over $60,000. (At that time consecrated churches were not allowed to be in any form of debt, for the fear that a consecrated church no longer be a place of worship.)
During this time the city of Detroit underwent major population changes. People began to move in large numbers from the inner city to the suburbs. The reasons for the population shift is beyond the scope of this history. It will however play a role in the late 1980's when all inner city parishes are studied for their viability.
In 1970 a marble altar was places in the sanctuary to bring the church in line with all the liturgical changes made by the Second Vatican Council.
The relics that were placed in the High Altar during the consecration ceremonies in 1936 were moved to the new altar. It was also during this time the communion rail was modified to give a better view of the altar and sanctuary. The age worn marble floors of the sanctuary were also covered in red carpet. The crucifix which hung from the right pillar of the communion rail was moved to the rear entrance of the church. With decreasing attendance at weekday masses, the rise in cost of heating such a large church, the old caretakers house was turned into a chapel where weekday masses were to be celebrated during the winter months.
In March of 1985 all inner city parishes we were asked to take part in the City Task Force. The task force was to make recommendations to the Archbishop Szoka for dealing with the problems of inner city churches. In 1986 a Self-Study was done by the parish to determine the viability of the Parish. This study was to be used by the Task Force to make recommendations to the Archbishop whether to keep the church open or close it. With declining vocations to the religious life the School Sisters of St. Joseph had to say good bye to the parish. This was not good timing. It only fueled the speculation that St. Francis was among the growing list of city churches slated for closure. An announcement was made on September 28, 1988 only one year away from the Centennial Celebration, it was determined that St. Francis was a viable parish and that it should remain open.
The People of St. Francis had much to celebrate. The parish received the gift of a young and vibrant pastor just in time for the celebration.
The people of Saint Francis D'Assisi are a proud and strong people. If you take a look at the history of the parish, the City of Detroit, the United States, and the world. This parish is a testimony to the human spirit inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT. This community has survived; two world wars, the great depression, and two race riots. If our church building could only talk what lessons could it tech us about ourselves, who we are as a community, and what we want for future generations.
St. Francis D' Assisi - St. Hedwig Parish