On Sunday, parishioners at St. Dennis Catholic Church gathered for the final time to say goodbye to their closing church.
The closing is the result of the Archdiocese of Detroit's Together in Faith plan, which was initiated in 2011 as a way to deal with financial challenges, a shortage of priests, and changing demographics in the archdiocese.
Founded 62 years ago by Edward Cardinal Mooney, Sunday's 3 p.m. mass marked the final service for the parish that merged with St. Vincent Ferrer, in Madison Heights, in June.
"I remember attending Sunday mass in the gymnasium of Lockman Elementary School, while St. Dennis was being built," wrote Patch reader Ruth Lehman. "I was married there in 1969, and my first child was baptized there."
The first mass was celebrated at St. Dennis on Nov. 1, 1951, according to the parish website. In 1954, two homes were purchased on Symes Court for use as temporary convents and in 1955 construction began on a 16 classroom school. Classes began in St. Dennis School in 1956 with Sr. Mary Alfred as principal. The enrollment was 477.
In 1961, St. Dennis jointly purchased property with Guardian Angels, in Clawson, to build Bishop Foley High School, which opened in 1965.
"When I was younger and my parents wanted to send us to St. Dennis, there was no room for us," wrote Bill Tache on Royal Oak Patch's Facebook page. "A group of parents got together and bought buses to send us to Detroit to Santa Maria, located just south of the Highland Park Chrysler facility. During that time, those parents belonged to the St. Vincent parish in Madison Heights. Oddly enough, I (was in) the last class to come out of Santa Maria. St. Vincent's built a school, which was finished the year (I was) in eighth grade."
Tache wrote he finished his education at Bishop Foley and then never stepped foot into a church again. St. Dennis School closed in 2010 at the end of the school year.
Other Royal Oak Patch readers had this to say:
- Michael Roper: My weirdest memory of St Dennis is from September of 1966. My mother and I were going to confession one evening, walking between the rectory and the church. It was already dark out. Suddenly, it was daylight. Someone in the church parking lot shouted, "It is a ball of fire in the sky". We looked up ad saw a giant meteor explode into a trail of fire and light. It was seen in several states. I figured that someone was trying to tell me to stay out of church.
- Anita Lankin Caponi: Sad to see this parish go. But that being said, it is the people who made this parish; not the building. I hold some very good memories of those people. Such a shame, but not totally unexpected.
- Maureen McDonald: Not only was it a church, it was a resource center for 12 step groups of all sorts and a depository for food for the homeless - an inclusive church at a great corner.
- Don Shapton: Strangely conflicted. Survivor or alumni?
- Cathy Richards Pickles: It is the people who made the parish. I've met so many wonderful people through the school and church. My favorite memories: floor hockey, cheerleading practice in the annex of the church, all the wonderful parents that dedicated their time and good friends I met.
After Sunday's mass, the parish held a reception for one last hurrah.
"I know more changes lie ahead, but our lives are ever-changing in many ways. I am sad to see the transitions, but the memories will always remain," said Lehman.
Do you have a favorite memory from St. Dennis? Share it with us in the comments below.