Historical Information

 

  

Cathedral Abbey of St. Anthony - Historic Church


Former Convent and Grade School


 Front Facade of Church


  Below, oldest picture taken from first Church of St. Anthony in 1857.



                     
The growing congregation of St. Anthony needed a larger Church. It was a new beginning in 1901, including a new Rectory, it was later expanded and is now the Franciscan Abbey.

                                                             

Corner Stone of second and current Cathedral laid: Anno Domini, In the Year of the Lord and the Jubilee 

on July 18th, in 1901.




 

Above are the old Grade school from 1896, the first convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame,
and some historic pictures of the school classes  and sports teams.

As the school enrollments grow, the construction of a new and large High school became necessary.
See below on this page, under 

"In Memory of St. Anthony/East Catholic High School"

  A historical Journey that lives on!

Beginning in the 1840’s, large numbers of Germans immigrated and settled on the rural east side of Detroit. To serve the mostly Catholic population, St. Joseph Church was founded in 1855 near downtown, and quickly established a “mission,” or satellite church further up on Gratiot in 1857.

The wood frame church at the corner of Gratiot and Field was known as St. Anthony Mission. It was described as a “modest little church, once idyllically hidden and shaded by tower maples and pines… At the time of building the first frame church, there lived in that area, largely covered with primeval forest, about fifty families of German extraction…” The mission became a separate Parish church itself, adding a school in 1865, and a rectory house in 1868.

In 1895, Reverend Charles Hutter was appointed pastor of St. Anthony, and started an ambitious expansion plan to meet the needs of the growing congregation. To attract more parishioners (and funds with which to build a new church), a new grade school was built in 1896. The plan worked; drawn to the high-quality education German offered by the Sisters of Notre Dame, parents began sending their children to St. Anthony School and became members of the church.

The wood frame church was no longer adequate to hold the number of Sunday worshipers, and so in 1901 the cornerstone for a new, larger church was laid at the corner of Sheridan and Farnsworth Streets. Designed by Donaldson and Meier, the new Romanesque church featured twin spires of terracotta and red brick, one of which had a tower clock. The stained glass windows were some of the finest found in the city at that time; they were specially made for St. Anthony in Innsbruck, Austria and shipped to the United States. Construction was completed in 1902, and the church was dedicated in a ceremony on October 12th.

The growth of the church outpaced even the most optimistic estimate, eventually peaking at 2,800 families. On Sunday alone, eight separate mass services had to be held, and all were frequently at capacity. But the church still managed to retain its close-knit family structure, with Father Hutter visiting members at their homes often.

One colorful recollection comes from the 100th anniversary book, concerning Joseph Schmitz, the church’s organist for many years: “He was much respected by fellow musicians for his own musicianship and when he was coupled with the famous Father Charles Hutter, an artist in his own right, even though in a different area, they must have been a wonderful team, geared to render the service of God as beautiful as man might make it. Like the steel and diamond they were, they struck fire when they clashed, and they did at times; but being the thoroughbreds they were, differences were quickly resolved. For instance, there was the time when Father Hutter was having it out with the Professor over something or other' which he should or should not have sung, when the professor came up with "Dir, glaube ich, ist ein Laus ueber's Herz gekrochen!" (Some louse must have crept over your heart, I do believe!) That brought the house down; Father Hutter threw his arms about the dearly loved professor "Bist ein Schelm; komm' wir habens uns Wein!" (You're a rascal; come, we shall have wine!) And it was all over.”

At the outbreak of the First World War, the two found themselves in quite a predicament: “Early in the spring of 1914, Father Hutter and his unforgettable organist, Professor Schmitz, decided upon a trip to Germany. Much as they relished the trip (both had been born and brought up there), Professor Schmitz barely escaped being forced into the army for the Emperor's war of 1914. Father Hutter remained voluntarily for sometime, acting as chaplain to the German troops. Though Father Hutter loved Germany and the Germans, nobody ever had cause to suspect him of being pro-German in the sense of being anti-American or anti-justice. He was a United States citizen.”

Though the war brought a halt to German immigration to Detroit temporarily, the church and its schools continued to grow. The grade school was added onto again in 1906, with construction on a small high school starting in 1918. An entirely new high school was built across the street from the church in 1923 and 1926. By 1927 there were 1,163 students enrolled in grade school, and 286 in the high school.

Though the Second World War brought Germany directly into conflict with America again in the 1940’s, the German parish stayed firmly on the side of the Allies, raising money to support the war effort. “In conjunction with the Fourth War Loan, grade and high school students entered the “Buy-a-plane” campaign. The goal set was $15,000, but the students subscribed $28,000; besides the PT-19B Fairchild, they purchased three field ambulances, four motor scooters, six life boats, ten parachutes, and two water tank trucks.” 700 men from St. Anthony served on the American side throughout the war; 34 of them would pay the ultimate price.

Even before the war the notion of an “ethnic” neighborhood was fading; Germans had integrated with the rest of the city, and neighborhoods became more diverse. Though the number of families attending the church started to drop, St. Anthony was still a very strong presence in the community. The parish schools’ athletic teams dominated the local sports scene, and remained an academic powerhouse up until its final days. A new basketball gymnasium was added in 1956. Parish history notes, “A most unusual departure is Fr. Raible’s allowing the gym to be used for roller skating,” which was quite popular at the time, though apparently not with the elders of the church.

As the number of Catholic schools throughout the city started to shrink, St. Anthony High absorbed several other schools and was renamed East Catholic High School in 1969. By this time, the neighborhood around St. Anthony had gone into decline, and in the 1980’s the Detroit Archdiocese was considering shuttering either the school or the church. The school closed first, in 2005, and the church followed soon after, closing in 2006. St. Anthony merged with another struggling church, Annunciation/Our Lady of Sorrows to form a new parish named Good Shepard Catholic Church. Both the school and church were vacated and put up for sale.

Several other churches including St. Agnes closed around the same time, adding to the substantial glut of church properties on the market in Detroit, where churches often remain vacant for years.

But just a year after closing, St. Anthony had already attracted one potential buyer: Bishop Dr. Karl Rodig, Presiding Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ. With him and his congregation, St. Anthony entered again a new Era, serving all of God's Children.


St. Anthony Cathedral Abbey - Historic Church


Constructed of stone and pressed brick in the Romanesque Style, the Cathedral occupies without a doubt, a prominent place among the churches of Detroit.


There are three Front entrances. In a niche above the beautiful main entrance stands the large statue of St. Anthony. Upon entering, the first thing that impresses one is the soft, delicate light admitted through beautifully colored stain-glass windows that fill the interior and lends an air of indescribable peace so soothing and inviting to prayer and meditation. Above, the broad wide arches of the ceiling are a sign of firmness, strength and determination. The high-vaulted sanctuary receives its light from four smaller windows of four Evangelists. At the left, a magnificent glass painting of the angelic Aloysius receiving his First Holy Communion from his sainted friend, Charles Borromeo.


Under a charming rosette window in the large transept area a triple group: St. Boniface the great Apostle of the Germans, St. Anthony, the patron Saint of the Cathedral, and lastly, St. Vincent de Paul.


Moving along we see a splendid representation of the Holy Family. Truly admirable is the scene of our savior among the little children. Next is a picture of the Resurrection of our Lord. The last window shows blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque transfigured by divine love in the vision of the Sacred Heart. On the opposite side is the appointment of St. Peter as Prince of the Apostles. Beside is our savior in the Garden of Olives. Next is a beautiful window depicting the Guardian Angel. Truly a gem of Christian Art is the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the transept on the left side facing the altar are three windows. In the center is a masterful reproduction of Murillos’s beautiful painting of the Immaculate Conception. Then there are St. Elizabeth and St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. Above there is a beautiful rosette, similar to the one on the opposite side of the transept. The last window is one of St. Rose of Lima.


The nave and transept windows dated 1902 are from Innsbruck, Austria. A rich stream of light floods the entire nave through the rose window over the entrance of the church-the all-seeing eye of God, not an imported window like the others but the product of the Detroit Friedrichs and Wolfrum. The same firm made the windows in the tower.


Deserving a notice are the fourteen stations of the cross imported from Germany. Above the middle entrance door on the interior is a small arched window taken from the Grade School before it was demolished. It depicts St. Anthony holding the Christ Child. The church is Germanic in character, noted in the brickwork and the four-gabled arrangement of its towers-called “Lombard arcading” along with the similar treatment of the roof surfaces.