Dominican High School Detroit
On Sunday, April 29, 2012, the first annual St. Catherine of Siena Feast Day Celebration was held at, appropriately enough, St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom. The all-girl Catholic high school is in its second year of existence. It takes a great deal of courage, and hope, to open a new high school in a region where, over the past half-century, scores of Catholic elementary and high schools have closed. And it certainly takes hard work and an iron resolve to do so at a time of extreme economic challenge in southeast Michigan. Those who have made St. Catherine's happen are to be commended.
During the 2010-2011 academic year classes were held in a local office park while the school complex on Napier Road was being built. The very wet Spring and Summer of 2011 caused delays in the construction schedule. I attended one of the early open houses. Many of the tours were conducted by employees of the builder who would describe what the facilities, some still open to the sky, would look like. Construction continued even after the start of 2011 fall classes. Daily Mass for the students was celebrated in the faculty lounge, with students and faculty sitting on vintage folding chairs with "St. Clement" (Centerline, I believe) stenciled on the back.
During an early visit, I walked down a hallway, past closed doors, darkness beyond the doors' glass panels. But as I was nearly past the doors, something caught my eye. There was some light inside. I went to the door and peered in. I saw, virtually free-floating amid the inky vastness all around, two immense, and immensely beautiful stained glass arched windows, lit from the daylight outside. Folks, they don't make 'em like that any more.
Fr. Dick Elmer, the school's first principal, and current chaplain (and my principal in my years at Catholic Central), told me that the room would become the school's chapel and that the windows had come from a closed Detroit Catholic church.
The hauntingly magnificent image of those windows, in that setting, will stay with me for a long time.
Back then I was not as familiar with Detroit Catholic parish history, and it took some time, and inquiry to find out where the windows came from. But thanks to friends like Tom Wozniak and others, I know that these windows are part of the legacy of St. John Cantius parish, founded in 1900, before the city of Delray was incorporated into the city of Detroit. The elementary school, started in 1902, closed in 1969, and the parish closed in 2007. One of the stained glass windows, as well as the statue of St. John Cantius, can be found in the new Franciscan Welcoming Center at Madonna University in Livonia. Posts concerning St. John Cantius parish and school can be found on this site, here and here.
On April 29, the chapel at St. Catherine's was blessed by Bishop John M. Quinn, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota. Bishop Quinn was formerly an auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. The keynote speaker for the feast day event was Dr. Christopher Baglow, Professor of Systematic Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.