When Detroit's population boomed from the 1880s to the 1920s, thousands of Catholic from a dozen or more eastern European nations arrived. The Detroit diocese established numerous "ethnic" parishes to serve their needs, but priests immigrated to the US along with their congregants, so quite a few ethnic groups could and did establish Catholic churches pretty much on their own. Priests from abroad who were not very deferential to the largely Irish and Germany hierarchy of the Detroit diocese often served at ethnic parishes. Gaining control of ethnic Catholics who had their own priests, established their own schools and controlled their own finances was a major challenge for the Catholic diocese of Detroit. Polish Catholics were the most independent. Indeed, Polish Catholics who refused an order from the bishop to stop built the beautiful Sweetest Heart of Mary Church on Russella competitor for the title of the city's most impressive religious building.
This massive seminary complex represents the successful efforts of Bishop Gallagherin the post World War I yearsto gain control of the training of all priests in the diocese. It "ended" the ethnic seminaries, and new federal immigration laws impeded the immigration of priests from Eastern Europe. This huge building was designed to offer training at both the high school and collegiate level to all Michigan men who wished to study for the priesthood.
This inspiring Collegiate Gothic style structure is done in red brick with light stone trim. You get a clear sense of a university and a dedication to scholarly activities when you examine this building. You are reminded of late medieval scholarship and the accomplishment of Catholic scholars in transmitting the heritage of Greece and Rome to us. The building is 600 feet in width and features the very substantial 130-foot tower, reminding you of an English university.
At the corner of Linwood and West Chicago is an unusual statue of Christ. It shows him as a black African. Cardinal Deardon was deeply moved by the riot of 1967. Apparently, he drove by himself throughout the city during the riot and belied the violence as an abrogation of Christian teachings. When the riot ended, he gave one million dollars to African American causes. During that violence, the features of Christ were painted a deep black and they remain so today. It is ironic that Reverend Clague's Shrine of the Black Madonna is just a few blocks to the east on Linwood.
Architects: Donaldson and Meier
Architectural style: Collegiate Gothic
Date of Construction: 1923 to 1925
Michigan Historic Registry: P25216
National Register of Historic Sites: Listed: December 2, 1982
Use in 2002: It is still a seminary and is often used as a meeting place by civic, religious and educational groups.
Photo: Ren Farley, October 2002
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