Pope Francis Names Detroit’s Ste. Anne Church a Minor Basilica

Pope Francis has named Ste. Anne Church in Detroit a minor basilica, a designation given to churches to denote their importance in liturgical and pastoral life and a closer relationship with the pope. The title major basilica is reserved for churches in Rome. Ste. Anne Parish is the second-oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the U.S.
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Ste. Anne Church interior
Detroit’s Ste. Anne Church has been named a minor basilica by Pope Francis. // Photo courtesy of Ste. Anne Church

Pope Francis has named Ste. Anne Church in Detroit a minor basilica, a designation given to churches to denote their importance in liturgical and pastoral life and a closer relationship with the pope. The title major basilica is reserved for churches in Rome. Ste. Anne Parish is the second-oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the U.S.

“As our founding parish, Ste. Anne was among the first fruits of a new missionary diocese,” says Allen H. Vigneron, Detroit archbishop. “In the church’s designation as a basilica, it will stand as a profound reminder to all who visit of our continuing mission to unleash the Gospel in our communities. We in the Archdiocese of Detroit are truly blessed by the Holy Father’s recognition of its historic significance to the city of Detroit and its importance to the liturgical life of the entire archdiocese.”

Vigneron requested the designation to the Vatican in July 2018. Ste. Anne was consecrated on Oct. 30, 1887. It is the eighth church constructed for the use of the parish community, which dates back to Ste. Anne’s feast day, July 26, in 1701, two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his companions, including two Catholic priests, established the settlement of Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit.

The parish’s most well-known pastor, Fr. Gabriel Richard, authored the motto for Detroit, “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus,” or “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes,” after the Great Fire of 1805. Richard’s final resting place is at Ste. Anne.

“We are most grateful to Pope Francis for the designation and to Archbishop Vigneron for championing this effort,” says Monsignor Charles Kosanke, pastor of Ste. Anne and Most Holy Trinity parishes. “In celebrating this honor, we embrace our added responsibility as a basilica to increase our efforts to serve as a welcoming place of prayer and spiritual renewal for all who visit.”

Ste. Anne is now one of 86 churches in the U.S. and the third in Michigan to hold the title. The National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak was named a minor basilica in 2015, and the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids received the title in 1980.

Vigneron will preside at a Mass with a reading of the decree at noon April 26 to mark Ste. Anne’s designation. The church’s title will change to that of a basilica and, due to its closer connection to the pope, will see enhancements to its liturgical year. Its week-to-week schedule will not change, but it will now observe feast days associated with St. Peter and the papacy.

To demonstrate that it met the criteria for becoming a minor basilica, Ste. Anne documented its liturgical activity and architectural stature. The building contains artifacts from the church that preceded the current structure, which was built in 1886, including the 1818 cornerstone, the altar in the chapel, the communion rail, the Beaubien Bell, and the statue of Ste. Anne and Mary. Some of the windows removed from the earlier church also were reinstalled at Ste. Anne and contain the oldest stained glass in Detroit.

Ste. Anne has a membership of 575 families. It is named for Ste. Anne, the mother of Mary and the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has 1.1 million Catholics in 217 parishes across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair, and Lapeer counties.

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