St. Hedwig's Catholic Church

St. Hedwig's Catholic Church

3245 Junction in Southwest Detroit near where Cadillac's
Clark Avenue plant was located

One of major reasons to visit and tour Detroit is to see the impressive and architecturally significant buildings that are located throughout the entire city, not just in the downtown area. Is there any more attractive testimony to the faith of Polish immigrants, their success in the USA and their interest in impressive architecture than St. Hedwig's Church?

St. Hedwig's was the third Polish parish established on Detroit's west side. Bishop Foley appointed Father John Mueller pastor on July 3, 1902. St. Casmir's was the first Polish parish on the west side, founded in 1882—even before Sweetest Heart of Mary. And then St. Francis de Assisi was the second Polish parish on the west side established in 1889. As frequently happened in Detroit and elsewhere, Polish Catholics disagreed strongly with the bishop. St. Hedwig's Parish was dissolved in 1905 until a new group of priests more loyal to Detroit bishops—Polish Franciscans—were recruited to staff and manage St. Hedwig's Parish. Father Eustace Bartoszewicz was appointed pastor in 1912, and five years later, the magnificent church that you see was completed. Later, the parish established a large elementary school and then a high school that survived for 49 years until the out-migration of Poles and others from this neighborhood led to its closing. The elementary school closed five years later. Perhaps surprisingly, this neighborhood became a destination point for newly-arriving immigrants from Mexico. The priests of the parish, rather than offering Mass in Polish as they did a century ago, now serve the needs of their Spanish-speaking parishioners. Interestingly, the parish school is still an educational facility now managed by the city's public school system and offering instruction to Spanish-speaking students.

St. Hedwig, born in 1174, was the daughter of Count Berthold IV of Andechs in Bavaria. She was educated at a monastery in Kitzingen, and at age 12, married Duke Henry of Silesia. She founded a monastery in Trebinitz and then, with Duke Henry's assistance, established numerous hospitals and monasteries. She apparently also acted as peacemaker. She died in Trebintz, Poland on October 15, 1243. Many miracles were attributed to her and the Catholic Church canonized her as a saint in 1267—just 24 years after she died. She is the patroness of Silesia.

Architect: Henry J. Rill
Mason: Joseph Nowakowski
Date of Completion: Thanksgiving Day, 1916
Photo: July, 2002, Ren Farley
Use in 2002: Catholic Church serving a Mexican immigrant population in Detroit

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