Regarding boating incident in the Detroit River

The Archdiocese of Detroit Communications Department shares the following message about an August 16 boating incident in the Detroit River:

Updated 1:15 p.m. August 20

Authorities on Thursday morning recovered the body of Fr. Stephen Rooney, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Trenton, four days after he and parishioner Robert Chiles went missing when the boat they were on capsized on the Detroit River. Mr. Chiles' body was discovered Tuesday evening.

"I am deeply grieved by Sunday’s tragic boating incident and the loss of Fr. Rooney and St. Joseph parishioner Robert Chiles. Father was a beloved pastor and my deepest condolences go out to the parish community in this time of grief. I offer my condolences, as well, to the Chiles family," Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron said. "We are ardently praying for the eternal repose of this priest and his parishioner. We turn to our merciful Savior in prayer for those who mourn them, with great confidence in his promise to bring us to his Kingdom.

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."

Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor of the Basilica of Ste. Anne and Most Holy Trinity Parish, both in Detroit, was on the boat when it capsized and was rescued from the water by Good Samaritans nearby.

"This was an unspeakable tragedy that has affected the lives of many wonderful people. I am very grateful for the quick and unselfish response of nearby people whose actions prevented further loss of life," Msgr. Kosanke said. "I continue to grieve tremendously for Fr. Stephen Rooney and Bob Chiles. May they rest in peace in eternal life."

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the boating incident. The Archdiocese continues to ask for privacy for the families and parishes of those involved.

Funeral arrangements are pending for both men and will be announced when complete.

Updated 11 a.m. August 19

Authorities found the body of Robert Chiles, the 52-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph in Trenton, on Tuesday evening after a search of the Detroit River where he and Fr. Stephen Rooney went missing Sunday after their boat capsized.

Recovery efforts continue Wednesday for Fr. Rooney, St. Joseph’s 66-year-old pastor, according to Grosse Ile police.

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby, who led a prayer vigil for the two men Monday night at St. Joseph, expressed sympathy toward Chiles’ family members and friends at the news.

“With the Chiles family and the community of St. Joseph Parish, the Archdiocese of Detroit is deeply saddened at the news of the death of Robert Chiles,” Bishop Battersby said. “We ask for prayers for the Chiles family and for the repose of Robert’s soul. May he rest in the arms of his gentle Savior.”

Updated 5:45 p.m. August 17

It has been confirmed that one of those rescued from the Detroit River was Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor of the Basilica of Ste. Anne and Most Holy Trinity Parish, both in Detroit. He is doing well and is recovering with family.

We continue to ask for privacy for the individuals involved, their families, and their parishes. The Archdiocese will share more information as it becomes available.

Original statement

It is with great sadness that we share that Father Stephen Rooney, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Trenton is missing along with longtime parishioner Robert Chiles after a boat capsized yesterday evening in the Detroit River, off Stony Island. We are grateful to God for the Good Samaritan who rescued several others from the water.

Let us unite in prayer for the missing, for the rescued, and for first responders searching the waters today.

The Grosse Ile Police Department is handling the missing persons investigation.

At this time, we ask for privacy for the parish and the families of those involved. The Archdiocese will share more information as it becomes available.


Ned McGrath, Director of Public Affairs