Director of Public Affairs
Associate Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Detroit
Catholic history in southeast Michigan formally began with the landing of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac on the banks of what is now the Detroit River in July 1701, although the documented Catholic presence dates to the 1680s. Cadillac, two priests and French soldiers and traders established Ste. Anne, the first Catholic Church in Detroit. Ste. Anne Parish, now in its eighth building near the Ambassador Bridge on Ste. Anne Street, continues to serve the faithful of the area.
In the earliest part of its history in Michigan, the area that is now the Archdiocese of Detroit was the responsibility of the Diocese of Quebec. As time passed and the state and the Church grew, responsibility for the Catholics of the area changed several times. By the time Detroit was being considered for the status of diocese, the most notable priest in the area was Rev. Gabriel Richard. Fr. Richard brought the first printing press to the region, co-founded what is now the University of Michigan, and was the pastor of Ste. Anne Parish in Detroit. His death from cholera prevented him from being named bishop.
The Detroit Diocese was established on March 8, 1833 and included all of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territory east of the Mississippi River. Rev. Frederic Rese was named the first bishop on October 8, 1833. When Michigan became a state in 1837, the boundaries of the diocese were redrawn to correspond to the new state’s boundary. At the time, there were 20 parishes in the state.
Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere led the diocese from 1841 to 1869. He was succeeded by Bishop Casper Henry Borgess, who served as bishop until 1887. By the time Bishop John Samuel Foley came to Detroit in 1888, he led a diocese with 136 priests, a Catholic population of over 116,000, and 60 parochial schools. During this time, a number of religious communities came to the diocese, joining the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who had established residence in the diocese in 1845.
Bishop Foley was the first American-born bishop to lead the diocese, and his 30 years as Detroit’s shepherd remains the longest episcopate for Detroit. During his time, there was a great deal of immigration to the area and a great many churches were built; in the 1920s, 46 churches were founded in the city of Detroit. The first Hispanic parish was begun in 1920 and as the African American population rose more missions and parishes were founded to serve this growing community; the first mission for African Americans had been established in the post-Civil War era.
Bishop Michael James Gallagher led the Detroit Diocese from 1918 to 1937. Bishop Gallagher led two successful fights against state attempts to require all children to attend public schools, a requirement that would have decimated a vibrant parochial education system which by 1920 was educating almost 62,000 students.
On May 22, 1937 Detroit was elevated to an archdiocese and the bishop of Rochester, Edward Aloysius Mooney, was named Detroit’s first archbishop. In 1946, Archbishop Mooney became Detroit’s first Cardinal. Archbishop Mooney was a leader of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and an advisor to both the Vatican and leaders of the US government during World War II. He died in Rome as the conclave that would elect Pope John XXIII was starting.
John Francis Dearden served as archbishop of Detroit from 1958 to 1980. He attended all the meetings of the Second Vatican Council and played a significant role in the documents it produced. In 1969, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Dearden was the first president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He died in 1988.
In 1981, Edmund Casimir Szoka was installed as the eighth head of the Church in Detroit. He came from Gaylord, Michigan, where he was the first bishop of that diocese which had been established in 1971. In 1988, Archbishop Szoka was made a Cardinal. Two years later, he was called to Rome to serve as President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. In 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal Szoka as President of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State. In 2001 he also assumed the role of President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State. He retired from both of his Vatican roles in 2006.
From 1990 to 2009, Adam Maida led the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal in 1994. By the end of his episcopate, the Archdiocese of Detroit had 271 parishes, 10 Catholic hospitals serving over 1 million people annually, two seminaries, 21 Catholic high schools, and a Catholic population of over 1.4 million.
The current archbishop, Allen Henry Vigneron, is the first son of the diocese to serve in the role of archbishop. He was installed on January 28, 2009.
In November 2016, hundreds of clergy, laity and religious from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered for Synod 16 to discern the future of the Archdiocese. The fruits of this synod were published in Archbishop Vigneron’s 2017 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, detailing the Lord’s call for the local Church to transform into a band of joyful missionary disciples. Following the synod, the Archdiocese embraced efforts to move from maintenance to mission, using the unique gifts of all the faithful to accompany each other on our shared journey to encounter Jesus, grow as joyful missionary disciples, and give witness to Him in the world.
As part of the Archdiocese’s commitment to aligning all structures to mission, its parishes joined together in 2021 and 2022 to form new groupings called Families of Parishes. These groups of three to eight parishes will share resources and enhance each other’s strengths to advance the mission, with multiple priests and deacons leading the way. This new model will allow the priests, deacons, and lay staff associated with each parish to better share their gifts and talents within their Family and into the surrounding community.
General Information about the Archdiocese of Detroit
Established: 1833 as a diocese
Elevated: Made an archdiocese on May 22, 1937
Current Archbishop: The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Current Auxiliary Bishops: Most Reverend Gerard Battersby, Most Reverend Arturo Cepeda, Most Reverend Robert Fisher
Number of Catholics: 930,000 self-identifying Catholics
Number of Parishes: 215
Square Miles: 3,903 (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties)
Number of Grade Schools and High Schools: 79
Number of primary and secondary students: 27,076
Number of colleges and seminaries: 5
Number of Priests: 522
Number of Deacons: 193
Number of Religious Sisters: 635
Number of Religious Brothers: 68
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit
Born: October 21, 1948
Ordained Detroit Priest: July 26, 1975
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit and Titular Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan: June 12, 1996
Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: July 9, 1996
Appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Oakland: January 10, 2003
Installed Coadjutor Bishop of Oakland: February 26, 2003
Succeeded as Third Bishop of Oakland: October 1, 2003
Appointed Tenth Ordinary and Fifth Archbishop of Detroit: January 5, 2009
Installed Archbishop of Detroit: January 28, 2009
Allen Henry Vigneron was born in Mount Clemens, Michigan on October 21, 1948 to Elwin and Bernadine (Kott) Vigneron of Fair Haven. The eldest of six children (four brothers, one sister), he grew up in Immaculate Conception Parish, Anchorville, attending the parish grade school through eighth grade.
With encouragement from his parents, family, grade school principal, and pastor, Archbishop Vigneron entered the high school program of Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, in September 1962. After completing the twelfth grade, he continued there for college. In June 1970, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in both classical languages and philosophy.
Upon graduation, he was sent to Rome to continue his theological education at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Upon earning a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree in 1973, he returned home in 1974 to serve his transitional deaconate internship at St. Clement of Rome Parish in Romeo. Archbishop Vigneron was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit on July 26, 1975, at St. Clement of Rome by the late Cardinal John Dearden. His first assignment was as associate pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Harper Woods. He returned to Rome in 1976 for a year of study to complete the work required for his Licentiate in Sacred Theology degree, which he earned from the Gregorian University in 1977. Later that year, Archbishop Vigneron returned to Michigan to resume his duties as associate pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Cardinal Dearden assigned Archbishop Vigneron to begin graduate studies in the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1979.
He earned his Master of Arts in philosophy in 1983 and his Doctor of Philosophy in May 1987 with a dissertation on the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. In January 1985, before completing his dissertation, Archbishop Vigneron returned to Detroit to teach philosophy and theology at Sacred Heart Seminary. In January 1988, he was appointed academic dean of Sacred Heart Seminary and became a key member of the team working to realize Cardinal Edmund Szoka’s vision for the transformation of the institution into a “major seminary” offering graduate theological education.
In the fall of 1991, Archbishop Vigneron returned to Rome to serve as an official of the Administrative Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State. While in Rome, he served as an adjunct instructor at the Gregorian University. In the spring of 1994, he returned to Detroit to become the second rector-president of the re-founded Sacred Heart Major Seminary. At that time, he was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by the late Pope John Paul II.
On June 12, 1996, Archbishop Vigneron was named an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit by Pope John Paul II, receiving his episcopal ordination from Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, on July 9. In addition to his responsibilities as seminary rector, Archbishop Vigneron was given responsibility for the pastoral support of the Northeast Region of the Detroit archdiocese. On January 10, 2003, he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Oakland, California, and succeeded to the See of Oakland on October 1, 2003. While in California, he oversaw the design and construction of a new cathedral, chancery, conference center and healing garden dedicated to those abused by clergy.
On January 5, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Vigneron as the fifth Archbishop of Detroit. He was installed on January 28, 2009, succeeding Cardinal Maida.
Since his installation, Archbishop Vigneron has led a missionary transformation of the Church in Detroit. This transformation began in 2014 with a Year of Prayer. During 2016, listening sessions were held at every parish to learn how the faithful felt the Archdiocese of Detroit could move from maintenance to mission. In November 2016, Archbishop Vigneron led a Synod during which over 400 participants – clergy, religious and laity – gathered to pray, share and discern a plan to renew the Church in Detroit.
The fruit of those efforts was Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, released on the Feast of Pentecost 2017. In this letter, Archbishop gave the roadmap for the missionary transformation of the Archdiocese of Detroit. This foundational document is the repository of the graces of Synod 16 that allows the work of the movement to unleash the Gospel to move forward with confidence, focus and resolve. In subsequent years, the Archbishop has built upon the teachings of Unleash the Gospel with an ongoing series of pastoral notes examining topics relevant to modern culture and society.
Archbishop Vigneron was elected Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 12, 2019, after which he expressed gratitude to his brother bishops and offered prayers that the Holy Spirit would grant him “the grace to help us all in our service of Christ’s Church.”
Most Reverend Gerard Battersby
Regional Moderator for the South Region
Born: May 15, 1960
Ordained Priest: May 30, 1998
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: November 23, 2016
Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: January 25, 2017
Most Reverend Arturo Cepeda
Regional Moderator for the Northwest Region
Born: May 15, 1969
Ordinated Priest: June 1, 1996
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: April 18, 2011
Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, May 5, 2011
Most Reverend Robert Fisher
Regional Moderator for the Northeast Region
Born: September 24, 1959
Ordained Priest: June 27, 1992
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: November 23, 2016
Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit: January 25, 2017
Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament
The Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, both a parish church and a cathedral church, is the seat of the Archbishop of Detroit and the mother church of the Archdiocese of Detroit. As such, it is the “second parish” of all the Catholic faithful in southeast Michigan, and the “first parish” of some.
“A cathedral is, of course, unique inasmuch as it takes its designation from the cathedra, or chair of the bishop, the place from which I and my successors will shepherd this local Church, presiding at the most Holy Eucharist and teaching the flock according to the pastoral needs of our times.”
– Excerpt from the homily of Adam Cardinal Maida at the re-dedication Mass of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, March 25, 2003
The Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament is the fifth Cathedral to serve the church in Detroit. The road to 9844 Woodward Avenue includes numerous twists, turns and even a few false starts.
A proud lineage of cathedral churches
Detroit was made a diocese in 1833. Ste. Anne de Detroit, the first church in Detroit, established July 26, 1701, served as Detroit’s first Cathedral church.
In 1848 Ss. Peter and Paul Detroit was consecrated and made the cathedral of the Diocese of Detroit. The church was granted to the Society of Jesus in 1877 as part of the foundation of Detroit College, now the University of Detroit Mercy. The building, the oldest surviving church building in Detroit, continues to serve the faithful in downtown Detroit from its location at Jefferson Avenue and St. Antoine.
From 1877 to 1890, St. Aloysius Church served as the temporary, or Pro-Cathedral, for the diocese.
St. Patrick Church at 124 Adelaide Street in Brush Park was consecrated on the Feast of St. Patrick in 1862 and elevated to cathedral status in 1890. St. Patrick would serve as Detroit’s cathedral until 1938.
From humble beginnings
In 1905, Bishop Foley authorized the construction of a new parish, named Most Blessed Sacrament, on land that was then outside the city limits, north of Grand Boulevard.
The Norman Gothic design for the church building was drawn by architect Henry A. Walsh, of Cleveland, Ohio. Construction on the church building began in 1913 and was completed in 1915. However, the interior of the church would not be complete until 1930. The church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day 1930 at a solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Gallagher.
Detroit was elevated to an archdiocese in 1938 and on February 20, 1938, Most Blessed Sacrament Parish became the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament by decree of Pope Pius XI. The Vatican representative who came to Detroit to inspect the proposed cathedral on Woodward Avenue was Giovanni Battista Montini, later St. Paul VI.
“Having viewed at first hand the extensive labors of renewal and completion of the Cathedral, I am happy in being able to congratulate you on their felicitous conclusion in time for the scheduled date for the consecration and the contemporaneous commemoration of your silver jubilee of Episcopal Consecration.
– Excerpt from letter to Cardinal Mooney from Blessed Paul VI on behalf of Venerable Pius XII upon completion of the Cathedral edifice, November 17, 1951
St. Pope John Paul II visited the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on September 18, 1987
“It is indeed fitting that we greet each other here in this place of worship, in this cathedral dedicated to the Most Blessed Sacrament, since it is the Eucharist above all that expresses and brings unity with Christ and with one another… What great opportunities your city and its suburbs and rural areas give to the mission that is yours by baptism: To build up the body of Christ in unity by means of the gifts you have received.”
– St. John Paul II during his visit to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in 1987