A History of St. Regis Parish

As part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, St. Regis Catholic Parish found its origin as a mission of Birgmingham’s Holy Name Parish in 1959, thanks to the foresight of Msgr. Eugene E. Paddock.  The school was built quickly – from the laying of the cornerstone on May 31 to the first Mass being celebrated in the building on September 13, 1959. The parish was established on June 19, 1962 by His Emminence John Cardinal Dearden and named after his patronal saint – St. John Francis Regis.  Founding pastor, Reverend Thomas Shields, was known for “fostering the spirit of the family of St Regis,” which cultivated significant growth under his leadership including the building of necessary facilities to serve the community: rectory (1963), convent (1964), current church (1968), and activities center (1969).  Although Fr. Shields resigned on October 22, 1978 due to ill health, his leadership and legacy propelled St. Regis into the future.

Fr. Daniel Murphy was appointed pastor on January 11, 1979, where he spent most of his time and energy developing the many outreach activities that continue to serve to today.  The parish adopted a refugee family from Cambodia in 1981; the family became Catholic three years later.  The parish also supported the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and began an annual giving tree at Christmas.  Fr. Murphy had to address some maintenance issues with the facilities in 1985, including repairs on the school roof, school windows, church carpeting and parish office.   The parish celebrated its 25th anniversary on June 14, 1987. the following year, Fr. Murphy established a long range planning committee in 1998 to study future facility needs.  Fr. Murphy retired in 1999.

Fr. Norman Nawrocki was named pastor by Adam Cardinal Maida in 1999. Fr. Nawrocki continued the long range planning process.  This led to a development of a master plan that included the refurbishment of the church, a new gathering space, a small chapel, new parish offices, a social hall and an addition of a junior high wing to the school.  A campaign was launched called Moments in Faith, which financed the junior high wing.  This addition strengthened the school and increased enrollment.  The parish’s outreach went international by assisting with a school and hospital in Cameroon and providing supplies to the Spanco Mission in Ghana.

Msgr. Charles Kosanke was named pastor by Archbishop Allen Vigneron in 2011, and immediately he began a pastoral planning process to acquire input from parishioners on the future of the parish.  A parish assembly was held on November 11, 2011; subsequently the parish commissions developed goals and action plans. A massive process began in January 2012 to transform our junior high into an academy program by the opening of the school year in 2012. The parish celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 16, 2012, and in the fall of that year, six receptions were held to obtain more feedback from parishioners.  The result of this planning and subsequent fundraising through the Changing Lives Together campaign was the renovation of our church building, which was completed in June, 2015, along with an enlarged gathering space. In 2016 the new chapel was completed, which is used for daily Mass, smaller funeral and weddings, and daily Adoration.  Many people have asked about some of the features of the new chapel. The stained glass windows on the sides of the chapel came from now-closed St. John Cantius Church in Detroit. The women saints (from the altar back) are St. Helen, St. Agnes, St. Hedwig, St. Therese Lisieux and St. Maria Goretti. The men are St. John the Baptist, St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony and St. Aloysius.  The rose window depicting the Holy Spirit was made by a local artist and is modeled after a window at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The altar, doors and  ambo were made by a local artist.  The reredos is an antique. The crucifix and the statues of Mary and the Blessed Disciple that are on the reredos are antiques as well. They came from closed churches in the U.S. but were made in France.

Fr. David Buersmeyer became pastor of St. Regis on July 1, 2016.  In December 2016, the new chapel was completed and blessed by Archbishop Allen Vigneron, where he deposited a relic, a bone from the body of St. John Francis Regis into the altar .   During his time as pastor, in addition to guiding the parish out of its significant debt and into a position of financial stability, Fr. Buersmeyer invited the parish leadership  to begin the task of implementing the Archbishop’s letter Unleash the Gospel, beginning with a fiver year “pastoral vision” and then moving forward by meeting three times a year with all who are in parish leadership and who help lead the various ministries of the parish.  These 70 or so people come together and focus on some aspect of Unleash the Gospel and help shape the pastoral vision and energy of the parish. In 2022-23 St. Regis celebrated its 60th year as a parish with an anniversary Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi June 19, 2022, a special 60 Hours of Adoration in the Fall of 2022, and a Lenten Mission led by priests who had connections to the parish in the past. The year ended on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 2023 with a series of “Teaching Masses” and a special Corpus Christi procession.

In 2021-22 planning began for a new model of parish life called a “Family of Parishes,” which went into effect in July of 2022. St. Regis, St. Owen, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and Holy Name formed the West Maple Family of Parishes. Under the new model no one priest is the pastor but all the priests of the family are appointed as a team of priests in solidum, who collectively pastor all four parishes, under the leadership of a Moderator. Msgr. John Zenz was named the Moderator for the West Maple Family. The goal of this model is to create as much collaboration and shared ministry as possible among the parishes but maintaining their individual parish identity. Currently each priest in the family has primary responsibility for one of the parishes in the family but all priests meet regularly as a team to work on greater collaboration of the whole family.

At the end of June,  2023, Fr. Buersmeyer became a “Senior Priest”, a type of retirement that frees him of administrative responsibilities and allows him to help out as a priest wherever he chooses or is needed.  At the same time Archbishop Vigneron appointed Fr. John Dudek as part of the in solidum team of priests. Fr.Dudek entered seminary later in life, having spent twenty years as a teacher of special education, and was ordained in 2021.  He will be the main priest connected to St. Regis but also have a special focus on the schools in the Family.