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. The assembly also voiced concerns about the conditions and limitations of the current parish facilities, which resulted in the development of plans by each commission of the parish and began the next step to obtain feedback from parishioners regarding the long range plan for the facilities. 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 was the renovation of our church building, which was completed in June, 2015. A gathering space was also completed.

Some of the items addressed in the renovation include:

  • New crucifix over sanctuary
  • New life-size statutes of Mary and Joseph above the sanctuary
  • New tabernacle
  • New sanctuary floor
  • New floor for body of the church
  • New pews with kneelers
  • New carpeting
  • New Stations of the Cross
  • New cherry wood paneling
  • Two new statutes of saints with votive lights (to come)
  • New air conditioner and boiler with climate control
  • Upgraded electrical system
  • Repaired skylight over altar
  • Repaired roof

Fr. David Buersmeyer became pastor of St. Regis on July 1, 2016. When Fr. Buersmeyer arrived St. Regis construction was already underway for a new chapel. 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 .  Beginning December 2016, all daily Masses will be offered in the chapel, with the exception of 8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the school children attend Mass. The chapel will also be used for Eucharistic Adoration Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m. Small weddings, funerals and other ceremonies will also take place in the chapel.  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 Cansius 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.

Future plans for St. Regis include increasing the size of the gathering space, building a new parish office center, and building a Family Center attached to the church.  In addition, parish leadership began the task of implementing the Archbishop’s letter Unleash the Gospel, to turn the parish into a joyful band of missionary disciples.