Matching grant from National Fund for Sacred Places will help fund extensive stonework repair at 146-year-old Eastern Market church

DETROIT — St. Joseph Shrine’s ongoing historical renewal project is receiving a significant boost, thanks to a $250,000 matching grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places.

The shrine, under the care of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, was one of 16 sites selected to receive grants through the national fund, which is managed by Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The grant was publicly announced Oct. 20, days after St. Joseph Shrine announced the second phase of its three-phase, multi-million-dollar historical renewal campaign. The first phase of the project, which involved the restoration of the church’s steeple, was completed last fall.

The project’s second phase will involve a restoration of the church’s limestone façade, which is severely worn from years of weathering, said Canon Michael Stein, ICKSP, St. Joseph’s pastor and rector.

A snow-covered statue of St. Joseph is pictured on the grounds of St. Joseph Shrine in Detroit. Built in 1873, the church has not undergone any major repairs until recently, when a historical renewal project was started to renovate the steeple, exterior stonework, interior windows, parking lot and heating and electrical systems. (Michael Stechschulte | Detroit Catholic file photo)

“Completed and consecrated in 1873, the church exterior, and particularly the entire front of the church, has not undergone any major restoration or repair to the extent it now requires,” Canon Stein wrote in an Oct. 16 letter announcing the second phase of the project. “Other areas, such as the church’s fifth generation heating system, has exceeded its useful life and needs to be replaced, and three of the original stained-glass windows are now 60 years (!!) past due for repair.”

The Victorian Gothic church, which was built by German immigrants in what would become Detroit’s Eastern Market district, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Joseph Shrine hopes to raise $3.3 million over four years as it prepares for the church’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2023.

The two-for-one matching grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places comes as a significant blessing, but the church still needs to raise $500,000 more to reach the halfway mark for the $1.5 million stonework project, Canon Stein said.

Bob Jaeger, president of Partners for Sacred Places, said this year’s grant recipients were chosen because they are “excellent examples of sacred places with local, regional, and sometimes national significance.”

Priests and parishioners lead a procession through Eastern Market for St. Joseph’s feast day in this 2018 file photo. 

In March, Archbishop Vigneron designated the church, which formerly was known as St. Joseph Oratory, as a shrine “in recognition of the spiritual reality that the church is now a destination site for many seeking the Traditional Latin Mass, sacraments and devotions,” Canon Stein said.

The church has experienced a significant rebirth since the arrival of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2016. When the institute first arrived, St. Joseph was a worship site of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish. Because of the church’s disrepair, it was in danger of closing.

Today, it is a thriving parish with a bright future, Canon Stein said.

“In these past four joyful years, we have made tremendous progress with the church and campus, but more importantly with the spiritual life and growth of the parish community,” he said. “Our church is called to be a Fortress of Faith; a Citadel of Sacraments. This should encourage us to restore our church with even greater fervor.”

Canon Stein said St. Joseph Shrine today celebrates three weekend Masses and two daily Masses, and receives upwards of 1,000 communicants on Sundays.

Other recipients of the National Fund for Sacred Places grants included:

  • 134 Collaborative/Mathewson Street Church (United Methodist) - Providence, R.I.
  • Basilica of St. Lawrence (Roman Catholic)/ Basilica Preservation Fund - Asheville, N.C.
  • Central Presbyterian Church - Summit, N.J.
  • Church of the Covenant (UCC/Presbyterian) - Boston, Mass.
  • First Baptist Church of Asheville - Asheville, N.C.
  • First United Methodist Church of Lawrence, Kas.
  • First Covenant Church (Swedish Covenant) - Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church- Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Our Lady of Victory (Roman Catholic) - Lackawanna, N.Y.
  • Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church - Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Saint Peter's Lutheran Church - New York, N.Y.
  • St. Francis Xavier Mission (Roman Catholic) - St Xavier, Mt.
  • St. Joseph Oratory (Roman Catholic) - Detroit, Mich.
  • Third, Scots and Mariners "Old Pine Presbyterian" - Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Touro Synagogue - New Orleans, La.
  • Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church – Tulsa, Okla.