Announcement draws cheers, ovation during historic parish’s patronal feast-day Mass

DETROIT — An application is being submitted to Pope Francis asking the Holy Father to designate Ste. Anne de Detroit Church as a minor basilica, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said.

Making the announcement at the end of Mass at the parish, Detroit’s oldest, on the feast of St. Anne on July 26, Archbishop Vigneron said the petition request is the result of hard work on the part of Ste. Anne’s pastor, parish staff and parishioners to make the church a “center for life and faith" in the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Midwest.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron smiles as he blesses the congregation at Ste. Anne de Detroit during the opening procession. (Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic)

“Since accepting my request that he come here to be the pastor, Msgr. (Charles) Kosanke has worked very hard to put a plan in place to ensure that this church and this shrine endure for the next generation," Archbishop Vigneron said. “As part of that plan, he and those who work along with him have established a petition, a request that I will submit to the Holy Father asking that this church be declared a basilica."The archbishop’s announcement was met with immediate cheers and a standing ovation from the full congregation gathered for the final night of the parish’s annual novena to Ste. Anne, the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“Monsignor, as you finish your petition, be sure to mention to the Holy Father that the people of God approve of what we’re asking," the archbishop said, smiling broadly.

Ste. Anne Parish was founded on July 26, 1701, two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his company landed on the banks of the Detroit River to establish a new city.

The parish has served the city every day since, making Ste. Anne the second-oldest continually operating parish in the United States. The current church building is the eighth in the parish’s history, built in 1886, and houses the remains of one of Detroit’s great Catholic pioneers, Fr. Gabriel Richard.

Located in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Central Depot in southwest Detroit, Ste. Anne has seen an increase in visitors, interest and activity in the past several years, mirroring the city’s own gradual economic rebound.

Ste. Anne parishioners hug one another and cheer as Archbishop Vigneron announces the news about the basilica application. (Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic)

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI named St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, as the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit, a nod to the parish’s giant role in the region’s Catholic history. Last year, Archbishop Vigneron declared Ste. Anne an official archdiocesan shrine.

If approved by the Holy Father, Ste. Anne would become just the third minor basilica in Michigan, after the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids and the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak. The latter was designated a basilica in 2015.

The word “basilica" is derived from a Greek word meaning “royal house." In the Catholic faith, a basilica designates a church with a special connection to the papal see of Rome. There are 85 basilicas in the United States and 1,770 in the world, with the vast majority designated as “minor" basilicas. Only four “major" basilicas exist, all in Rome: St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside-the-Walls and St. John Lateran.

Only a handful of basilica applications are reviewed by Rome each year, and just 1 percent of Catholic churches worldwide have earned the special designation.

Ste. Anne’s 223-page application contains responses to more than 100 detailed questions from the Vatican on the history, life and vibrancy of the parish, including historical and current photos and descriptions of the church’s interior and exterior, neo-Gothic architecture, grisaille stained-glass windows and priceless art and statuary.

“The process to compile all materials and prepare the submission was a rewarding experience. It was very inspiring to dive into the great history that has made Ste. Anne’s what it is today," Msgr. Kosanke said. “This is an amazing opportunity for us as a parish, and I’d like to thank all of our team members who played a role in preparing this submission over the last six months."

The honor is about more than just history and great buildings, however; in order to designate a place as a basilica, the parish must also be shown to be a vibrant community of faith.

In addition to regular parish events, Masses and devotions, Ste. Anne also features a vibrant young adult ministry, Jornadas, and a multicultural presence that includes Hispanics, African-Americans, whites and other diverse ethnicities.

In 2017, Ste. Anne welcomed more than 9,000 visitors, and even more are expected in 2018, Msgr. Kosanke said. During the nine-day celebration of St. Anne’s feast day alone, the parish welcomed more than 4,000 people.

To proceed with the basilica application process, Archbishop Vigneron will next submit the request to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. If the U.S. bishops approve, it would then be forwarded with a letter of recommendation to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, which would review the application before sending it to Pope Francis.

The entire process can take more than a year, the parish said in a news release.

“As the archbishop of our diocese and the leader of our Catholic community of faith, it gives me great joy to express the gratitude of the whole archdiocese to all of you who are such faithful trustees of this great heritage," Archbishop Vigneron said at the feast-day Mass. “How poor we would be were we not able to come here year after year to venerate St. Anne and draw close to her, so that she can draw us closer to Mary and Jesus.

“For a church to be declared a basilica is a particular honor from our Holy Father," the archbishop continued. “It is one way for a very important church building, not just a historic center, but a center for life and faith, to be particularly recognized as in communion with him, in some sense to be a church honorarily united to the Diocese of Rome. I look forward to a very positive response from our Holy Father, so please keep that in your prayers."Basilica requirements

To be considered as a minor basilica by the Vatican, a church must meet the following detailed requirements:

1. The church must have an active pastoral liturgy celebrated regularly throughout the year. 

2. The church must be of an appropriate size and have a large sanctuary. 

3. The church must have historical significance where it is located and in the local community. 

4. The church must have an adequate number of priests assigned. 

5. The church must have a sufficient number of lay ministers. 

6. The church must have an adequate Schola of sacred music.