Westland parish celebrates 50 years of service and love

Westland — St. Theodore of Canterbury is a “steadfast” parish, said Fr. Patrick Casey, after thinking for a moment about the best way to describe the Westland community celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“To look at the 50 years of this parish is exactly like looking at any family. From birth to now, with the waves of baptisms and First Communions and weddings and funerals, this really is a living family, and steadfast,” said Fr. Casey, St. Theodore’s pastor since June 2012.

That family now includes nearby St. Damian and Divine Savior parishes, cluster partners with St. Theodore under the Together in Faith process.

Fr. Casey said the three parishes are beginning to collaborate on more ministries and liturgies, citing the recent Holy Week schedule between the three as an example. Religious education has also become a three-parish effort, he said.

Fr. Casey also said the senior community at St. Theodore is among the most active in the area.

“We have seniors from all the surrounding parishes come here for the many activities we do. And it’s more than just arranging for bus trips to casinos. They’re a very active senior group that does things here,” Fr. Casey said.

But where many parishioners find their identity, Fr. Casey said, is in Christian service, specifically the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“I would say that has been the binding force for the parish for at least 30 years. That’s the thing — people who are involved with this parish started with St. Vincent de Paul, and are absolutely committed to the poor and the neighbors around us,” he said.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron celebrated the 50th anniversary Mass at St. Theodore on June 15, joined by seven priests from the parish’s history, including five one-time pastors or administrators. Also in attendance was Fr. John Blaska, the parish’s third pastor, celebrating his 60th jubilee as a priest this year.

Founded in 1963, St. Theodore grew rapidly in its first few years as a parish, to a peak of about 5,000 parishioners in the late 1960s. A larger church was built and dedicated in 1975 under Fr. Blaska’s leadership. Over the years, 22 priests and six deacons have been assigned to the parish. Last year, Fr. Steve Mateja, a parishioner of St. Theodore, was ordained a priest for the archdiocese, and another parishioner, Derik Peterman, will be entering Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the fall.

In all, St. Theodore has simply been “home,” said Jean Howard, 82, a member of the parish for 40 years.

“My children were all baptized here, they all made their First Communions, and they were married here,” Howard said. “It’s a real tight-knit family.

”For Marie Promo, 92, a member of the parish since 1986, it was the hospitality and generosity of the parishioners that caused her to stay. Unable to drive herself to Mass, she said an offer in the church paper for a ride was a God-send.

“Now that means a lot. You don’t want to take advantage, but when you need to call them, they are there for you,” she said.

 St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish

Location: 8200 Wayne Road, Westland 48185Phone: (734) 425-4421Founded: 1963Families: 800Current pastor: Fr. Patrick Casey

Founding pastor: Fr. Jasper Sirianni

Ministries and area involvement: Men’s Club, Confraternity of Christian Women, Seniors Plus, Faith on Fire young adult group, junior high and high school youth ministries, Over 50 Club, Hospital Home Visitors, Right to Life committee, Theodorians (nursing home visits), active St. Vincent de Paul Society chapter.