St. Alphonsus Heritage Garden - Preliminary concept - July 2023, Updated October 2023
By Fr. Terry Kerner
The year 1852 saw four acres at the corner of Warren and Schaefer dedicated to God, recognizing His gift to a faithful people. 171 years ago, German farmers, who enjoyed and shared their God-given endowment, saw the Faith grow and flourish in the hearts and souls of thousands in three different centuries. Countless parishioners have witnessed the miracle of growth in the fertile minds of the parish young and have been humbled by the loving dedication of their Adrian Dominican Sisters along with lay teachers and parents. The 171 years have seen the Faith grow through the good and difficult times.
As St. Alphonsus- St. Clement Parish has witnessed the removal of buildings that over the years presented the site and opportunity for extraordinary growth in parishioners young and old, their love for their Catholic faith down through the decades presented the "soil for learning" and gave the locus for friendships to flourish. Courage and unselfishness were taught through athletics, drama, and a host of extracurriculars celebrated and enjoyed in these buildings. Unselfish service was lived by clergy and religious who exemplified the Christian call to serve one's neighbor. In its first century from 1852 - 1952, forty-two women entered religious life and over thirty young men stepped forward to be ordained to the priesthood.
The buildings are gone but not the memories. Changes are difficult but should not deter us from moving forward. Our incredibly beautiful church stands as a stunning statement of and what we represent. Today the church will now be visible from the corner of Warren and Schaefer. No doubt some citizens of Dearborn have never seen it before. The planning for the development of the site involves multiple phases, conditions and approvals.
The parking lot upgrade will be the first phase. Please note that the site will not be a public park but rather a reverent space honoring our heritage. Our vision for a Heritage Garden will have fencing and a reasonable setback from sidewalks and streets. As with any property modification, the following summary of details may require limited modification as we proceed. We are committed to providing our parish and community a beautiful, peaceful oasis to celebrate and memorialize our faith and our incredible history.
Inside the garden will be a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and three children. Our Lady of Fatima has a sincere and reverent meaning not just for Catholics but also for our Muslim neighbors. On the site of the high school with be a memorial to alumni that served in the Armed Forces through the years. Special recognition of the thirty-four alumni killed in WWII will be honored with pavers along with the 1942 plaque recognizing the first graduation class with alumni serving in WWII. The cornerstone will also have an appropriate setting. Pavers honoring friends and relatives who are veterans will also be available.
On the elementary school site, the Knights of Columbus have committed to erecting a Way of the Cross for a year-round garden for prayer and meditation.
In the same area we intend to place outdoor statues of St. Alphonsus and St. Clement with appropriate landscaping. On the corner of Gould and Schaefer we expect to have a memorial to the Clergy and the Adrian Dominican Sisters who served through years. Pavers would be donated in memory of a favorite Priest, Sister or lay teacher. Initial plans include using the convent entrance statue and as much of the limestone embellishment as possible.
The project ahead needs everyone’s prayerful support. It certainly needs financial support. There will be opportunities to donate memorial landscaping pieces and even “green thumbs”. There is the need to share the vision with parishioners and friends who have moved away but still retain their love for the church and her parishioners. Classes of alumni might become supporters of the parish with one time or sustained gifts. St. Alphonsus-St. Clement Parish stand in a unique position to speak about the past with inspiring voices for its future!
The area once occupied by the convent will feature the statue of St. Alphonsus that was saved from the front of the convent, with additional statues of St. Clement and St. Dominic. The area along Gould will feature an area where wedding parties can take their photos with the church in the background after their wedding in the church.
The corner of Warren and Schaefer will feature a monument dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. It will be built on a block of concrete that was saved from the foundation of the high school building. Stations of the Cross will be erected along the long curved pathway throughout the area once occupied by the grade school building.
The parking lot will be expanded to accommodate four rows of parking with additional parking along the south end. Two more rows of parking will extend through the center of the gardens.
A large open area is set aside for activities. A tent could be erected here for alumni reunions and other parish activities. The convent garage was retained for the garden maintenance equipment, electrical service for the parking lot lights, and a water connection for irrigation.
Memorial gardens for the alumni and veterans will be in the area once occupied by the high school building. A veteran’s memorial will be built on another block of concrete that was saved from the foundation of the high school building. The original flagpole was retained. The 1921 cornerstone from the high school will be featured in the landscaping.
Rain gardens will be featured throughout the landscaping. Opportunites to sponsor pavers, benches and other features throughout the gardens will be available.
November 2022 School Buildings Update.
The asbestos abatement was completed in early October, except for the first-floor grade school windows which were found to contain asbestos in the sealant around the glass. They will be removed after the fencing is put up. The demolition of the Activities Building, Convent, Grade School, High School, Library and Overhang are pending. DTE has not yet disconnected the utilities, and the contractor cannot safely begin work until this is done. Once the demolition is completed, probably early in 2023, the historic St. Alphonsus Church will be visible from Warren Avenue and Schaefer Road. Enhanced parking and landscaping will be addressed in mid-2023. A driveway and parking will intertwine within the green space with the vision for an Our Lady of Fatima Statue, Stations of the Cross, and memorials. Both Bishop Battersby and Archbishop Vigneron support the parishes plan for its property. All four parcels west of Schaefer Road have been sold.
Meanwhile, the parish and alumni have been working to salvage and find new homes for various items from the schools and convent. These include the following:
The choral risers, science lab equipment, various desks, and furniture to Sacred Heart School, Dearborn.
Desks, furniture, and more science lab equipment to St. Catherine of Siena.
St. Joseph Ypsilanti- file cabinets, preschool tables, preschool chairs, desks, chemistry lab equipment, bookcases.
Divine Child- stainless steel kitchen worktables, pizza oven, rack type shelving units, warming oven, misc. kitchen equipment.
Light fixtures and misc. furniture from the convent went to a local antique resale shop.
Habitat for Humanity-A number of closet doors and miscellaneous woodwork from the high school, grade school chairs and tables, for their resale store.
A clock, gym folding chair and P.A. speaker from the high school were given to the Dearborn Historical Museum. The door from room 207 in the high school was set aside for them.
Two doors salvaged from the convent were repurposed to create a partition in the church next to the altar for the livestream control station.
The black curtain from the back of the stage to Dearborn Theater.
Alumni Association, gym folding chairs (sold out), gym floor pieces, some tiles from the gym lobby, the blue stage curtain, clocks. These items will be for sale as souvenirs at a later date.
Various other items have been salvaged and moved to a storage location for future use or disposition.
Two sale events were held, in August and October, to allow alumni and parishioners to purchase desks, furniture, and other items salvaged from the buildings. Thank you to all the alumni and parish members who have helped with this effort.