Alumnus heads new basilica in Detroit

DETROIT, Mich. - For Monsignor Chuck Kosanke the news that his parish, Ste. Anne de Detroit, was named a minor basilica, was both thrilling and humbling. 

“This designation is very rare,” said Kosanke, a De La Salle Collegiate alumnus from 1977. “There are 17,000 churches in the United States, and we are now No. 86.”

However, the global coronavirus pandemic has suspended the planned dedication for next month. 

Worldwide, approximately 1,700 churches hold the basilica designation. Ste. Anne’s is the second parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit to be named a basilica; the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak received the designation in 2015. St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids was named a basilica in 1980. 

“This is a great affirmation of our mission, and will help us continue our mission in the future,” Kosanke said. “I feel really humbled and happy that Ste. Anne has been recognized.” 

Kosanke hopes the basilica designation will help with fundraising efforts for a new roof, a new HVAC system, and furnace, and work on the exterior walls. He says the $25 million restoration project is organized into three phases, with interior work in Phase 2, and redoing the plaza in front of the church in Phase 3. 

The basilica designation was a lengthy process, sparked by a visit to the parish three years ago by the Sistine Chapel Choir. When Pope Francis reviewed the choir’s itinerary, he noted the concert would be free. The choir director told Kosanke how touched the Pope was. Kosanke then decided to start the process to become a basilica. 

Ste. Anne Parish, which today sits in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit, was founded in 1701 by French

Requisite materials included historical documentation, photographs, and information about the parish’s ministries, all norms established in a 1989 Vatican document. 

Kosanke presented the materials to Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who forwarded the application to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in July 2018. From there, the conference sent the materials to the Vatican. Vigneron received a favorable reply last January. 

Originally a church that served the French-speaking Catholic population of Detroit, Ste. Anne now serves the Hispanic population in southwest Detroit and has nearly 600 families in its congregation. Ste. Anne hosts more weddings than any parish in the city and has become a stop on bicycle tours through Detroit’s historic districts. 

Kosanke says Mass in English and Spanish; during the coronavirus crisis, Masses are streamed from the parish website. He also serves as the pastor of adjacent Holy Trinity parish, founded in 1834, in the adjacent Corktown neighborhood, which also sponsors a K-8 grade school as well as a medical clinic, legal clinic, and food pantry. 

Founded in 1701, the same year as the City of Detroit, Ste. Anne was the only place of worship in the city for the first 100 years of its existence. In addition to being the oldest parish in Detroit, Ste. Anne is the second oldest continually operating church in the United States; the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, in St. Augustine Florida, is the oldest, founded in 1565. 

The current Ste. Anne’s structure, built in 1886 in a Gothic style, features side altars, stained glass windows and statues, and a starred ceiling. It is the eighth building used as a church; the original church was built in downtown Detroit in 1818. Artifacts from the 1818 church, including the cornerstone, the communion rail, and statues, were installed in 1886. Father Gabriel Richard, who led the parish in the early 1800s, was buried in the 1818 church, and his remains are also located at Ste. Anne, in a crypt below the main altar. 
 

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