Last Mass at St. Ladislaus turns out to be its funeral service


By Charles Sercombe
St. Ladislaus last Mass on Saturday was likely the best attended in decades.
News of the church’s closing after Saturday’s Mass attracted hundreds of worshippers, many of whom had to stand for the two-hour service.
In many ways, the sermon of the afternoon sounded like a funeral service, and, in a sense, it was. St. Lad’s, as it is affectionately known, is Hamtramck oldest Catholic Church. The parish was created 104 years ago.
There is a lot of history packed into this parish. One notable occasion was when Pope John Paul II visited here decades ago, when he was still Cardinal Karol Wojtylo. Little did anyone know then that he would later be appointed Pope, let alone one who, in some ways, helped the Solidarity movement in Poland to topple that nation’s communist regime.
Monsignor Charles Kosanke said that, just like in the case of a death, those who loved the church will go through the five stages of mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.
Grief, he said “is at play when we close a parish.”
But, Kosanke invited St. Lad’s parishioners to “find a new home at St. Florian’s.”
For many, this was obviously a solemn and sad moment.
And for Patricia Fricke, 67, that was no exception. She grew up attending St. Lad’s. She was baptized there; married there; had her two kids, Janice and Jeremy, baptized there; and then, tragically, it was where her kids had their funerals.
Both were killed, while in their 20s, by a drunk driver who crossed over a median and hit them head-on.
“I have so many memories here,” Fricke said, fighting back tears. “This is a sad day.”

Even Hamtramck’s new police chief, Jamal Alteheri, was moved by the experience of the Mass, which was the first one he attended.
“When a house of worship closes, I feel as if a light beaming from the earth has disappeared,” he said, on social media. “All places of worship are scared and holy. St. Ladislaus Church is not holy for its architecture and design, but because of the all the holy things that happened there.”
So how did this day come about?
It was a few years in the making. In a nutshell, the number of parishioners fell off. Hamtramck was once home to about 50,000 residents, many of whom were Polish Catholic.
Over the years, many moved from Hamtramck to the northern suburbs, such as Warren and Sterling Heights.
With the dramatic loss of parishioners, finances also plummeted. It became too expensive to keep the doors open; to heat the building, and keep up with the building’s maintenance.
There were two previous negotiations to close the church, but, in both of those cases, parishioners were able to convince the Archdiocese to keep it going.
Finally, a decision came down last week to shutter the church for good.
The building’s future is not known, but it will be allowed to be used, for now, for secular purposes, but barring any “unbecoming use.”
Posted July 3, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *