WARREN — United in faith, two congregations combined to become one last year will celebrate the completion of a new grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside of Warren’s St. Cletus Church Oct. 7.
Beyond the dedication of a new place for quiet reflection and prayer, the newly merged congregations will celebrate the joining of two church families — and two cultures — at the new home for Our Lady of Grace.
Our Lady of Grace, a national Vietnamese parish, moved from Eastpointe to the former home of the St. Cletus Parish near Ryan and Frazho last year.
While the Archdiocese of Detroit officially shuttered the St. Cletus Parish in 2011 after 50 years, the church building at the site still bears the name.
The new Our Lady of Grace congregation is a growing combination of English-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking Christian families.
Eileen Campbell, a longtime member at St. Cletus who has managed the church office for the last 27 years, said there was a drop in attendance initially after the change was announced.
“Truthfully, we lost families,” Campbell said. “We are getting people back now. A lot of the families who had walked away are coming back now, because they see the beauty and the love of these people.”
Father Vincent Ninh has spent 28 years with the Vietnamese congregation now attending church at Our Lady of Grace, a national parish for Vietnamese Catholics that serves members in six Lower Michigan counties.
Ninh said a “natural anxiety” about the changes caused some to leave, but the congregation now boasts 400 English-speaking families and 300 families of Vietnamese descent.
That’s up from 200 Vietnamese families who previously attended church at Our Lady of Grace in Eastpointe.
Masses in Warren are offered in both languages. Members of both communities serve the church together through a vibrant youth group at Our Lady of Grace. Hundreds of children from both Vietnamese and English-speaking families were expected to come together for an annual Autumn Festival in the parish hall on Sept. 29.
The construction of the grotto is a result of a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the end result of $50,000 in contributions, and even more in terms of time and materials.
“We are celebrating not only the grotto’s building. We are celebrating the unity of the two cultures, the two peoples,” Ninh said. “We really want to keep up the property and make it a beautiful place for the surrounding area.”
The new grotto at Our Lady of Grace features a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary; a wooden bridge, benches, stone landscaping, and an altar, plus a pond with 80 fish, moved from the parish’s former site on Stephens in Eastpointe last summer.
The service before the opening of the grotto at Our Lady of Grace will begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 7 in the St. Cletus Catholic Church on Ryan, south of 11 Mile Road. A walk to the grotto around the church grounds was expected to begin at about 11:30 a.m.
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