Archbishop blesses expansion for Sacred Heart seminary

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 3, 2017

 Archbishop Allen Vigneron blesses the land purchased by the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit April 20, which will serve to expand the seminary’s facilities and improve and revitalize the local neighborhood.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron blesses the land purchased by the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit April 20, which will serve to expand the seminary’s facilities and improve and revitalize the local neighborhood.

Photo by Sean Work

DETROIT — On April 20, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron blessed a new property expansion for the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

For more than a century, the institution at the corner of Linwood Street and Chicago Boulevard has been a pillar of the Detroit community through good times and bad. Those involved in the blessing said this is a sign that the city is entering into good times. 

“It’s an incredibly happy day for the seminary, the neighborhood and the city,” said Monsignor Todd Lajiness, who administers the seminary. “Our prayer today is a celebration of what God makes possible. We pray he continues to let us grow and care for one another.”

A seminary serves as an educational and higher learning institution for those entering the religious orders in the Catholic Church. Vigneron said the current facilities are no longer sufficient to meet its needs, so purchasing the neighboring land became necessary.

“The seminary is a very important ministry for the archdiocese; it trains priests, deacons and lay ministers, and this expansion will aid in those efforts while contributing to the community,” said Vigneron. “We’ve worked very hard with local neighborhood organizations to ensure we’re in harmony with the goals of the community and to ensure they understand what we’re doing here.”

Vigneron led a short service on the property to formally bless the property and thank those involved in the project’s development. When it was over, a short reception took place inside the seminary.

The new land borders the grounds on its west side and was owned by the archdiocese decades ago. It was sold to other owners during the Great Depression to provide funds to keep the seminarians fed.

Those behind the expansion said this will be not only a boon for the seminary, but for the nearby community as well.

“Over the last year or so, the seminary purchased five vacant lots and one occupied lot and demolished the abandoned structure,” said Edmundo Reyes, Sacred Heart’s institutional advancement director. “This shows our commitment to helping the city and being part of the community. There aren’t many urban seminaries, and being one gives us opportunities to be part of the vitality of a city.”

The new property will be developed immediately to provide additional parking for the institution, as well as more green space on the land. Reyes said the seminary likely will further develop and build on the property in the near future, but no specific plans have been made yet.

“First, we’ve got to get rid of all of the blight, landscape it all and add parking,” said Vigneron. “The seminary needs more space, and this will give us that and add beauty to the neighborhood. What else we will use the land for is still being decided.”

Near the historic Boston Edison District, the expansion is another step in revitalization and redevelopment throughout the city.

“This (project) also shows our commitment to the neighborhood and will help residents by removing an eyesore and adding something of use to the community,” said Reyes. “Redeveloping land like this is a big priority for the mayor, as structures like this are a danger to residents. By eliminating a vacant building and unused land, we are helping deter crime, beautify the area and rejuvenate a historic area of the city.”

Nearby resident Gregory Stone attended the blessing and was pleased to see the changes being made. He has been part of the community long enough to remember when Pope John Paul II arrived at the seminary by helicopter during his Detroit trip in 1987. Stone was glad to not only see the blight removed, but to have the land be reused.

“It’s something we’ve been struggling with for years,” said Stone. “There was no money or manpower to improve these places that were sliding. Thanks to Sacred Heart, the demolition crew has started work and some good stuff is happening now.”

A theme at the blessing was that the expansion is a sign of strength for both Sacred Heart and the community in general.

 

“The acquisition of this property is a real sign of hope,” said Lajiness. “It will have a direct impact on our goals at Sacred Heart. It also manifests our commitment to the revitalization of the neighborhood. By clearing abandoned buildings, it also makes the community and the seminary both safer. For almost 100 years we’ve been a stabilizing force in Detroit, and we are in it for the long haul.”