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 Ste. Anne Catholic Church in Detroit recently was named a minor basilica by Pope Francis. This places it among only 86 churches in the United States to hold that title out of more than 17,000 Catholic churches.

Ste. Anne Catholic Church in Detroit recently was named a minor basilica by Pope Francis. This places it among only 86 churches in the United States to hold that title out of more than 17,000 Catholic churches.

Photos by Deb Jacques


Ste. Anne de Detroit declared a minor basilica

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published March 13, 2020

 Monsignor Charles Kosanke, the pastor of Ste. Anne Parish, exits Mass March 8. He was among the key figures who believed that the church should be named a minor basilica.

Monsignor Charles Kosanke, the pastor of Ste. Anne Parish, exits Mass March 8. He was among the key figures who believed that the church should be named a minor basilica.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT — Parishioners of Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church are celebrating following the announcement that Pope Francis has declared their beloved church a minor basilica.

Ste. Anne Church, named in honor of St. Anne, the mother of the virgin Mary, dates back to 1701 and was founded only two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his companions, which included two Catholic priests, established the settlement of Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit. The Ste. Anne Parish remains the second-oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the United States, with its current building having been constructed in 1886.

“As our founding parish, Ste. Anne was among the first fruits of a new missionary diocese. In the church’s designation as a basilica, it will stand as a profound reminder to all who visit of our continuing mission to unleash the gospel in our communities,” Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a press release. “We in the Archdiocese of Detroit are truly blessed by the Holy Father’s recognition of its historic significance to the city of Detroit and its importance to the liturgical life of the entire archdiocese.”

To mark Ste. Anne’s designation as a minor basilica, Vigneron will preside at Mass at the church and perform a reading of the official decree at noon Sunday, April 26.

Monsignor Charles Kosanke is the current pastor of Ste. Anne and was among the leading figures petitioning the Catholic Church to declare the parish a basilica.

“It starts by applying to Rome to be named a basilica,” he explained. “Ours was 223 pages, so it’s very detailed. You discuss the church, the history of the parish and the current state of the parish. The church is looking for two things. The first is it has historical importance to the diocese or archdiocese. The second one is that it is a place of pilgrimage where people travel to, to pray and worship.”

Additionally, to be named a basilica, the church must have an active pastoral liturgy celebrated regularly throughout the year, must be of an appropriate size and have a large sanctuary, must have historical significance where it is located and in the local community, must have an adequate number of priests assigned, must have a sufficient number of lay ministers, and must have an adequate schola cantorum of sacred music — possessing a choir that can perform for special services.

The title is given to churches around the world to denote a particular importance in liturgical and pastoral life, and a closer relationship with the pope. There are only four major basilicas in existence, and all are located in Rome; any outside Rome are minor basilicas. Of the 17,000 Catholic churches in the United States, only 86 are basilicas.

“We found out Feb. 12. I was ecstatic,” Kosanke remarked. “We had been working on this for two years, and I was hoping we would hear before Easter, and when we were notified, I was thrilled. It was a dream come true. The celebration is going to be April 26 at noon.”

Ste. Anne was Detroit’s only place of worship until the War of 1812. It was home to its most well-known pastor, Father Gabriel Richard, who authored the motto for Detroit, “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” — “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes” — after the Great Fire of 1805. Richard’s final resting place is at Ste. Anne.

Kosanke said the historical, cultural and ecclesiatical value of Ste. Anne cannot be overstated.

“Ste. Anne’s, given the age of the parish, represents the missionary roots of New France,” he said. “It was founded by the French settlers who came through Quebec, through Toronto and into Detroit. It also has the second-oldest collection of stained glass windows in the state of Michigan. We have one relic on permanent display and two others which are used in special services. … We average about 15,000 pilgrims per year and are the second-oldest operating parish in the United States.”

He said Ste. Anne is restoring its historic facilities and remarked that between that and being declared a basilica, it is a reflection of the efforts to improve the city of Detroit as a whole.

“Just as Detroit is experiencing a renewal right now, Ste. Anne’s is experiencing its own renaissance right now,” Kosanke said. “The broader context is very timely and providential.”

It is Kosanke’s hope that people will celebrate the legacy of Ste. Anne Church with him and take the time to explore one of the city’s most beloved sites.

“In the Catholic world, this is a big deal,” he said. “The designation is so rare, this is a privilege. It also puts us in a relationship with the Holy Father. We can hang his coat of arms as a result. We also are part of the network of basilicas, and it raises our national and international stature.”