May 17, 2013

Eastpointe parish installs new altar as merger approaches

Saint Veronica ambo

The ambo at St. Veronica was relocated to a newly-tiled sanctuary floor using rose marble from the same quarry in Italy that supplied the stone when St. Veronica church was constructed in 1956.

When Rev. Stanley Pachla and lay leaders at St. Veronica set their priorities for the Changing Lives Together campaign at the Eastpointe parish in 2010, reconstructing and improving the main altar was at the top of the list. Responding to a plan to replace the altar and floor built when the church was constructed in 1956, parishioners responded with more than $145,000 in pledges to acquire a new altar, install new tile and steps, and reposition the marble ambo. Installation of the new altar, the ambo relocation, and the tile work was done by Boston Tile & Terrazzo Company of Detroit, which constructed the sanctuary and installed the marble inside St. Veronica Church in 1956. The new altar at St. Veronica contains relics of St. Francis Xavier, St. Paul of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Pius X, St. Catherine Laboure, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowski, and wood from the True Cross of Christ. The work was completed last August, and dedicated in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Byrnes.

St. Veronica was founded 85 years ago. A parish history noted, “They did not have a lot of money; however, they were proud of their Catholic faith and wished to worship God in a beautiful church. They were willing to sacrifice for their children and future generations.”

As the focus of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the new altar at St. Veronica is timely with parishioners from nearby St. Peter the Apostle, Harper Woods, preparing for the closure of their parish on June 30. The St. Peter church and land will be sold, and the parish will merge with St. Veronica to form one worship community keeping the St. Veronica name. St. Veronica will receive the proceeds from the St. Peter property sale.

Father Pachla has been pastor of St. Veronica for 16 years and has served as administrator of St. Peter since June 2012. “Last summer we set up a 12-person transition team and a joint parish pastoral council to ensure everyone was at the table to consider how to best utilize these two parishes, our several ministries, and our one pastor,” said Father Pachla. “The St. Peter parishioners thought it made the best sense to merge with St. Veronica and close their parish, which was a big decision,” he added. St. Peter was founded 60 years ago to accommodate the growing numbers of Catholics in the east side neighborhoods surrounding the two parishes. More than 245 households are registered at St. Peter, while St. Veronica has about 600 registered households.

Saint Veronica Changing Lives Leadership

Father Pachla with members of the St. Veronica Changing Lives Together leadership team.

“We had an informal meet and greet at St. Peter for the two parish communities just before Christmas,” said Father Pachla. “The St. Peter parishioners put up a kiosk about their parish ministries, circulated a map of how to get to St. Veronica, and we started publishing Mass schedules in both parish bulletins,” he explained. Additional joint parish activities are planned this spring. “Even though we’re just a couple of miles from each other, not many parishioners from either parish have been to the other’s church, so the more familiarity we can encourage, the better.”

As St. Peter parishioners prepare to relocate, parish representatives from St. Veronica and St. Basil the Great in Eastpointe have been meeting as part of the Together in Faith pastoral planning process to coordinate ministries and develop contingency plans should pastors at either parish become unavailable. “We’ve alternated confirmation sites between St. Basil and St. Veronica for some time, we have joint Bible study during Advent and Lent, and we do blood drives coordinated between the parishes, so there’s some familiarity among parishioners and we have a head start on future collaborations,” said Father Pachla. St. Veronica, St. Peter, and St. Basil are about two miles from each other between Gratiot and I-94.

Saint Basil Changing Lives Together

St. Basil Changing Lives Together co-chair Janina Jacobs (in blue) with Father Sulkowski (center), Archbishop Vigneron, and St. Basil parishioner Susie Barr at a campaign event in 2012.

Father Pachla is coordinating pastoral planning with Rev. Anthony Sulkowski, pastor of St. Basil. “We decided to accelerate our work together in the interest of the faithful at St. Peter,” said Father Pachla. “Ministries at St. Peter will find new homes at both St. Basil and St. Veronica,” he continued. “For example, St. Basil will host the St. Peter’s senior group and lifelong learning center, which will welcome new members from St. Veronica and St. Basil. Coordinating these ministries and opening them up to other parishioners has been healthy for all of us,” said Father Pachla.

Saint Basil Volunteers

St. Basil parishioners are regular volunteers in a Macomb County program that enlists the help of area churches to house and feed area homeless.

A parish pastoral council comprised of lay leaders from St. Peter and St. Veronica and has been formed, and other ministries are being combined such as ushers and youth groups. “If St. Peter was simply closed, none of this collaboration would have happened,” said Father Pachla. Some of the St. Peter Parish history will be preserved by moving statuary and other artifacts to St. Veronica. A Mass of unity is planned for July 7 at St. Veronica.

St. Basil is also investing in its facilities through Changing Lives Together, launching its campaign last year. Parishioners have pledged more than $198,000 to upgrade the parish social hall, install new signage, paint the church interior, fund new youth programs, and other projects. About 700 households are registered at St. Basil, where Father Sulkowski has been pastor since 2007. “We are already sharing faith formation between St. Veronica and St. Basil, and we’re considering starting a joint education commission for adult religious education,” said Father Sulkowski. “St. Veronica has a rectory and church while St. Basil has a church, social hall, and meeting space, and we’ll get the best use from our facilities by considering them as one,” he continued. “Our parishes have been anchors in Eastpointe for many years, and we hope these joint efforts will keep it that way for years to come.”

Updated May 2013

Changing Lives Together is a series of parish campaigns to generate resources to fulfill parish-developed plans and priorities. Learn more about the initiative in your parish.