July 30, 2012
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Changing Lives Together helps neighboring Detroit parishes prepare for their combined future

Volunteers at the St. Francis D’ Assisi Lenten Fish Fry. “We hope to have smooth merger and a bright future for our two historical parishes,” said Father Ravi. “May the Lord bless us and may St. Francis D’ Assisi and St. Hedwig intercede for us!”

For two parishes located less than a mile apart in southwest Detroit, Changing Lives Together is providing financial resources to address needs shared by the two worship communities. More than 370 families at St. Hedwig and St. Francis D’Assisi have combined to pledge nearly $200,000 through Changing Lives Together campaigns launched at both parishes in 2011.

As Spanish-speaking residents replace the aging ethnic Polish population in the neighborhoods around St. Hedwig and St. Francis D’ Assisi, Rev. Ravi Marneni, Administrator of the two parishes, has been busy coordinating planning efforts and resources, such as accommodating a shared and growing religious education program. Father Ravi is a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), an international society of apostolic life, and began ministering as associate pastor of the St. Hedwig and St. Francis worship communities in 2011. Since then he has reactivated the parish council at St. Hedwig, balancing the membership equally among English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parishioners, which sparked more collaboration and involvement among parishioners.

First Communicants gather after Mass at St. Hedwig Church on May 27, Pentecost Sunday.

The initial plans for Changing Lives Together funds at both parishes focused on building repairs, which are now under closer consideration as more detailed – and costly – estimates for the work are assessed and as St. Hedwig and St. Francis develop a plan to merge through the Together in Faith process.

“The exterior and interior of the St. Francis church building needs a lot of work, including replacing the roof and gutters as well as plastering and painting areas of the worship space damaged by the elements,” explained Father Ravi. “That kind of work gets very expensive for a building that’s over 100 years old,” he continued. At St. Hedwig, parishioners have given of their time and talent to repair and utilize space in the former convent building, but more significant work is needed in the church and rectory buildings. “We have two big rooms on the upper floor of the church that we want to convert into religious education classrooms, and we need to put up a fence to better secure the entire property,” said Father Ravi. “We want to be careful where and how we invest our funds because we want them to support ministries well into the future.”

Father Ravi with a full Catechism class of children from St. Hedwig and St. Francis.

The parishes are first concentrating on nurturing participation in sacramental life among parishioners, followed by parish ministries. St. Hedwig has been averaging about 400 faithful at Sunday Mass with 44 first Communion recipients this year. St. Francis had 19 children who made their first Communion. “A couple of years ago, there was no catechism program at St. Hedwig and the program at St. Francis was pretty small,” explained Father Ravi. “We now have 15 volunteer catechists and a total of 130 children enrolled in religious education programs at both parishes. We sent some of our catechists to Sacred Heart Major Seminary for training, we started baptismal preparation sessions for parents and godparents at both parishes, we’re adding to our ranks of Eucharistic ministers and lectors, and I’m hoping to grow our RCIA programs at both parishes as well.”

St. Hedwig was filled to its 2,000-seat capacity on May 18 when Bishop Hanchon and Bishop Cepeda celebrated Mass and conducted confirmations for candidates from several neighboring parishes in the Southwest Vicariate. More than 300 candidates received the sacrament of Confirmation.

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Updated July 2012 

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.