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This is what it sounds like when a neighborhood church closes

St. Henry’s in Lincoln Park held its first Mass on June 3, 1923 and its last Mass on March 2, 2014.

At the end of the church’s final Mass, parish members took the most important objects and walked them out the door.

The holy oils were carried by five members of the Olive family. Jackie and Bill Balmes carried out the marriage registry (they’ve been married for 65 years). Four men, including Jim Bomia and his two grandsons, lifted the crucifix off the wall (it weighed several hundred pounds), and walked it down the aisle and out the door.

Many of the items will be relocated to Christ the Good Shepard Catholic Church in Lincoln Park, on the other side of town. That’s the church St. Henry’s will consolidate with.

After the service, at the Knights of Columbus hall in Lincoln Park, Bomia said it was an emotional experience carrying out the crucifix. “I don’t think there were too many dry eyes in the whole church.”  

St. Henry’s closed its doors after 91 years. It was the church my mother and her siblings grew up in. It was a classic neighborhood church, sandwiched in between people’s houses. Generations attended its school, volunteered in its many programs, and worshiped there.

Frank Grzebyk grew up in Lincoln Park but now lives near Kalamazoo. He came to St. Henry’s last service to say goodbye.

“We’re going to lose an old friend. Somebody that cared about the neighborhood and the people in it.”

This Lincoln Park church struggled with the three things so many Catholic churches are grappling with these days: poor attendance, lack of funds, and a shortage of priests.

My aunt Paige Kovach flew in from Maryland for this event. She says St. Henry’s was a place of refuge for many people in the neighborhood.

“This was a staple of my childhood. I don’t have my parents’ home anymore. Both of my parents were buried out of this church," she said. "It’s a significant piece of my life."

The Archdiocese of Detroit had 347 parishes in metro Detroit during its peak in 1980. Today, it has 238. 

The St. Henry’s building is currently up for sale.

Kyle Norris is from Michigan and spent ten years as a host and reporter with Michigan Radio, the state’s largest NPR-affiliate. He lives in Seattle and works as a substitute host and producer at KNKX.
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