The Closing and Merging of Churches – I tried to attend a mass at my old church, Our Lady Queen of All Saints in Fraser, only to find it closed.There will be a few disclaimers and disclosures to this column / post. First, a little background…
I grew up in Fraser WAY back when and Our Lady Queen of All Saints was the church I attended as a child. I attended mass with my sister and my mother there frequently, had my First Communion there, and attended Catechism there. It was about a block away from my house (like seemingly everything else in Fraser) and the church had quite a bustling congregation – at least it was in the 1970s.
Disclaimer 1 – I’m what you’d call a “Christmas and Easter” Roman Catholic. I don’t practice regularly, I attend church infrequently but very much enjoy going. I particularly enjoy going to Saturday masses and at odd times during the year when crowds are low.
I was feeling particularly nostalgic for my old hometown recently. Fraser reminds me a lot of a fictional 1950s TV sitcom town – VERY downhome friendly. A lot of people who grew up in Fraser feel like I do about it. If you ever run into anyone from Fraser, you’ll probably notice they can’t stop talking about it. There’s something all too innocent about it.
Anyway, I hadn’t been back to my old church in a long time so I thought I’d attend a Saturday mass there like I did when I was a kid. It would be a nice change of pace from my current Rochester Hills church service. I googled the church website & called the answering machine for mass times. During my Google search for the church I also noticed the church’s facebook page and checked it out after I made my phone call just to make sure the mass times lined up with what was said on the recording. I was stunned to see a post/photo gallery called Last Mass/Closing of the Books! Our Lady Queen of All Saints is closed? There were no other announcements or details. Just a bunch of pics with a short scripture quote from Romans 8:28, 37-39. I was stunned and profoundly saddened. I wondered… How could a church CLOSE for business?
I wanted to see what was going on. I decided to make the trek to Fraser on my motorcycle to check it out. Hopefully the facebook post was something I didn’t quite understand and mass would be taking place at 4p like the recording had told me. The concept of closing and merging of churches in Michigan was something I was completely unaware and naive of.
Quick Google searches on Our Lady Queen of All Saints pointed to articles dating back to through last year point to churches in that area of Macomb County struggling in attendance and discussions of merging. (Source 1) (Source 2). Later posts on the Our Lady facebook timeline reveal that the struggling churches are indeed merging to form St Pio this month. It has been reported that many of the actual church buildings will still actually be in use – just with a new Pastor and new mass times. People (including Pastors and other religious staff) have been let go. The names of the churches affected by the merger are no more.
Disclaimer 2 – This column isn’t necessarily about Catholicism or any particular religion. I’m not here to preach and feel I have no right to discuss the trends of any religion. As stated, I’m certainly not the best Catholic around. It’s just a post about what happens when an entire church skips town or is forced to be lumped into a new group of parishioners. Admittedly, this column is probably just more for me at this point.
I arrived to an empty parking lot. The phone message I had heard was obviously a dated recording and there would be no 4p mass. It was depressing. Even more depressing was that cars would pull up for Saturday mass as they always had and were no doubt left wondering what was happening.
Our Lady Queen of All Saints Pics
So, what happens to the congregation and a church when there is no more church? In the case of Our Lady, the flock will have to make do with a new name, some tweaks to their routine and a new Pastor. In the cases of other local churches, there is simply no more church. I would imagine local Catholic leaders would like to think the flock would simply find another shephard and move forward. But, I doubt it will be that easy for most. People have so much invested emotionally when it comes to the place they were raised to worship at. If I still lived in Fraser, I’m not sure what I would do or where I would turn.
I feel great sorrow for those that loved Our Lady Queen of All Saints (and the other churches affected). Even as an outsider who moved away long ago and hasn’t attended a mass there in years, I’m saddened. I guess sometimes you can’t go home.
The grounds at Our Lady Queen of All Saints still have a beautifully-flowered shrine to the Virgin Mary complete with memorial bricks and benches honoring generous donors who purchased these memorial pieces as trinkets to honor parishioners that have passed on. I’m hoping those that donated and enjoy the shrine can take solace that the shrine and church building itself shall remain – at least for now.