A Litany for Old St. Josaphat

A sad update to my November 18 post regarding the spire atop Detroit’s historic St. Josaphat Church, which sustained major damage in last week’s windstorms.

Things aren’t looking good for the iconic 112-year-old steeple, which will likely have to be removed permanently.  The steeple was seen swaying in the wind during the storm.  It now has missing shingles, certainly, but also appears to be listing, and the large golden cross at the top appears to be cracked.

Although no one has said this aloud, things don’t look too good for the church, either.  The cost to install a simple flat top in place of the steeple exceeds $60,000; and while generous donors may step up to assist in this effort, this is, after all, a parish which has had to consolidate with two other downtown churches due to declining attendance.

For now, the church building is condemned until it is deemed to be safe.  It will remain closed until at least early 2014, and worshippers are being instructed to go, instead, to one of the other clustered churches:  Sweetest Heart of Mary (down the street, on the east side of I-75), or St. Joseph’s in Eastern Market.  St. Josaphat has been a beautiful symbol of faith along the I-75 corridor; but with the loss of the steeple, and with its few congregants getting established at other churches, I wonder if this isn’t a little like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This week Detroit videographer Harry Arnold (Video by Detroit Drone / Horizon Film) visited the steeple utilizing a camera-equipped drone.  The drone cam offers some great close-up shots of the 200-foot spire, revealing the missing tiles and foreboding curvature.  There are also some expansive views of the neighborhood near I-75 and East Canfield.

And a sweet goodbye:  The musical accompaniment is the Litany of the Saints, a prayer dating back to the 1200s which is chanted at Catholic funerals and cemeteries.


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