The decision to request the new designation came after Pope Francis took notice of the parish's outreach.
The 319-year-old parish of Sainte Anne of Detroit will be honored this April with its elevation to the status of a minor basilica. Ste. Anne, the oldest parish in the Motor City and second oldest continuously operating Catholic church in America, will be the 86th church in the country to hold the designation.
Catholic News Service reports that the application was filed back in 2018, shortly after the parish was visited by the Sistine Chapel Choir, who performed at the church. Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor of the community, told CNS that Pope Francis was touched when he saw that they had not sold tickets, in order to make the concert accessible to even their poorer congregants.
“I was told by the director of the choir that when Pope Francis went over the itinerary to approve it, he was very interested that the concert at Ste. Anne’s was free to the community,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “We wanted the concert to be free so that anybody, regardless of economic background, could come and enjoy the pope’s choir, and the director told me how touched the pope was. “So, after that performance, which went very well, that’s when we said, ‘We’ve got to start this process (of applying to become a basilica),” he added.
The process required the church to gather “historical documentation, photographs of the church’s interior and exterior, and information about the parish’s ministries, liturgies and worship space” for consideration. All told, the application filled 223 pages when it was presented to Archbishop Vigneron. The Archbishop then forwarded it to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship and, pending their approval, it was sent to Rome.
While Ste. Anne’s distinction as a minor basilica will most likely draw more pilgrims to its doors, it will not take away any authority from The National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, the center of the Detroit Archdiocese. Msgr. Kosanke did note that prior to the announcement, Ste. Anne’s received about 15,000 pilgrims per year.
Now to prepare for the new title, Msgr. Kosanke said that he would like to start an effort to beautify the 133-year-old building so that its aesthetics can fit the new designation. It is his hope that the 575 families registered in the parish will be enthusiastic about the coming changes, lighting a fire under them to help him finance the repairs, which seem expensive. He said:
“The church will eventually be air-conditioned,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “And then phase two is the interior, replastering, repainting, refinishing the pews, restoring the organ, the stained-glass windows, cleaning them for the first time in probably its history. And then phase three will be the redoing the campus, including the plaza. So, it’s going to be quite a project that’s going to take a few years to do.”