Ste. Anne's Catholic Church
Seen from one perspective, no other institution is so interconnected with so many parts of Michigan history. The parish's earliest baptismal records go back to 1695. The first parishioners were Hurons encountered by Jesuit Father Jean De Brebeuf. The big Gothic Revival Ste. Anne's in Detroit's Corktown by the Ambassador Bridge began as the very same parish when the French government moved fort and traders to the site where they founded Detroit.
After Father Marquette discovered the soil by the mission was only six inches deep, unsuitable for gardening of any kind, his parish moved to St. Ignace. Then in 1700 the parish followed the combined mission, fort, and fur-trading outpost to the new French fort at Detroit as Cadillac founded the city as a potentially profitable real estate development for himself. This same peripatetic parish later moved back to Michilimackinac on the mainland, and then in 1780 to the island. By then the British controlled the fort, but Commander Patrick Sinclair needed the French traders to continue the fur business. He knew the French would follow their church, so he destroyed the old one at Michillimackinac.
The church interior was recently restored to its appearance from the time when wealthy summer residents remodeled it in the late 19th century. A three-generation painting in the apse shows the Blessed Virgin Mary, her mother Ste. Anne (the patron saint of mariners), and the baby Jesus, surrounded by oddly solid-looking clouds. Candles, a favorite custom with traditionalists, can be lit for a suggested donation of $1 and $3, depending on size.
In the lower level, a multi-room museum exhibit, "Images of Faith," tells the parish story, beginning with Jesuit "black robes" who professed poverty, chastity, and obedience as outlined in St. Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ. It shows how Presbyterian and Catholic communities here often clashed over missionary efforts. The parish broadened with the arrival of Irish fishermen in the 1840s. Artifacts include a brandy bottle (a flash point of contention between Jesuits and French officials, who used brandy in trading with native peoples), a reliquary, home altars, medals, and a 1730 Psalter. Wisconsin history buffs will recognize another peripatetic frontier missionary, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, venturing far from his home turf around Dubuque, Iowa, to evangelize on Mackinac in 1837.
A summer shop sells rosaries and more. Its two most requested items are Fishers of Men: The Jesuit Mission at Mackinac (a $10 book) and a CD of the parish register, popular with genealogists and historians. They can be ordered year-round from the shop section of the parish web site, www.geocities.com/steanne2000
The churchyard has benches and picnic tables for visitors. Takeout from Brian's BBQ just west on Main Street at Bogan Lane is a local institution. A monument commemorates parishoner and benefactress Magdelaine La Framboise, the wealthy French and Odawa trader whose home was next door.
As an active parish, Ste. Anne's is a year-round social and social service hub. In summer it's at its most diverse, with Filipino Masses in Spanish and long, musical 10 p.m. services for Jamaicans, who aren't actually Catholic. There is even square dancing here. Friday night brings a free dinner for island workers, served to them by church volunteers, with food contributed by Mackinac restaurants. Local people say the music after dinner is terrific.
Open year-round, with Mass at 11 a.m. Sun. In summer, Masses are weekdays at 11 a.m., Sat. at 5:30 p.m. and Sun. at 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday evensong is at 10 p.m. Wheelchair access: through ground level and elevator.
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