Madison Heights parish completes merger, improves facilities and ministries

Bill Blaul
Special to The Michigan Catholic

Madison Heights — It was a challenging 2012 for the pastor, staff and parishioners at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Madison Heights.

Fr. John Esper began the year planning to launch the parish Changing Lives Together initiative and to achieve the parish target for the Catholic Services Appeal. He ended the year achieving success in both efforts while also welcoming parishioners from the former St. Dennis Parish, about two miles away in Royal Oak. Prompted by the retirement of the pastor at St. Dennis, Together in Faith planning accelerated faster than anticipated for the neighboring parishes, and Fr. Esper found himself coordinating a capital campaign in one parish, closing another, and providing pastoral care for a community of Vietnamese faithful who regarded St. Dennis as their spiritual home.

Members of the Changing Lives Together leadership team at St. Vincent Ferrer, which helped to recruit dozens of new parish volunteers in an effort that achieved most of their campaign goals less than a year after getting started.

Since then, the success of Changing Lives Together brought forth more than 100 new parish volunteers at St. Vincent, resulted in a new roof for the church building, an air-conditioning system for the parish hall, and the hiring of a part-time Christian service coordinator. St. Vincent parishioners continued their generosity this year, again surpassing the parish goal for the Catholic Services Appeal. As more funds from Changing Lives Together become available in the next year or two, plans are to put a new roof on the St. Vincent school building.

“We all feel very positive about Changing Lives Together at St. Vincent,” said Fr. Esper, now in his eighth year as pastor of the parish, founded in 1957. “Parishioners are pleased to see the results so soon, and we hope to get our campaign volunteers involved in other parish ministries.”

The St. Vincent Ferrer church building has a new roof, funded through a successful Changing Lives Together campaign.

“As the St. Dennis situation became clear, we connected our planning efforts with Changing Lives Together and put forth a clear vision for our future,” Fr. Esper continued. “It was really encouraging to see so many new faces involved in making phone calls and organizing the campaign.” Parishioners have pledged nearly $284,000 to the parish campaign.

St. Vincent, with about 1,200 registered parishioner households, has no parish debt and is now engaged in planning with St. Justin-St. Mary Magdalen Parish in nearby Hazel Park, whose two worship sites are within four miles of St. Vincent. A transition team with members from both parishes will soon begin working on a merger plan to be submitted to Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda by the end of the year. The former St. Dennis buildings and property are for sale.