Who are we?
St. Blase Church was established on June 21, 1967 by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden with Father George Schrauder as our first pastor. Sunday Mass was celebrated at in the gym at Haitema Elementary school, now Bozimowski Center.
Our neighborhood was very different 50 years ago. Dodge Park was a two-lane road. There was a dairy farm at the corner of 16 and Dodge Park. Each morning and evening traffic would have to stop so the cows could cross the road from their pasture to be milked. Maple Lane was unpaved and even 15 Mile itself was only two lanes. This was farm country. Neighborhoods were only beginning to be formed. When we began, there were 224 families registered.
Our first church building was completed and dedicated in December, 1967. Colloquially, the style was known as a “Gumbleton Box” because many churches in the diocese were built in this same architectural plan. Our diocese was experiencing great growth as people moved from city to suburbs. The sanctuary area was at the far west end of our present building, what we now call Room 3. The sacristy was behind the wall, with its entrance where we now have a restroom by the west end doors. The kitchen was in our present chair storage door just outside our present Room C.
In late 1969 Fr. Schrauder left and Monsignor Gerald Flanigan was named as pastor. Sterling Heights was booming and so was St. Blase. Due to the phenomenal growth during the first seven years (from 224 to 2,234 families), the church needed to be enlarged. This expansion effort was dedicated on December 18, 1976. In addition to a larger church building, the parish offices were now housed in the rectory. We still use these rooms for some smaller meetings. The entrance is on the far east side of the building.
Our third pastor was Fr. Joseph Killeen who led us from late 1977 until early 1993. Together with long time Associate Pastor Fr. Ron Anderson, they guided the parish as it continued to grow and mature as a strong faith community. Under his leadership many new ministries grew and flourished.
In June of 1993, Monsignor Michael LeFevre was called to be our fourth pastor. During his pastorate, together with Fr. Tom Kirwan, our last renovation took place, in 1999. Again, our community found itself worshiping in a school. This time it was at Stevenson High School. Architecturally, the Gathering Space was enclosed, we raised the roof over the east, west and back areas of the church and the choir area was added. It was during Msgr. Mike’s time with us, through our relationship with our sister parish, St. Gerard Church (now Corpus Christi) that we helped to found the Haiti Outreach Mission.
2003 greeted us with another new pastor, Father Randall Phillips. As with his predecessors, Fr. Randy continues to inspire us to live the gospel in new ways as our community grows, changes and gives witness to Jesus in our corner of Sterling Heights. The cows are gone, but the mission of the Gospel goes on. May we continue to truly be a welcoming, Catholic community where the love of Jesus Christ is learned and lived, sung and shared.
What makes Saint Blase Church unique?
There are perhaps as many answers to this question as parishioners. We are a parish that has been encouraged to dream and to make that dream a reality. For example, we were one of the first Catholic churches to host Vacation Bible School, lovingly called Summer Circle.
Why “circle”? Because for many years we have had small faith sharing groups, “circles” where parishioners grow in their faith as families. We also have numerous circles of women.
St. Blase is a community where all people, of all ages, can find a ministerial home. From children’s choirs to adult, teen lectors and communion ministers, children and adult ushers, if God calls someone to ministry, there is a place at St. Blase.
St. Blase is one of few parishes in the country led by a guitarist. While we encourage, welcome, support musicians who play every instrument, guitar has had a primary voice for over 20 years.
This idea overflows into our commitment to service and justice. Our tithing committee distributes funds quarterly to agencies and organizations. Parishioners work at local soup kitchens. We have had, for many years, an ongoing cereal collection for the Macomb County Food Bank. For many years, every summer MCREST (Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter) found a home in our Social Center and we continue to support the ministry in their new permanent residence. We were among the founding churches for the Macomb County Warming Center which cared for our homeless sisters and brothers during the winter months.
Of course, one of our most important relationships is with the Haiti Outreach Mission (HOM). Parishioners travel to Mirebalais, Haiti to offer medical, dental, construction and other support. We are honored to have assisted in the construction of St. Blase Orphanage in 2005. We are even more pleased that the building is no longer needed as an orphanage and has been re-purposed as a secondary school.
One important charism of our parish community is how justice and service overflow from our parishioners’ hearts. As we pack Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter Baskets, when we collect books for children’s libraries or supplies for their schools, make sandwiches for our homeless or collect funds for our neighbors who experience a fire, the outpouring of generosity bursts forth from disciples that seek to be wide open to God’s call and willing to share the blessings that we too have received.
We also make a commitment to continuing faith formation, from childhood through adulthood. We know that there is always more growth for us toward our God. Children and teens gather with their own age groups. Adults may join in two bible studies or a café (Catholic Adult Faith and Enrichment) series topic. Over 350 parishioners participated in our “courses” in Old Testament, New Testament or Sacraments.
All this makes us St. Blase. We are a parish that has a history of hope in the midst of trial and creativity in the midst challenge. We are a people bound together in love and the gospel. All God’s people can find a welcome here.
Prayer of Saint Blase
Through the intercession of Blase,
Bishop and Martyr, may God deliver you
from every disease of the throat
and from every other illness;
In the name of the Father, and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
June 27, 1999
Adam Cardinal Maida
Our Patron Saint
St. Blase was a bishop and martyr who lived in the late 3rd and early 4th Centuries. Although he belongs to our distant past his legacy speaks to our present. To a world, nation and church divided, Blase was a healer. For a world coping with climate change, Blase lived among and befriended animals. In an era that DNA testing has exonerated people wrongly convicted and some even scheduled for execution, Blase himself was wrongfully convicted and executed according the laws of the Roman Empire under which he lived.
The Roman Emperor Constantine had issued the Edict of Milan in 311, making religious toleration the law of the Empire. In all likelihood, word of that edict had not reached the City of Sebaste, of which Blase was Bishop, or the region of Armenia where Sebaste was located. Agricolous, the Roman Governor of the territory, sought to have Blase arrested because of his Christian faith. Blase took refuge in the back country. He lived as a hermit, making friends with the animals and spending his days in solitude and prayer.
One day a group of hunters came upon Blase’s cave. They were amazed to find the fugitive bishop kneeling in prayer and surrounded by wild animals. Ironically, the hunters chased the animals away and brought Blase back to Sebaste to be arrested. Legend has it that while he was being taken to prison a mother approached Blase with her young son who was choking on a fishbone. As Blase prayed over the child and blessed him, he coughed up the fishbone and his life was saved. Also on the way to prison Blase encountered a woman desperately trying to keep a wolf from attacking her pig. Blase, knew the wolf from his time in the woods and asked the wolf to leave the pig unharmed. The wolf ran off. The grateful woman visited Blase in prison bringing him two candles by which he could pray and read the sacred scriptures.
St. Blase was executed in February 316. From the two legends above came the popular custom of blessing throats on the Feast of St. Blase, February 3rd. Two candles (reminiscent of the woman’s gift to Blase in prison) are placed around the throat (recalling the lad choking on a fishbone.) The minister prays, “Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you be from every disease of the throat and from every other illness.” “Disease of the throat” is commonly taken to be physical, but it is more than that. It is the disease of using one’s voice to bully, insult, gossip or speak prejudice against others. It is the dis-ease we sometimes experience when we are reluctant to speak out on behalf of the poor and the voiceless. From the 4th century to our own era, the witness and presence of St. Blase continues to challenge us to practice more radically the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith that comes to us from the apostles. St. Blase, pray for us.