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GOOD SHEPHERD CATHOLIC CHURCH
A petition of four hundred names led Bishop John Foley to establish Annunciation parish at Parkview and Agnes in 1906 to serve Catholics living east of Burns and west of Connors Creek. The church was begun under a building permit issued July 6, 1911, and was designed by Donaldson & Meier in the Romanesque mode. The building is in general very similar to the same architects’ St. Elizabeth and St. Anthony, both earlier buildings. Although a reference says that the first Mass in the church was in June, 1912, there is a photo from the Detroit News in January, 1913, stating that the church was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1912. The church was then said to be in the Romanesque style, and the exterior shows that influence strongly; it is somewhat unusual with small-scaled towers and a very large lantern over the crossing. The interior is more mixed, with classical influence. The chancel windows depicting the Seven Sacraments, as well as those in the body of the church, are likely of European origin (some say of Austrian glass).
The final work of the artist’s brush on a striking series of mural paintings by A. Z. Bellante, of Newark, N.J, marked the completion of the beautiful Romanesque Church of the Annunciation, on Park View Avenue, near Jefferson Avenue.
The painting and the other decorative work of Mr. Bellante, by which the whole interior was brightened and lightened, and the settings of the windows and pillars which are most effective, were finished in time for special parish services and the dedication on Christmas day.
This was the latest achievement of the congregation which in 15 years had grown from a little group of people who met their newly-assigned pastor, the Rev. Fr. James Stapleton, at a Mass celebrated in a private house, to a parish of 1,000 families, worshipping in a church capable of holding 1,700 people and sustaining a school and high school with 1,000 pupils.
The parochial buildings included the church, the school, the rectory and the home for the teaching sisters. Eventually, a gymnasium and a community center were built to the west of that group of buildings.
The church building, whose interior has been much admired because of the gracefulness of the arches and beauty of the stained glass windows, was begun in 1911. The general Romanesque plan is similar to that of St. Anthony’s Church (Detroit) designed like the Annunciation Church by Donaldson & Meier. The front of St. Anthony’s, however, rises in two pointed towers, while the towers of the Annunciation church are square and castellated.
As one enters the vestibule of the church, he faces the first artwork, an imitation bas-relief of the Annunciation over the inner door to the middle aisle. This is a copy of a medieval Italian work and is the only copied piece in the church. In all the other paintings, Mr. Bellante followed his own designs.
The opening of the door to the main aisle shows the rounded Romanesque unity of the cross-shaped interior, the arches rising in a color scheme of white and pale gold from rectangular side pillars crowned with modified Corinthian capitals. The pillars are of the hue and texture of Sienna marble. Between the arches on either side of the nave are medallions of the 12 Apostles—except in the arch over the choir loft at the rear—where on one side King David can be seen with the harp, and the other St. Cecilia at the organ.
The arches of the nave and the transepts meet in a low dome skillfully designed in the lacunar style, representing sunken panels. The design of the dome is repeated and balanced by the sunken panels of the rounded apse, or altar recess, within the sanctuary, and by the meeting arches of the nave and the transept are united in one impressive structure of grace and strength.
In the place where the arches of the nave and transept meet, four heroic sized figures are painted on the upward broadening curve of the arches: St. Matthew with his angel; St. Luke, whom Mr. Bellante has painted as a painter with easel and palette, and symbolical ox beside him; St. Mark with the lion, and St. John with the eagle. And from low niches at other points in this part of the church, four statue figures look forth, statues of the Sacred Heart, St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Anthony of Padua.
The roomy sanctuary has a baldachin high altar whose lines are in harmony with the architecture of the church. The rounded ceiling of the apse, with its series of sunken panels, bears in the middle, high over the Tabernacle, the chief painting of the entire Bellante series, a picture of the Annunciation, with the Blessed Virgin upon her knees beside the spinning wheel, the archangel Gabriel in a cloud saluting her, and through the open window a vista of the road and of the city of Nazareth. Beneath this arching roof, in the round walls of the apse, seven stained glass windows show in softened light representations of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic church: Penance, Matrimony, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction, with Christ at the last supper, representing Holy Communion, showing in the window immediately over the middle of the high altar. The other windows depict scenes from the life of Christ. The window showing Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple is particularly compelling, since this scene is not generally shown.
In completing his work, Bellante has not only carried out his own pictorial plans, but fitted all those plans into the general architecture of the church and also has put touches of effective art on the setting of the windows, the statues of the Stations of the Cross and other places.
Through 75 years, Annunciation had seven pastors. Until 1942, Msgr. James Stapleton - the founder - was pastor. During the next forty year period, there were three pastors--Fr. Thomas J. Carroll, Fr. P.G. McSherry and Fr. Arnold Q. Schneider--who shepherded the flock through Annunciation’s Golden Age. They were followed by Monsignor Wilbur Suedcamp, Fr. Valentine Gattari, and Fr. Michael Chidi Nkachukwu.
Msgr. Suedkamp served as pastor until his death in 1987. Fr. Valentine Gattari served until July 1, 1998, when Fr. Michael C. Nkachukwu became co-pastor of Annunciation and St. Anthony. Our Lady of Sorrows church joined with Annunciation to become Annunciation/Our Lady of Sorrows Church in 2000.
In 2006, St. Anthony of Padua closed its doors at Sheridan and Gratiot. Most of her parishioners joined with Annunciation/ Our Lady of Sorrows to form a new parish—Good Shepherd. Fr. Michael C. Nkachukwu continues as pastor.