Most Holy Redeemer Church (Detroit, Michigan)

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Most Holy Redeemer Church
Holy Redeemer Church (Detroit) 2.jpg
Location1721 Junction Street
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates42°19′2″N 83°6′7″W / 42.31722°N 83.10194°W / 42.31722; -83.10194Coordinates: 42°19′2″N 83°6′7″W / 42.31722°N 83.10194°W / 42.31722; -83.10194
ArchitectDonaldson and Meier
Architectural styleRenaissance Revival
Part ofWest Vernor-Junction Historic District (#02001503)
MPSWest Vernor Highway Survey Area, Detroit, Michigan MPS
Added to NRHPDecember 12, 2002
Most Holy Redeemer Church Sanctuary

The Most Holy Redeemer Church is located at 1721 Junction Street in Southwest Detroit, Michigan, within the West Vernor-Junction Historic District.[1] The church was once estimated as the largest Roman Catholic parish in North America.[1][2] West Vernor-Junction Historic District is adjacent to Mexicantown and contains a growing Mexican community and resurgent neighborhoods.


The parish was founded in 1880[3] by Redemptorist father Aegidius Smulders, a former chaplain in the Confederate army.[4] Initially the parish served a congregation predominately of Irish immigrants, many of whom worked in the tobacco factories. Services were held at first, above Patrick Ratigan's general store on West Jefferson Avenue and later in what was then known as Paddy McMahon's Saloon. Church services were held on the first floor, while the second served as a residence for priests,[5] the first church building, a wood frame structure designed by Redemptorist Brother Thomas, and known as the Little Church on Sand Hill, was dedicated in 1881. A second larger Gothic style church was built in 1896 during the tenure of pastor Benedict Neithart.

As Irish and German residents moved to the suburbs, people of Latin American descent from the Corktown area of Detroit took their place.[5] A mass in Spanish was instituted in 1960; in 1999, The Redemptorists turned the parish over to the Archdiocese of Detroit.[4] The parish school was started by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1882.[6] Sisters of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) arrived at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in August 2017 to work in the school and serve the parish.[7] SOLT Seminarians are also in residence at the parish, studying at the nearby Sacred Heart Major Seminary.


Built in 1921, the present church and was dedicated on April 1, 1923. Designed by the firm of Donaldson and Meier, it was constructed in the Roman basilica style with a Romanesque façade, the church seats about 1,400.[4] A campanile was constructed around 1924 in memory of parishioners who died in World War I.[8]

The stained glass double lancet aisle windows were designed by Charles Jay Connick, those in the south aisle depict the parables of Jesus, those on the north side, the miracles. The clerestory windows are by the Detroit Stained Glass works,[8] the Pewabic mosaic floor tile is by Mary Chase Perry Stratton.[9]


The parish contains a longstanding elementary school, along with the Detroit Cristo Rey High School, which has operated since 2008 at the location of the former Holy Redeemer High School.[10]

As in the other Southwest Detroit neighborhoods, such as Springwells Village, West Vernor Highway is the main commercial thoroughfare. Churches, parks, recreation centers, and theaters anchor neighborhoods such as the West Vernor-Junction intersection that Holy Redeemer parish dominates.

In popular culture[edit]

The Hollywood movie The Rosary Murders (1987), starring actor Donald Sutherland, prominently featured the church and the neighborhood.

In an uncredited role, Detroit native and musician Jack White is seen as an altar server in the church.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Most Holy Redeemer Parish History. Retrieved on April 15, 2009.
  2. ^ Most Holy Redeemer Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  3. ^ "Mass Mob at Most Holy Redeemer in Detroit welcomes all", Detroit Free Press, April 15, 2016
  4. ^ a b c Collum, Marla O. "Most Holy Redeemer, Roman Catholic", Detroit's Historic Places of Worship, chap.28, Wayne State University Press, 2012
  5. ^ a b "Most Holy Redeemer Church", The Pluralism Project, Harvard University, 2006
  6. ^ Vinyard, JoEllen McNergney. For Faith and Fortune: The Education of Catholic Immigrants in Detroit, 1805-1925, University of Illinois Press, 1998, ISBN 9780252067075 p. 62
  7. ^ Dorweiler, Karla. "SOLT sisters arrive in southwest Detroit hoping to make an impact.", The Michigan Catholic, November 1, 2017
  8. ^ a b Tutag, Nola Huse and Hamilton, Lucy. "Holy Redeemer Church", Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1987 ISBN 9780814318751
  9. ^ Kirkham, Pat. Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000, Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN 9780300093315, p. 349
  10. ^ Cristo Rey ready to 'rise'. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Godzak, Roman (2000). Archdiocese of Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738507972.
  • Godzak, Roman (2004). Catholic Churches of Detroit (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738532355.
  • Godzak, Roman (2000). Make Straight the Path: A 300 Year Pilgrimage Archdiocese of Detroit. Editions du Signe. ISBN 2746801450.
  • Tentler, Leslie Woodcock with forward by Edmund Cardinal Szoka (1992). Seasons of Grace: A History of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0814321062.
  • Tutag, Nola Huse with Lucy Hamilton (1988). Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1875-4.