Ss. Simon and Jude Catholic Church


32500 Palmer Rd. Westland, MI 48186

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What Ss. Simon and Jude means to me…


See what our parish means to our current parishioners. We hope that you will find them heartwarming and decide to join us at one of our weekend Masses.


"Community is very important to me. In 1959, I was only 8 years old when SS. Simon and Jude Catholic Church was created. The Johnson family was one of those charter families, who left the well-established church of St. Mary’s of Wayne to forge this new church experience in Nankin Township. During construction of the church, masses were held at Kettering Elementary School and I remember how a group of strangers were brought together to begin the work of creating our own Holy Place for worship, and by doing so expand our circle of friendship and create “our” own community, “our” own spiritual family, different from St. Mary’s, simpler, but universally Catholic. We started this spiritual journey “together in faith”.


I remember Father Arthur Oldani, our first pastor. I remember the Benedictine Priests and Margaret Clos who directed our educational experiences. I remember the Latin mass, the rituals, the communion rail and the absolute quiet of the Church, separating babies and children to the “cry room” to avoid distracting the worshipers. I remember Father Oldani celebrating the mass, his back to us, the Host hidden from view, and a liturgy that did not permit women to directly participate. I remember mother always rushing around at home at the last moment to find that little veil to place on her head, urging us not to sneak any food that would make us ineligible to receive communion. Abstinence was three hours from food, one hour from drink.


I remember when Father Andy Nieckarz came to Ss. Simon and Jude. And, well, he was certainly different from Father Oldani. Father Nieckarz was brash, and sometimes loud and opinionated. He was also a product of his environment. He came from a blue collar Polish family and loved the Polish people and worked tirelessly on behalf of displaced people from Poland. It was not uncommon for Father to sponsor a struggling Catholic Church in Poland. He was a blue collar priest working in a blue collar neighborhood. Altar boys remember the annual Father Andy trip to Boblo Island. Father was the Catholic Social Services of Ss. Simon and Jude. If someone needed support they would ring the bell at the rectory. Father Andy, most often dressed in his t-shirt, his fingers soiled from the purple ink of the dublicating machine, would answer the door, talk to the person, open his wallet and support their financial need. Father Andy and I didn’t always agree on everything, but our disagreements never impeded the spiritual bond that he and I shared. I was devastated when Father Andy died. And, I remember all of our time together, good and bad, with great fondness.


I was elected to the Ss. Simon and Jude Parish Council when I was 19 years old and elected chair when I was 23. Working with Norman Swope, George Clos, James Arble, Sylvia Kozorosky, Ted Burek, and many others we implemented the new policies of Vatican II. The Catholic Church and I were growing up. Our community was more reflective of the membership of SS. Simon and Jude. The mass was in English and the music was uplifting. Women were more directly involved in liturgy, Father Andy was quick to appoint women to be acolytes and extra ordinary ministers of the Eucharist. We came of age. My community changed. We continued our spiritual journey “together in Faith”.


SS. Simon and Jude was home to all of the Johnson family sacraments. My siblings were baptized, confirmed and married here, my brother Dennis’ and my mother and father’s funerals were held here. We shared these experiences with our spiritual family.
Nobody looks for hardship, illness or a life crisis, but few escape adversity in life. As unwelcome as suffering is, sometimes it drives us to ask the ultimate questions about life’s meaning. God often touches us during difficult times, and we come to understand that life is about more than collecting stuff or even surrounding ourselves with loving people. God breaks in through prayer, circumstances and other people who carry a message of God’s redeeming love. My mother died in 2004, yet every time I come to church or meet a parishioner in the community the discussion always includes a story about my mom, Rose. Martha Stopchinski tells the story of how my mom and she were in “a race” to be the first to have a child in this new parish and Martha had her son first. Others talk of my mother’s contribution to this faith community. How she tirelessly, to the point of her becoming tired, supported all of the fundraising events in the parish, the summer festival, the February dances. How my mother was humble in faith, and strong in spirit.


Father Gerry reminds us that Faith is not just about feel-good friendships. In fact, tested faith often pushes us to stand apart from the crowd and take an unpopular stance for the gospel. Still, living a Christian life isn’t about being alone. Being part of SS. Simon and Jude, a community with other believers, allows us to pool our resources and support each other. Sometimes the different personalities, political views and needs of community may feel like a curse. Working out these differences respectfully and lovingly is part of the work of salvation.


I am a community and disability rights activist. I know that no human institution perfectly cares for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized. We still have far to go to become a truly inclusive and caring Church, one that fully embraces the demands of Catholic social teaching. Still, the Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive social service network in the world tending to and living among the poor, coordinating aid in times of crisis, and challenging all members to live more simply and help their neighbors because that is what Jesus taught. And, SS. Simon and Jude is the pillar of support to the children, elderly and the disenfranchised in our Community. From the St. Vincent DePaul Society, Red Wagon, Dads Athletic Club of Westland, Norwayne Community Garden and the Norwayne Community Citizens Council, SS. Simon and Jude Catholic Church members have always responded yes to the question, who shall I send? Send me.
We are not done. Our work with the needy in our community in not complete. Our worth as a humble, loving worship community must be recognized and allowed to continue. We need to complete this journey, “together in faith”."


--Hank Johnson

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"What does SS Simon and Jude mean to me? That is a thought provoking question. I was not raised Catholic. I went to a Baptist church with my grandparents when I spent the night on a weekend. I also attended a Methodist church when I lived with my aunt and uncle. I became Catholic when I was preparing to marry my husband Curt. I did it because I had to at that time. It was important to him.

 

Through the years, it has become important to me. We started out at St. Mary’s in Wayne where we were married but after a change in priest, we came back to my husband’s home church SS Simon and Jude. Our children Laurel, Kara, and Christa were raised here and all three had their Baptisms, First Communions and two of them have been confirmed here.

 

In the beginning, they came because they had to, but now as young women I believe they come because they want to. I enjoyed the rituals of the mass, the set prayers and responses. I enjoyed participating in all the activities that our church as had through the years but I don’t think my spiritual journey truly began till Father Gerry came shortly after my second daughter was born.

 

I enjoy the homilies that Father Gerry relates to our current lives, to our world around us. He challenges us to be a disciple of God by what we say and do every day. Our stewardship begins with how we treat ourselves and those around us. What can we do to make things better for someone else?? Are we going to accept the status quo in the Catholic church or work to make things better for all those who want to enjoy the sacraments the church provides??

 

Ss. Simon and Jude has become my extended family that I am eternally grateful for. Our parish family always is ready to lend a hand, send a card, gather food, or offer their help if your family is in need. We do this for our parish and for those in our surrounding community. Our St. Vincent DePaul is second to none. We truly care about those people around us.

 

I have participated in the Mother Cabrini Guild for many years, became a Eucharistic Minister, worked the door at Fish Fries, donated clothing for our Right To Life Baby Shower benefiting the Denby Center or Wee Care. We did a 50/50 at our last Christmas Party with proceeds going to our St. Vincent DePaul. I have attended card parties, bought raffle tickets, and our family has brought in gifts for The Giving Tree at Christmas for those less fortunate. We donate to the monthly food drives. This is how our parish family has taught us and our children what being a disciple of God means. We reach out and help our fellow man.

 

I have recently been reminded of how loved and supported our family is when diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I have get well and thinking of you cards lining my doorways in my home, have had flowers delivered just because, and masses being said in my name for improved health. I have not felt this love and concern anywhere else I have attended church and realize how lucky I am to be here in this place at this time when I fight this disease. God placed me here at this church for a reason and I will be forever grateful.

 

I have had the joy of watching my daughter Laurel get married to her love Adam here among our parish family and an even greater joy when we got to share our first grandchild Arabella’s baptism last year. There are so many memories here for me that I pray our church will continue to stay open and continue to provide love and support for each other till God chooses that our doors are to close. I don’t think that time has come and pray that God sees it that way as well."

 

--Sharlene Frizzell

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"My SS. Simon and Jude life begins in September of 1960.  We had been attending Mass at St. Mary’s. We knew we were outside of St. Mary’s parish boundaries and had to join the new parish in the neighborhood, SS. Simon and Jude. So when I needed a Mass said for a deceased relative, that’s when I met Fr. Arthur Oldani.


I really did not know him very well, however, he baptized our first two children. By the time our third child arrived, Fr. Andy Nieckarz was our pastor. I remember him as the colorful guy that he was and he knew everyone by name, even if you were not very active in the parish, as I was not.


In those days, for me, it was Mass on Sundays and Holy Days and maybe Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The kids attended CCD, as it was called in those days, so aside from Mass on Sundays, that was my only connection to the parish. I do regret that! By the late eighties, when the kids were grown, I really wanted to get to know my parish and it’s people.


Soon after Fr. Gerry arrived, opportunities came up to join various activities. And I joined, and joined, and joined! First the RCIA classes and Mother Cabrini Guild, and soon after that lector, Eucharistic Minister of the Sick, and, oh yes, commissions and council. The current book discussion group is also dear to my heart. Even though I complain at times, I love every minute spent here at church. I have come to know and love so many wonderful people! SS. SIMON AND JUDE PARISH IS TRULY THE BODY OF CHRIST! God bless all of you!"


--Kathy Lancaster

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"In February of 1958, Jim, myself and our three young children bought our home in Westland. We attended Mass at St. Mary’s in Wayne, St. Raphael’s in Garden City our home parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in Detroit, or St. Kevin in Westland.


And then we were informed of a parish being started right here in our neighborhood – Sts. Simon and Jude. We were so very excited. Charter members, YES!!! And now we had another child. He was baptized in September of 1959. Our family grew, seven children, Jim and I.


I remember our wonderful Fr. Oldani – so very kind and personable!! Confession at St. Kevin’s. Masses at St. Kevin’s. Masses at Kettering School. Fr. Oldani would often time drive me home (we only had one car and Jim worked many hours). Our church was finally completed. But then, too soon Fr. Oldani was taken to a different parish.

We then met Fr. Andy, much different from Fr. Oldani. A good man/priest/friend to everyone. We were now adding a cry room and a social hall with kitchen. I remember Fr. Andy blessing all our homes and when he came to our home --- he smiled and said, “I will call this street not Grandview, but ‘Bunk Bed Avenue’!  Almost every Catholic on our street had 5-7-9 children ---so very many bunk beds on Grandview. Fr. Andy was supposed to bless our marriage on May 3, 1989. So we went to the hospital for the blessing. Fr. Andy died June 3, 1989. I remember his funeral, so very many priests, nuns, relatives and friends.


We then met Fr. Gerry, our new pastor. A young priest, we were only used to priests older than us. My Mom died August 9, 1989 and our relatively new pastor, Fr. Gerry, hugged me and prayed with me. When my husband, Jim, got terribly ill, Fr. Gerry came to the hospital on his day off to anoint him, just before Jim was taken by helicopter to U of M Hospital. Fr. Gerry came to our home (cutting a meeting short) to re-anoint Jim after he had died.


Four of our 7 children Baptized, 7 received Confession, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation at Sts. Simon and Jude. Curt and Shar married at St. Mary’s and came to Saturday Mass (perhaps a little tipsy) for Fr. Andy’s blessing. Eight of our grandchildren Baptized, three received Reconciliation, two Confirmed, our great-granddaughter Baptized almost a year ago and I pray I will see her receive Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation here at Sts. Simon and Jude.


I remember writing the plays for to “Heck with Winter” and from the Book of Genesis – “The Story of Creation” and “The Garden of Eden”!  What Fun!!! My only question will always be: “Why was I always the devil, and my good friend, Adeline was always God?” Now she is with God!


I remember our family Christmas reunions, our wedding and baby showers; some of my children’s wedding receptions in the hall. The ushers making ‘Mother’s Day Breakfasts’, the roses the ushers gave us. I could go on and on with such wonderful memories.

I remain thinking positive! I want to stay with all my friends, my families of Mother Cabrini Guild, the Ushers, 39ers, CCD teachers and Fr. Gerry. Please pray with me, because where will we go? Where will we enjoy donuts and coffee, fish dinners, Polish dinners, spaghetti dinners, card parties and more? Where will we go and remain as a big, happy family? Bishop Vigneron, where will we go and remain as one big, happy family?"

Sincerely with memories,


--Christine Frizzell

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"During the last four years I’ve made my social, spiritual and sacramental home at Ss. Simon & Jude Catholic Church in Westland. Doing so helped me to grow to cultivate a deeper sense of what it means to be an active, engaged and practicing Catholic right here in southeastern Michigan.

I did not think I would find another welcoming Catholic community after the closure of my previous parish in Southfield. I stopped attending church on a regular basis because the parishes I visited were not welcoming – how could they be with 3,000 or more families? What’s there to know about one person when you are one of thousands? But then I experienced the hospitality and warmth of Ss. Simon & Jude and found a new spiritual home.

But it goes beyond hospitality. It’s about the St. Vincent DePaul food drives and outreach, the Diaper Drives, the Little Red Wagon project, the Right-to-Life Baby Showers for newborn children. It’s also about the most wonderful feasts you could imagine: Holy Thursday Dinner, Fish Fry Dinner, Polish Dinners, Spaghetti Dinners, the After Mass Meals and Donut Sundays, as well as Valentine’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Card Parties. Add to that book clubs, speakers, interdenominational celebrations, scrapbooking and the NorWayne Community Gardening. But this is just scratching the surface of the kinds of Christian Service events this parish does for the Wayne-Westland community and how this parish lives out the Gospel every day.

It’s also a place where I’ve felt spiritually healed – and made whole. It’s a place where I’ve been treated like a person who can be trusted to be in charge of my spiritual development and sacramental life. There are not a lot of Catholic parishes in southeastern Michigan who have pastoral staff and parishioners who actually help each other... to bless them, heal them, forgive them… to be with them on that journey to the Kingdom. And the members of Ss. Simon & Jude don’t help just their own – they help others who have been turned away by their church… even if it is only for their last mass on the face of this God given earth.

If you want to merely clock your time before your time is up on planet earth – if you want to make a check mark next to sacraments each week and then drop your contribution envelop in the basket as you zoom out the door after receiving the Eucharist – then don’t come to Ss. Simon & Jude Catholic parish. But if you want to experience the possibilities of a Catholic church which welcomes everyone at every stage of their life– then, by all means, head on over, taken a moment to introduce yourself and enjoy your spiritual and sacramental life with us!"


--Robin Wagner

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"I have been a member of SS. Simon and Jude parish since its inception. Our family had moved to the area in 1957. We attended the first services, which were held in Kettering Elementary while the church was being built. My parents were founding members.


I remember serving Mass as a boy, along with my brothers. Fr. Niekarz had divided his alter boys into groups of brothers. In those days there were lots of new families from which to recruit these brother teams. We were considered so special that the Michigan Catholic featured us in a story. A photograph accompanied the story showing all the brother groups lined up according to age (I'll bet it's in the parish archives). There must have been a couple dozen boys that came from at least ten different families. We were definitely a family parish!


I moved away from the parish as a young adult, but returned after an eighteen-year absence. My return coincided with the arrival of Fr. Gerry, the new pastor, who had been assigned to us after the passing of Fr. Niekarz. Fr. Gerry was young and filled with fresh enthusiasm, which was exactly what I needed. He brought with him the challenge that we could think for ourselves. This seemed very Christ like to me. My impression was that Christ always taught by challenging people to think.


We built a new church spurred on by Fr. Gerry's vision. It was long overdue based upon our desire to grow as a parish. We needed that push to make it happen. The inevitable growing pains have further challenged us to pull together as a parish family.


While I still felt that SS. Simon and Jude was my home, I had to learn how to participate as an adult member of the family. I saw so many people involved in parish life that I naturally began to blend into becoming a contributing member, beyond the weekly contribution envelope delivered at weekly Mass.


Lectoring had been something I'd done in high school at St. Mary's Wayne, so I naturally began to do it at SS. Simon and Jude. Later, I joined the administration and finance commission. Then I joined the worship commission. As a member of these groups, I got to meet the people who worked behind the scenes to help make our parish work. Soon, I became familiar with parish council and all the other groups through which I found that I was really becoming a part of the parish family.


Recently, I've retired, and with more available time, taken on more roles in service to our parish. Again, my increased involvement has allowed me to see how much our parish relies on the members to do all the various tasks, and just how many tasks there are. It's rather mind-boggling. Our financial difficulties have made it necessary for us to use all volunteer crews to do our regular maintenance. Amazingly enough, the place is always clean and tidy. I can only vaguely remember the time when we had regular employees doing the tasks that we now do voluntarily at no monetary expense to the parish. Fr. Gerry never forgets to mention his appreciation for how hard we work.


All these years later I see the value of our little parish is measured in the life we live in fellowship with, and service to each other, and our presence in and service to our surrounding community. There is much life here, and at age 59, I feel quite blessed."


--Douglas Vega

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"I have been attending Ss. Simon and Jude Church for the past five years. From day one, whenever I enter this church, I feel a sense of peace, serenity, and hope. I feel at home. I know God is here, in the church and in the people.


I was brainwashed from childhood into believing certain things about God, the Church, myself and others. I struggled for years to find the truth. I was made to feel that there was something wrong with me if I disagreed with the hierarchy. It wasn't until I walked into this church that my eyes, ears, mind, and heart were totally opened and I learned to think for myself. I am not the guilt-ridden person I used to be --- I am much happier now. I was given the gift of the freedom to discover who God really is in my life. I have learned to look and be grateful for the positive.


The church is beautiful, the pastor always gives me a different way to think about what I thought I knew, and the parishioners are the most Christ-like people I have ever met. The surrounding community benefits immensely from their hard work, and they have fun while helping others. There isn't any project they won't tackle. There are so many events to participate in, and most of them include delicious food. Everyone is so friendly, warm, encouraging, caring, and accepting. I have faced a few challenges over these past five years, and everyone here has been so supportive and kind and encouraging (sometimes without even knowing exactly what I was going through). I love my Ss. Simon and Jude Church family! I am so thankful God led me here."


--Chris Dixon

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"What is church? This is the question I ask my Confirmation students each year. I get the standard answers, a place to pray, God’s house, a building for worship, etc., and until about seven years ago I would have agreed. I now know that church is so much more than a place of worship and spiritual enlightenment. It’s where I go when I need comfort and to give it, where I go to have fun and laugh, to learn and to teach, to give and help others. SS Simon & Jude is my home-a-way from home.

I grew up at SS Simon & Jude parish. Not only did I receive all my sacraments there but so did my three children. Until I went through a very rough spot in my life, church was just a place I went every Sunday for mass because that’s what my folks made me do; it’s what I always did. When I went through my divorce I didn’t really think it would matter to the community of SS Simon & Jude, but I was very wrong. They stood by me, supported me and helped me in ways that I can’t put in words. I don’t know where I would be without my family of SS Simon & Jude.

As I look back at my life growing up, I realize what a big influence the parish has had on my life. I don’t know where I would be without my family of SS Simon & Jude Church.

I have quite a few good memories of the people and functions that went on there. My mother and father were right to make me attend church and instill in me a faith that not only is spiritual, but one of family and community. Now that we are faced with the closing of the church I’m worried that I won’t find another family like SS Simon & Jude."

--Lydia Parmenter

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"My husband and I were active members of another Catholic church for years. We loved the people, the social activities, the choir, and the many opportunities to reach out through Christian Service. There was only one problem. We were leaving the church on Sunday feeling spiritually empty. Attending Mass was an obligation, and not a joy. We knew it was time to move on. We considered becoming members of another denomination, but knew that we would never be happy with anything less than mass and communion.    

During our churchless time, God was sending Ss. Simon and Jude members into our lives. They would talk about the card parties, the Red Wagon children’s literacy program, and the genuine warmth of the people. Last spring we decided to check out the church for ourselves. We felt as if we had finally come home. The sermons are always interesting. We walked away feeling spiritually refreshed and have often discovered a bit of history that sheds new light on old knowledge. We are not as active in the church as we were in our younger days, but we appreciate the many volunteer opportunities to serve in little ways. We also appreciate the wonderful website that lets us keep in touch even when we aren’t able to physically attend church. 

Ss. Simon and Jude is a church that celebrates all of God’s people. It is a church that helps us celebrate our daily lives and our daily faith. I am thankful that God led us here, and I hope that we will be able to spend the rest of our lives as part of this community of faith and love."

--Sandra Valovick

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"Thirty nine years ago, on February 24 1973, Father Andrew Nieckarz preformed a marriage ceremony. Gary Lombardi married me, Cyndie Lombardi. Since then we have had three children. They were all Baptized, made their First Communion, and were Confirmed at SS Simon and Jude. They were Alter Servers, Eucharistic Ministers, and PSR teachers. All three of them were married in the church, and between them have six children, with one more on the way. All six of my grandkids have been Baptized here. The oldest two will make their First Communion May 13th of this year. We have also buried four parents from this Church.


To say this Church has been a large part of our Family History is an under statement. SS Simon and Jude plays a huge part in our lives.  When we moved 18 years ago we could have picked another Church closer to us, but we chose to stay at our "Home" here."


--Cyndie Lombardi

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"Fellow parishioners of Ss. Simon and Jude. My name is Ron Cauvin. My wife Sue and I have been members of this church for over 5 years. Changing Lives Together has made me pause and ask myself, what does Ss. Simon and Jude church mean to me?


When I joined this church, Dr. Alan Knight asked me to join the choir. It’s been an honor to help the choir lead the parish in song each week.


I am proud to be a member of a parish that gives hope to those in need. Assistance has been provided by helping out St. Vincent de Paul, having blood drives, funeral masses and lunches, and fundraisers for unwed mothers. Just this past holiday season, our parish provided 82 dinners and toys for those in our community who would otherwise have none.


Please join me in sharing your thoughts of what this church means to you"


--Yours in Christ, Ron Cauvin

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