What Ss. Simon and Jude means to me…
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
"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”."
"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
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."
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.
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
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,
Sincerely with memories,
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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."
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?
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.
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