Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Sweetest Heart of Mary Church

One of the more “holy cow” stories about Detroit churches involves the founding of Sweetest Heart of Mary, on Russell and Canfield streets.

A division had developed between sects of Detroit’s Polish population, and the Rev. Dominick H. Kolasinski was removed as priest from St. Albertus. "The fighting Polish priest" and his followers did not go down without a fight, however, and lawsuits, threats of excommunication, rioting, even a fatal shooting, ensued.

What the Free Press called Kolasinski’s Rebellion led him to establish a new Catholic church that wasn’t part of the Diocese. His dedicated followers — dubbed Kolasinskians — built him this impressive church, originally known as Sacred Heart of Mary. It was designed by Spier & Rohns and features stained glass windows by the Detroit Stained Glass Works. The price tag to build it was about $125,000, the equivalent of $4.2 million in 2023 dollars, when adjusted for inflation. Its cornerstone was placed June 5, 1892, and was dedicated Dec. 24, 1893.

For the ceremony, Kolasinski even brought in his own “bishop” — a controversial Wisconsin priest who, like Kolasinski, was not authorized by the Church to perform any priestly functions. Thousands came out for the spectacle. Kolasinski was eventually restored in February 1894, and things have been pretty quiet since.

With the church back in the diocesan fold, its name was changed to Sweetest Heart of Mary.

It continues to serve Detroit and hosts an annual pierogi festival that’s a rite for any Detroiter.