Building the Parish

At its dedication September 28, 1948 the original church accommodated 450 people. A ceramic depiction of the Good Shepherd, designed by Sr. Helene of Sienna Heights, marked the entrance. In 1954 with 2,000 families registered and the church overflowing, the need for a larger place of worship was undeniable. With the parish expanding so quickly the plan called for a temporary church, to be eventually used as a gymnasium when yet another, permanent edifice would be built. With a budget of nearly $250,000 work was underway on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1955. The planned large glass windows were downsized in April when vandals broke four windows in the school resulting in $500 damage. The first Mass was celebrated in the church September 4, 1955. The first air-conditioned Sunday was June 24, 1956.

Fr. Torzewski commissioned artist Jean Charlot to paint an interpretation of the Twenty third psalm, the Good Shepherd psalm. Mr. Charlot described his work, “The Christians are represented by the lambs that are under the care of the Shepherd…the valley of death is suggested by lambs lost in the thorn bushes. The means are shown by two angels. One carries Veronica’s veil…suggesting that our suffering can be done in union with the Passion. The other angel with a chalice, suggests how the Eucharist will take us out of the valley of death, into the fullness of grace.” Fresco, an old world craft, is painting on fresh lime mortar. Just as artisans did in the twelfth century, Mr. Charlot drew the images on paper, then etched them into the wall. The colors were all ground by hand in water before they were applied. The work began December 10th and was completed by Christmas 1955.

The pipe organ was obtained in 1961 for $5,000, the cost of moving and assembling it. The Austin Organ, with 16 ranks, was originally in the Christ Episcopal Church in Detroit, then moved to a church Mrs. Henry Ford had built on the Ford Fairlane Estate. Mr. John McKenzie, the first full time church organist, watched over the painstaking installation. The pipes are situated in the sacristy at the left side of the altar. The blower is in the basement under the stairway.

The statues of Mary and Joseph, hand carved in Italy, were placed in the church in 1981. The present altar was obtained from Mt. Carmel in Wyandotte. The Stations of the Cross, designed by Melville Steinfels of Sienna Heights, are from the original Church. Over the years the church was repainted, recarpeted, and refurbished. The altar top and tabernacle stand were created by parishioner Mieczyslaw Pawlowski out of wood from pews no longer needed. A new lobby/gathering space was built in 1992. In short, the Church has been stripped of its temporary designation. It is our permanent, long-standing Church.

The house at 1526 Riverbank served as the first rectory. In 1951 the parish bought the Grucharcz-Zirkoloso family home for $16,000 and spent another $40,000 on an addition. It still serves as the parish rectory. The house at 1526 Riverbank was then moved across the street to serve as a temporary convent.

Two thousand eleven homes were built in Lincoln Park during 1949. The parish tripled in size and the need for a school was evident. The Archdiocese loaned the parish $170,000 to construct a school and work began April 4, 1950. Ten classrooms were erected to house grades one through eight. In 1952 eight more classrooms were added, followed by another eight in 1956 and six more in 1961 as the grade school population grew by leaps and bounds.

Construction of the convent began in December 1959. The plans called for 32 cells. To keep costs down 18 were completed and 14 built in shell form to be completed at a later date. In the midst of an economic recession and financial woes the project was almost aborted in 1958. A parish festival bailed out the project and the sisters moved into their new home in time for Thanksgiving. As the number of Sisters declined in the 1980s, the convent was utilized for parish functions, like the preschool program and computer classes for the school children. In 1991 the building was converted to the Parish Center, a place for meetings, ministry, and fellowship. Hundreds of meetings and parish gatherings a year are now able to utilize this re-furbished space, including our high school Youth Group who have fixed up the basement area for their own use.

Forty acres of land on Northline Road near Interstate 75 was purchased as the site for a high school, initially a joint venture between Good Shepherd and St. Pius parishes. In July 1964 the Archdiocese gave permission to build Aquinas High School. A fund drive was organized as the cost of constructing and equipping the new facility was estimated at $2,000,000. Ground breaking occurred November 14, 1965. Fr. Edward Scheuerman, the first principal, with a staff of ten teachers welcomed the first students in 1966. In 1970 the first class graduated from Aquinas Catholic High School. 1997 saw the graduation of its 28th class.