KENTWOOD, Mich.–On Sunday, parishioners of Saint Mary Magdalen Catholic Church packed into a room inside the former Kentwood mall for Easter Mass.
For the past 9 months, their place of worship has been in transition.
“The difficult part was in logistics, ” explains Father Godfrey Onyekwere.
“A few days ago we tripped the smoke detectors with our incense because of the low ceilings. It wasn’t pretty and it brought back memories, not good ones, but a reminder of what has happened to us,” he said.
In July, a fire destroyed the historic church on 52nd Street, nearly burning it to the ground. A cross was saved, but not much else.
“After 40 some years you take that part away from you and you miss it an awful lot,” said longtime church member Joe Saladino.
Parishioners say for months there was a lingering sadness about the lost building and all the memories created there. Some even stopped going to the temporary location for worship. However, church leaders believe the situation has united the parish in the effort to rebuild and they’re getting closer to that goal.
“Today we announced that we have been able to raise $1.32 million in pledges, so we have under $400,000 to go,” said Father Godfrey.
Even the youngest of members are behind the fundraising effort. Posters created by the children of the parish with handwritten messages asking for donations hang on the walls of the temporary sanctuary.
“We are appreciative of all the people who have come to our help and pouring in support and prayers,” Godfrey said.
The parish has plans to begin construction in July with insurance covering some of the cost. Church leaders are currently working with contractors and the city to finalize permits and details.
Church members say it is an exciting time and the parish of Saint Mary Magdalen is stronger than ever.
“Our church wasn’t just a building, we are a community,” said Joe Saladino.