A History of Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church Warrendale
7685 Grandville, Detroit, Michigan 48228
Much of the area in which Ss. Peter & Paul Parish was founded was farmland in 1923. At that time, a rumor began to circulate that the Ford Motor Company would be opening a huge automobile plant near the Rouge River. Many laborers were working at what is now the historic Ford Motor Model T plant at 91 Manchester Street and Woodward Avenue in Highland Park. When they got wind of the rumor, many of them began relocating to the Warrendale district on Detroit’s west side. The Ford Rouge plant subsequently opened in 1928.
Many of the Ford migrant workers were Polish Catholics and were in need of a parish. In 1923, 40 families approached Rev. Adalbert Zadala of nearby Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish and requested direction concerning their need for a parish to serve them. Rev. Zadala put together a committee of four, who met with Bishop Gallagher. The bishop placed Rev. Zadala in charge of organizing the new parish.
Ss. Peter & Paul Parish at 7685 Grandville was formed on September 5, 1923. A small piece of land was donated by the Dow-Gilbert real estate agency for the construction of the church. That same firm was selling lots for new houses in the area. Bishop Michael Gallagher recommended that Rev. Zadala take responsibility for the new parish and that it be attached to Assumption Parish. Hence, a new parish of 40 families was born. A small, temporary brick chapel was constructed on Tireman and Warwick at a cost of $5,400.00.
The Warrendale neighborhood is bordered by Greenfield Road, Joy Road, and the Detroit city limits with the majority of its small bungalow homes having been built before the 1960s.
At one time, Warrendale was a blustering Polish community. Generally speaking, the main thoroughfare was Warren Avenue between Evergreen and Greenfield Roads. Along that stretch of road there were numerous shops, establishments, and businesses. Drobot’s, the Fireside Bar, Laur Hall, Pennywise, the Warren Theater, Warrendale Bakery, the Warrendale Community Center, and Warrendale Meat Store were just a few of the establishments that those in the Polish community frequented.
Conditions were difficult during construction of the new parish. Some worked in the local factories during the day and helped with construction of the church during the evening. But on December 24, 1923, the first Mass at Ss. Peter & Paul was celebrated at midnight by Rev. Zadala. Following its opening, the parish grew in size and number.
In 1924, Bishop Gallagher realized that running two parishes was not sustainable for Rev. Zadala. Therefore, he appointed Rev. Raphael Chrzaszcz to serve as pastor of both Ss. Peter & Paul and of the new St. Barbara Parish in Dearborn. That year, the first baptism took place in Ss. Peter & Paul church.
Rev. Chrzaszcz died in 1925, and following his death, Rev. John Hewelt became pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul. The church was relocated to the corner of Sawyer at Grandville. The first plots of land at that location, which would become the permanent site, were donated by Peter Zielinski. The church that was built on the site became known as the “little white wooden church.” The first wedding and first funeral were held in the church, and the Holy Rosary Society was founded.
In 1926, a four-classroom school building was added, which was staffed by four laywomen. The Ss. Peter & Paul Society was founded.
In 1927, Rev. Vincent Borkowicz became pastor. He would later become a monsignor. Teaching sisters arrived from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania, Ohio, and the rectory was built. Prior to that time, the priest serving the parish was residing at the rectory of Assumption Parish. A house was purchased to be used as a convent for the sisters.
The first Mission was held in 1928. That year, the Holy Name Society, the Apostleship of Prayer, the Children of Mary, the Young Ladies’ Sodality, and St. Vincent Society PRCUA were founded.
In 1929, the Ave Maria Society PWA was founded.
In 1936, Rev. Peter Rypel was named pastor of the parish, and he began plans for a new church. His term as pastor was short-lived.
Rev. Francis S. Gramza was named pastor in 1938. He served the parish for 30 years and was the longest pastorate in the history of the parish to date. The Auxiliary of Sisters of St. Francis was founded that year. In addition, a new building on Sawyer at Westwood was constructed for use as a temporary church. Many new young families joined the church during that time.
In 1939, the original church building was converted to classrooms.
In 1940, the Holy Name Society was restructured.
The Ushers’ Club was organized in 1942, and the school building was expanded to accommodate the parish’s growth.
After weathering the storm of the Great Depression, various activities were sponsored to help raise funds for the construction of a larger church.
In 1943, the new church building was enlarged. A second floor was added, along with 10 additional classrooms. Kindergarten classes began.
The Third Order of St. Francis and the Altar Society of St. Anne were organized in 1944.
In 1946, the Holy Name Society was reorganized.
The Boy Scout Troop was chartered in 1947, and the St. Francis Xavier Society PNA was founded.
The new convent was completed in 1948 and was blessed on February 12, 1948. Also during that year, the Young Men’s Club was founded, and the parish celebrated its Silver Anniversary.
In 1950, the church-school building was enlarged, creating a second “temporary” church. Six classrooms and a library were added. The Cub Scouts were chartered that year.
The Girl Scouts Brownie Troop was organized in 1952, and in 1953, the Girl Scouts Junior Troop was organized.
The new rectory was ready for occupancy and priests took residency in May of 1953. It would accommodate the pastor, his assistants, and a weekend priest who arrived from Orchard Lake to help. During the next 30 years of its existence, the parish increased to over several thousand families.
In 1955, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish was formed from Ss. Peter & Paul territory.
In 1957, the original Ss. Peter & Paul church-school building was razed. Ground was broken for the new, permanent church.
The Dads Club was organized in 1958, and the Orchard Lake Ladies’ Auxiliary branch was formed.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church took place on June 9, 1957. The new church, consisting of an upper and a lower church, was completed in 1959. The two-level, permanent church was built by the firm of Krieghoff for $987,815.00. On December 22, 1959, Archbishop John F. Dearden celebrated a Solemn Dedication Mass to bless the church. The first Mass was offered in the lower church on June 21, 1959.
In 1960, church facilities in the Westwood building were converted into classrooms and a hall-gymnasium.
In 1962, a final addition was made to the school building.
In 1963, six classrooms were added to the school. The St. Francis Guild, the Legion of Mary, and the Polish-American Retirees State Council Branch 4 were organized.
Rev. Gramza retired in 1968. Following his retirement, Rev. Francis S. Maliszewski became pastor. Adult Education and Pre-School programs were started.
In 1969, the Fr. Francis S. Gramza Activities Building was completed. The Worship Commission was formed, and lectors were commissioned. Church sanctuaries were adapted to Vatican II Council norms.
On June 28, 1970, the activities building was officially dedicated as the Fr. Francis S. Gramza Activities Building. That same year, the kindergarten was closed. The first Parish Pastoral Council was formed.
In 1971, the Administration Commission was formed.
Song leaders were organized in 1972. The Teen Club began. A Director of Religious Education was appointed.
In 1973, the Guitar Group, Youth Choir, and St. Vincent de Paul Society were organized. The Education Commission was formed. Special Ministers of the Eucharist were commissioned. The Parish 50th Anniversary was celebrated.
The Christian Service Commission was formed in 1974. Sadly, Rev. Gramza died that year.
The Roaring 50s was organized in 1975.
In 1980, the Women’s Guild was organized.
Rev. Maliszewski retired in 1981. Following his retirement, Rev. Richard Stieber became pastor.
In 1982, the kindergarten reopened.
In 1983, the school was renovated to become energy-efficient, and the lower church was remodeled.
Rev. Sigismund G. Kowalczyk became pastor in 1984.
In 1985, the Teen Club reorganized as the Youth Group, and the School Committee was formed.
In 1988, the Parish Center was established in the former convent. The congregation observed its 65th Anniversary.
A Parish Pictorial Directory was issued in 1990.
In 1993, Rev. Francis Reiss became pastor. Rev. Reiss has since been ordained a bishop and serves as an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
In 1998, Rev. Stan Tokarski became pastor. During his pastorship, the parish school was closed due to low enrollment.
Following Rev. Tokarski’s pastorship, Rev. Jaroslaw Pilus was appointed administrator of the parish and later, in 2012, was made pastor.
Former Principals who served at Ss. Peter & Paul School were Sr. M. Theodosia (First Principal, 1927 – 1928); Sr. M. Antonia (Second Principal, 1928 – 1929); Sr. M. Boleslas (Third Principal, 1929 – 1937); Sr. M. Isabelle (Fourth Principal, 1937 – 1943); Sr. M. Francis Clare (Fifth Principal, 1943 – 49, Seventh Principal, 1950 – 1967); Sr. M. Francis Regis, Sixth Principal, 1949 – 1950); and Sr. M. Victorine (Eighth Principal, 1967 – 1973, Taught 1951 – 1960).
Formerly Assigned Sisters who served at Ss. Peter & Paul School were Sr. M. Berchmans (Pioneer Sister, 1927); Sr. Julia (1928 – 1929); Sr. Mary Ann (1929); Sr. M. Veronica (1931 – 1934); Sr. M. Paschal (1931 – 1932); Sr. M. Leona (1931 – 1932); Sr. Mary De Sales (1934 – 1936; Sr. Mary Damien (1934 – 1938; Sr. Mary Cornelia (1935 – 1941) Sr. M. Rosewitha (1937 – 1939); Sr. M. Catherine (1938 – 1942); Sr. M. Marcella (1939 – 1942); Sr. Mary Margaret (1942 – 1956); Sr. Mary Sophia (1942 – 1964, 1948 – 1952, 1956 – 1967); Sr. Mary Angelita (1963, 1950 – 1957, 1964 – 1967); Sr. M. St. Paul (1943 – 1955); Sr. M. Louise (1943 – 1949); Sr. Mary Charlotte (1943 – 1947); Sr. M. David (1943 – 1946); Sr. M. Laurene (1944 – 1970); Sr. Vincent de Paul (1944 – 1970); Sr. Veronica Cison (Sr. Generose) (1944 – 1945); Sr. Mary Egidia (1945 – 1946); Sr. Mechtilde (1945 – 1948); Sr. M. Devota (1945 – 1946); Sr. M. Francine (1946 – 1949); Sr. M. Stephen (1949 – 1950, 1960 – 1962); Sr. M. Olivia (1949 – 1951, 1967 – 1969); Sr. M. Janeen (1949 – 1955); Sr. M. Seraphine; Sr. M. Delphine; Sr. M. Albina; Sr. M. Jovita; Sr. M. Isabelle; Sr. M. Frederick; Sr. Patricia Quinn (Sr. M. Kevin) (1951 – 1955); Sr. M. Terence (1952 – 1953, 1955 – 1957); Sr. Joan Jurski (Sr. John Bosco) (1952 – 1956); Sr. M. Gervase (1952 – 1954); Sr. M. Roberts (1953 – 1964); Sr. M. Rosamond (1953 – 1961, 1963 – 1964); Sr. Barbara Marie (1954, 1964 – 1965, 1967 – 1969); Sr. Ilene Blavatt (1954 – 1965); Sr. M. Georgiann (1954 – 1960); Sr. M. Ruth Anthony (1954 – 1959); Sr. Maurice (1954 – 1956); Sr. M. Madonna (1956 – 1967); Sr. M. Victoriann (1956 – 1964); Sr. Jeanine Sokolowski (Sr. Prudentis) (1956 – 1960); Sr. Patricia Simpson (Sr. Dorothy Anne) (1956 – 1957, 1962 – 1966); Sr. Margaret Metro (Sr. Mary Rose Elizabeth) (1956 – 1957, 1966 – 1967); Sr. M. Nathaniel (1956 – 1958); Sr. M. Edwardine (1957 – 1965); Sr. Mary Zachary (1957 – 1965); Sr. Kathleen Ottrock (Sr. Philip Neri) (1957 – 1958, 1966); Sr. Jane Mary (1957 – 1958); Sr. M. Lorena (1958 – 1962); Sr. Maria Consuelo (1959 – 1960); Sr. Ann Marie Chmielewski (Sr. Ann Clare) (1959 – 1960); Sr. Kathleen Skog (1959 – 1960); Sr. M. Lois Anne (1961 – 1972); Sr. Helen Francis (1962 – 1963); Sr. M. Laetitia (1962 – 1963); Sr. Edward Marie (1962 – 1963); Sr. M. Roselinda (1965 – 1967); Sr. Mary Leonard (1965 – 1967); Sr. Rosalie Gdula (Sr. M. St. Peter) (1965 – 1967); Sr. Ann Joseph (1965 – 1966); Sr. M. Josetta (1966 – 1968); Sr. M. Benedicta (1966 – 1970); Sr. M. St. Anthony (1967 – 1969); Sr. Grace Ellen (1967 – 1969); Sr. M. Brigid (1968 – 1970); Sr. Jeremias (1968 – 1969); Sr. M. Ellen; Sr. M. Fidelis (1972 – 1973); Sr. M. Alacoque; Sr. M. Alexandra; Sr. Ann Francis; Sr. M. Assisi; Sr. M. Alphonsine; Sr. M. Annette; Sr. M. Antonia; Sr. M. Aurelia; Sr. M. Bernetta; Sr. M. Bernarda; Sr. M. Beata; Sr. M. Callista; Sr. Patricia Cahill; Sr. M. Cecilia; Sr. Francis X. Cabrini; Sr. Duns Scotus; Sr. M. Felipe; Sr. M. Francesa; Sr. Josephine Wirth; Sr. M. Gertrude; Sr. M. Helene; Sr. M. Helen; Sr. M. Hildegarde; Sr. M. Inez; Sr. M. Irene; Sr. M. Jane; Sr. John Baptist; Sr. Jean Clare; Sr. M. Kenneth; Sr. M. Lydia; Sr. M. Lucy; Sr. M. Louann; Sr. M. Leontius; Sr. M. Lavernne; Sr. M. Malachy; Sr. Mariella; Sr. M. Maxillia; Sr. M. Maxine; Sr. M. Myra; Sr. M. Modesta; Sr. M. Maureen; Sr. M. Natalie; Sr. M. Nazarius; Sr. M. Odile; Sr. M. Priscilla; Sr. M. Paula; Sr. Margaret Perzynski; Sr. Ritamary; Sr. M. Roselynn; Sr. M. Redempta; Sr. M. Seraphica; Sr. Thomas More; Sr. M. Vianney; Sr. M. Victor; Sr. M. Virginia; Sr. M. Nathaniel; Sr. M. Corrine; Sr. M. Josepha; and Sr. M. Justin.
Former Lay Teachers who served at Ss. Peter & Paul School were Mary Maidel, Helen Kama, Sophie Wojcikiewicz, Z. Drobelek, Anna Nieduzak, Pearl Szalaszewicz, Estelle Szalaszewicz, Mary Ann Yantus, Mrs. Edwin Jankowski, Rose Marie Castiglione, Mary Meholic, Dolores Barragan, Lucille Roeback, Rose Marie Acord, Virginia Baranski, Delphine Cook, Donald Dauphin, Catherine Scanlon, D. Cotter, M. Kreger, A. Esshaki, I. Carrano, David Flis, George V. LaForest, Mary Ann Bolduc, Susan Eriksen, Marianne Chestohin, Constance Meredyk, Elaine Krasiewski, Cynthia Barnhorst, Miss Petrauskas, Mr. Kanculski, John Luka, Steven Janiga, Carol Brown, Arthur Cislo, Cynthia Tymczak, Sandra Terletzky, and Anne Green (née Lopata).
In 2023, Ss. Peter & Paul celebrated its Centennial with many events and festivities occurring throughout the year. On April 22, 2023, the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society held its Twelfth Annual Spring Pilgrimage & Święconka (Polish Easter Meal) at Ss. Peter & Paul in celebration of the parish’s 100th anniversary. Society Director Rev. Canon Walter J. Ptak presented a history of the parish in the church. Afterwards, all were invited to a traditional Polish Easter meal in the Ss. Peter & Paul Activities Building, which included blessed Easter eggs by Society President Rev. Gary Michalik and an Easter blessing by Society Director Lawrence Zurawski.
On June 25, 2023, Rev. Jerry Pilus, current pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul, celebrated a Traditional Latin Mass with Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Fisher in attendance. Afterwards, dinner was served in the Activities Building.
On Saturday, January 6, 2024, the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society will honor Ss. Peter & Paul on its 100th anniversary at its Seventeenth Annual Opłatek (Christmas event) at St. Colette Catholic Church in Livonia.
As of 2023, Mass is celebrated at Ss. Peter & Paul in both English and Polish. The Sacrament of Confession is received in both English and Polish. A Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated on the first Saturday of each month. Many descendants of original Ss. Peter & Paul parishioners travel back to the neighborhood regularly to attend Masses, Confession, Holy Days of Obligation, and parish activities and functions and to ensure that the parish continues to thrive.
- SS. Peter & Paul Church (Westside) – Detroit, Michigan 48228 (1990)
- SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973
- Ss. Peter & Paul Parish 80th Anniversary DVD (2003)
- “THE HISTORY OF THE SS. PETER AND PAUL PARISH.” In SS. PETER AND PAUL PARISH 1923 – 2023 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 25, 2023 – Parish Bulletin
- Rev. Adalbert Zadala, ca. 1925 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Old Ss. Peter & Paul rectory, ca. 1927 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Sisters of St. Francis, 1933 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Rev. Francis S. Gramza, ca. 1940 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Rev. Gramza with Ss. Peter & Paul First Holy Communion Class, 1946 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- The new Ss. Peter & Paul convent shortly after completion, ca. 1948 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- The old, original Ss. Peter & Paul church, which was to be razed to make way for the new church, June 4, 1957 (SS. PETER AND PAUL PARISH 1923 – 2003 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY Parish Bulletin, courtesy of Lorin Wojczynski and the Wojczynski family)
- The old, original Ss. Peter & Paul school, which was to be razed to make way for the new school, June 4, 1957 (SS. PETER AND PAUL PARISH 1923 – 2003 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY Parish Bulletin, courtesy of Lorin Wojczynski and the Wojczynski family)
- Groundbreaking for the new Ss. Peter & Paul church, June 9, 1957 (SS. PETER AND PAUL PARISH 1923 – 2003 100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY Parish Bulletin)
- Sacrament of Marriage in the church, 1958 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Ss. Peter & Paul ninth grade graduation class, 1960 (WSDPAHS archives, courtesy of Honorary Society Member Christina Pacosz)
- Blessing of food in the convent, 1966 (SS. PETER & PAUL 50TH YEAR 1923 – 1973)
- Ss. Peter & Paul exterior, March 2010 (Laurie A. Gomulka)
- Ss. Peter & Paul interior. Advent wreaths and kings statuary, December 6, 2008 (Laurie A. Gomulka)
- Ss. Peter & Paul interior. Rev. Gary Michalik, President of the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society, presents the history of the parish at the Society’s Third Annual Spring Pilgrimage & Święconka, April 10, 2010 (Laurie A. Gomulka)
- Ss. Peter & Paul interior. St. Peter statue, April 10, 2010 (Laurie A. Gomulka)
- Rev. Canon Walter J. Ptak and Rev. Gary Michalik at the buffet table in the Ss. Peter & Paul Activities Building at the Society’s Twelfth Annual Spring Pilgrimage & Święconka on Saturday, April 22, 2023, in celebration of the parish’s 100th anniversary (Alina Klin, Ph.D.)