Church of the Epiphany

In May of 1924, Father Leo J. Chapman held the first services of the newly organized parish of Epiphany in an enormous canvas tent on the corner of Orangelawn and Mendota Streets. 35 to 40 people attended the service, the first time a Catholic church service was held under a tent in the United States. In September work was completed on the first unit of the parish school, which was then used to hold services. Epiphany School would later open in 1926, followed by a basement church which was dedicated in October of 1927. Services continued to be held in the basement until the rest of the structure was completed in 1934, when the basement was converted into the parish hall.

Epiphany School opened in 1926, with a starting enrollment of 225 students. A convent was built in 1928 and expanded in 1936. The rectory would be built later in 1949.

As the parish marked its fifth anniversary in 1929, the congregation had grown to over 1,500. Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s the church continued to grow, holding up to eight mass services every Sunday. A building campaign raised $336,000 to build a new sanctuary, which was formally announced in February of 1953. The cornerstone was laid later that year. When completed in January of 1955 the Romanesque-style sanctuary seated 1,050 people. The old sanctuary was converted into a gymnasium.

Epiphany was one of the first of the 30 Detroit-area Catholic Churches to close in 1989. Only about 40 people were attending mass in an average week. A six-foot-long wood statue of Christ was transferred in the bed of a pickup truck to St. Isidore’s in Mt. Clemens. Other materials, including hymnals and brass candlestick holders were shipped to St. Luke, where most of the remaining members were expected to move.

In 1989 the church property was sold to Divine Inspiration Missionary Baptist Church. It isn’t clear when services at the church were stopped, but by 2013 scrappers had stripped the buildings of copper pipes, gutters, and wiring, dealing a fatal blow to plans to open a homeless shelter.