Dear Editor,

December 6 noted the closing of St. Nicholas Church at Holy Mass that evening. Regional Bishop Cepeda of the Archdiocese of Detroit celebrated the Mass including a ceremony officially closing the parish declaring the Church building and blessed articles no longer a Catholic Church by order of Archbishop Vigneron. Those attending included parish members, Church family members, and curious visitors all filling the church beyond capacity as many mourned, others the curious, both Catholic and not. Sealing the Church door with purple tape (sign of mourning) completed the ceremony. Coffee and desserts were to warm everyone’s spirits; sadly only a little window dressing as the overall mood of loss stood out.

What was St. Nicholas Catholic Church? History takes us to 1961-62 when Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Emmett with Archdiocese support was allowed to establish a mission Church in Capac due to requests from area Catholics for a church in Capac. Distances to Emmett, Imlay City, Allenton, showed the need at the time for a church. Fr. Charles Sonnenfeld, assistant pastor at Mt. Carmel, was assigned as celebrant of the newly established St. Nicholas Mission. As the church became self-supportive it became St. Nicholas Church. What happened now?

In my view several factors have intervened leading to the end both my thoughts and events. While the demand and funding came, there was no historic ethnic community such as Polish, German, Italian, etc. Priests and money were available as the Church was in an expansion mode to propagate the faith. Parishes grew and flourished. Detroit’s riots pushed residents out of Detroit, many coming for various reasons. No one 60 years ago new the changes coming as the new millennium approached. Sadly in the Church Second Vatican Council’s “throwing the windows open in the Church” released a tidal wave of change bringing forth the Priest shortage and gradual drop in religious fervor. And with the priest shortage came Catholic Church re-organizations in an attempt by Catholic archdioceses to function with spiritual needs of Catholics in the 21st century. Unfortunately priests can only be spread so thin. When the Catholic parish family arrangement of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Lapeer; St. Cornelius, Dryden; Sacred Heart, Imlay City; St. Nicholas, Capac, came to exist in 2022 the writing was on the wall. With only one Holy Mass on Saturday, parishioners of St. Nicholas sought alternate churches for Sunday Mass. Collections at St. Nicholas fell. Even St. Nicholas of Myra, known for generosity, could not help its named parish.

All I hope and pray as former parishioners of St. Nicholas is that Catholic faith will not die in Capac as a building does not make the Catholic faith. It may have been the center of worship for Catholics in Capac but all Catholic Churches are open. Is not a little travel difficulty worth our faith? Faith lies in the heart of Catholics.

— David Naeyaert