When you see the Sacred Heart Seminary, located at 2701 West Chicago Boulevard, Detroit, MI., you are reminded of the late Catholic scholars and their heritage from Greece and Rome. The Collegiate Gothic architectural style, built between 1923 and 1925, has a building 600 feet in width and features a 130-foot tower, reminding you of the ambience of an English university.
Between the 1880s to the 1920s, Catholics numbering into the thousands upon thousands immigrated to Detroit from dozens of eastern European nations, including their priests, who were not put off by the largely Irish and Germany hierarchy of the Detroit diocese at the time. The diocese established numerous “ethnic” parishes to serve in their own schools and control their own finances, which was a major challenge for the Detroit diocese at first.
The massive seminary complex in the post World War I years, gained control of training of all priests in the diocese, which “ended” the ethnic seminaries, and was designed to offer training at both the high school and collegiate level to all Michigan men who wished to study for the priesthood. In the meantime, new federal immigration laws impeded the immigration of priests from Eastern Europe.
Another outstanding feature located on the campus is the story of the black Jesus. During the riots of 1967, an African American painter painted the hands, feet, and face of the white Sacred Heart of Jesus statue black. What started out as a controversial and polarizing act, became an act of faith and racial pride for some Detroit black residents. Throughout the years the landmark is now being seen as a symbol of Jesus’ love for all races. The seminary repaints the statue whenever necessary and plans to continue this practice in the future.
In May, 2016, Sacred Heart Major Seminary announced its agreement to purchase four lots west of its campus on Chicago Boulevard. The seminary will clear the land of abandoned buildings, landscape, and secure and integrate it into its present 40-acre campus. The purchase will enhance the historic neighborhood, and enable the vibrant seminary to expand its parking and plan future upgrades.