DETROIT (WXYZ) - Detroit's Polish American community is losing another piece of its identity as the church many called "home" for more than half of a century prepares to close. With hundreds of people filling the pews, the church, Saint Louis the King on the city's northeast side, held its final mass on Sunday.
"It's very sad," said Thresa Staniszewski. She expressed what many were feeling. Staniszewski has many personal milestones and memories tied to Saint Louis the King.
"I was baptized in this church; We were married in this church; My son was baptized," Staniszewski told 7 Action News. "Most of my life has been here."
Saint Louis the King was established as a parish 91 years ago in 1923. Longtime church member Helen Sroczynski is 91-years old, herself and said she has been attending this church her entire life. Being there for the final mass was painful.
"It's like one of the family going," Sroczynski said. "It's unbelievable, but I guess it just has to be."
Several years ago, dwindling numbers forced Saint Louis the King to combine with the nearby Transfiguration-Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Ladislaus churches to form, what is now, Saint John Paul II Parish. Despite the merger, all three worship sites remained open.
"Most of these churches, if you go into them, you see very small congregations," said John Karpiej, a member of Saint Louis th e King for 38 years. "Certainly, you would love to keep these parishes open but there's a financial part," he added.
"The contributions, even when merged with all three churches, are very low, so, you can't maintain everything," said Sroczynski.
As a result, the Archdiocese of Detroit is closing two of the sites. Saint Louis the King is the first to wind down operations. Some members believe that if attendance on most Sundays had been as high as it was on this final Sunday, things might be very different.
"It's hard to have to say goodby to this, because there are a lot of people involved in this parish, but not as many as should have been," said Rev. Andrew Wesley, pastor of Saint John Paul II Parish. "I would have been nice to have all of these people here all the time," he added. The church had been experience attendance numbers which varied between 35 and 75 per service, according to some members.
Although no more masses will be held at Saint Louis the King, the building-- which first opened in 1959-- will remain open until preparations to close and sell the building are completed. That means people can still come by to pray or just reminisce. Saint Ladislaus Church also will close soon, eventually leaving Transfiguration-Our Lady Help of Christians Church as the only worship site for Saint John Paul II Parish.