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Detroit archdiocese's new shepherd beckons Catholics to heed God's call


Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron celebrates Mass for 600 people at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Temperance.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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TEMPERANCE - Archbishop Allen Vigneron made his first visit to Monroe County last night as the new leader of the 1.4-million member Detroit archdiocese, celebrating Mass for about 600 people at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

In his homily, the archbishop preached about the importance of prayer, saying that "God desires that each of us will speak to him every day," adding that daily prayer was "not just for monks, nuns, priests, deacons, and brothers."

He also called on "the sons and daughters of Monroe County to heed God's call" by entering religious life. "We need you," he said.

After Mass, Archbishop Vigneron met with parishioners for more than an hour at a reception in the parish hall.

A native of Mount Clemens, Mich., Archbishop Vigneron was installed Jan. 28 at Detroit's Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, succeeding Cardinal Adam Maida, who retired.

In his first three weeks in Detroit, Archbishop Vigneron has celebrated eight regional Masses in the six-county archdiocese, with two more scheduled.

It was a warm and occasionally emotional homecoming last night for the 60-year-old archbishop, who told parishioners that he fondly remembered visiting Monroe County while he was a seminarian in Detroit.

He got choked up when speaking of the Rev. Daniel Complo, who stood beside him at the altar last night and had been the archbishop's pastor at his first assignment after ordination in 1975.

Father Complo, 80, now retired, was pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel in Harper Woods, Mich., where the archbishop was associate pastor. Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo also served as associate pastor, after Archbishop Vigneron, at the same parish under Father Complo.

Father Complo said after Mass that Archbishop Vigneron "has a very kind heart and really cares about people. He was an ideal parish priest."

The Rev. Stephen Rooney, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, described the archbishop as "an academician but very pastoral at the same time. He's very rooted in people's lives."

Archbishop Vigneron is the first bishop of Detroit to be born in the archdiocese. He was named auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 1996 and became bishop of Oakland, Calif., in 2003.

In an interview with The Blade after Mass, he said one reasons he has been able to hit the ground running is because "I am a native of the diocese, and so it's about becoming reacquainted, really."

He said he has not had much time for evaluating or prioritizing his plans.

"I've only been here three weeks, I'm still in the listening stage. Even though I'm a native, I've been away six years and I need to spend some weeks listening to people and finding out how things stand," Archbishop Vigneron said.

But he acknowledged that the economic struggles in southeast Michigan and the auto industry put an added burden on his roles as pastor and administrator.

"There is more widespread responsibility for me and all the pastors to help people sustain their hope and have courage to get through the tough times - and we will," he said.

In addition, he said, "Like every other institution, we have fewer resources and so we have to make hard choices about what to do with those resources."

Asked about the impact of the Dallas Charter, a document adopted by U.S. bishops in 2002 to protect children after the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Archbishop Vigneron said it "has served us very well. I feel in my own responsibility as a bishop, it's given me good guidance in order to make sure that children are safe. That's really our first responsibility and I think we've made a lot of progress. We've certainly put a lot of time and a lot of resources into trying to make sure kids are safe."

The appointment of Archbishop Vigneron to the Detroit post was announced by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 5, the same day that Cardinal Maida, 78, retired after 18 years as leader of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Vigneron, the eldest of six children born to Elwin and Bernadine Vigneron, graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary High School and College in Detroit.

He received a bachelor's degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University at the North American College in Rome and master's and doctoral degrees from the Catholic University of America in Washington.

Archbishop Vigneron is a trustee of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Catholic University of America, and in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, serves on the Doctrine Committee and the Subcommittee on Catechism.

Contact David Yonke at: or


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