They are active in close to 60 countries. Their congregation started more than 300 years ago. And they continue to do missionary work today, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ministering to the poor – including in Detroit.
The Spiritans have faithfully served one of the oldest Detroit churches, Old St. Mary’s Church in Greektown, since 1893. So, who are the Spiritans and how did they wind up in The Motor City? See below for four fun facts about the organization, and click here to visit the official website.
1. The First Spiritan at Old St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s was completed in 1885. Less than 10 years later, Fr. Francis W. Schwab became the first Spiritan pastor at the church, in 1893.
2. Lucky No. 13
After Schwab, 12 other priests have served as Old St. Mary’s spiritan, including Frs. Charles Gruenewald, Joseph Wuest, Frederick Hoeger, Edward Knaebel, Francis Haas, Henry Thiefels, John E. Nader, Norman G. Hannahs, Martin J. Conroy, Edward J Vilkauskas, and Simon Lobon. Father Wayne Epperley is the church’s current spiritan.
3. Who Was the First Spiritan?
The Congregation of the Holy Spirit was founded in 1703 by Claude Poullart des Places of France. He graduated high school at age 16 as the valedictorian, then gave an inspirational dissertation in Latin. People were so impressed with des Places that it earned him an invite as a guest of the Royal Family to Versailles in Paris. He was also an avid hunter, horseman and was good with the sword and gun. By the time he was 22, des Places had graduated with a degree in law, and at age 24, he became one of the youngest founders to form a major religious congregation when he established the Spiritans. Des Places died at a young age, 30, after falling ill. His last wish was to be buried in a nameless plot alongside the poor residents whom he had pledged his life to serve.
4. When Did the Spiritans Come to the U.S.?
The U.S. province was officially founded in 1873, although the Spiritans’ first contact in the country was in Arcadia between 1735 to 1763.
Want to learn more about the Spiritans and Old St. Mary’s? Click here for more information.