Religious community from Peru arrives in Detroit with mission to encourage vocations


Father Joe Barron is among the first two Americans to join Pro Ecclesia Sancta, a religious institute founded in Lima, Peru. He was invited by Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron to found another home for the community in the Archdiocese of Detroit. / Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., Aug 20, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Just as they felt called to their vocations to the priesthood and religious life, members of the religious community Pro Ecclesia Sancta felt called to serve within the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Pro Ecclesia Sancta — meaning “For the Holy Church” in Latin — is a religious institute founded in Lima, Peru, in 1981 by then-81-year-old Father Pablo Menor, SJ, who felt moved by the Sacred Heart to start a new religious community. The order includes religious men and women as well as a lay community.

Following an invitation from Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Pro Ecclesia Sancta found a new home in the Archdiocese of Detroit beginning in July with Father Joe Barron, PES, one of the first two Americans to join the community. Since then, two additional brothers have moved to Detroit to work with Cornerstone Charter Schools, one of whom lives with Barron.

Barron, a Minnesota native with Michigan ties (his father is originally from the Metro Detroit area), has been serving as a priest “in solidum” at the Gaudium et Spes, Joy and Hope Family of Parishes, with his primary responsibility being at St. Isaac Jogues Parish and School in St. Clair Shores.

“It is really beautiful because after getting here, I see the archbishop’s vision and hope that we have so many saints here from the archdiocese that there aren’t enough days in the calendar,” Barron told Detroit Catholic. “When I heard him say that, I thought, ‘OK, Lord, you definitely wanted us here because that’s our charism, to live and promote the vocation of holiness through the Sacred Heart.’ So it was just a confirmation of ‘yes, this is where you guys are supposed to be.’”

A relationship between the archdiocese and Pro Ecclesia Sancta began five years ago when Father Humberto Palomino, PES, the provincial in the United States, attended a wedding in Michigan and became acquainted with a prominent attorney, community figure, and founder of the Cornerstone Charter Schools, Clark Durant. Through this friendship, Palomino became familiar with Detroit. Eventually, he met with Vigneron to discuss the possibility of the community serving in the archdiocese.

Why Detroit? Palomino said it is the same reason why he is a priest: It was God’s will.

“In my vocation, it is not my decision, even though I consented to the will of God,” Palomino said. “God chose me; God called me, which is why it is called vocation. God called me to be a priest and religious. It’s pretty much the same reason why we are in Detroit — God was calling us [here].”

In the same way, Palomino feels that God chose Barron to be the first community representative in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Barron hopes he can be an instrument to help encourage vocations in the archdiocese.

“I think the main way I aspire to help is by being a faithful religious of Pro Ecclesia Sancta and bringing that family into the parish and school and Family of Parishes, especially building relationships with the parishioners, the school families, and the youth of the area and inviting them to pursue their vocation of holiness,” Barron said. “Hopefully [we can] spark a sign of hope in this area and in Detroit as well where people can see things are happening, and it is because of Jesus Christ and the Sacred Heart.”

Palomino views this new relationship as a part of the answer to the archbishop’s prayer for more vocations in the Archdiocese of Detroit, particularly to the priesthood.

“Our name means ‘For the holy Church,’ so we exist to serve the holy Church, and our charism is the same charism as every single religious order on the planet: to live and promote holiness,” Palomino said. “What we want is to serve the Church, to form brothers who will eventually become priests, and to increase the number of priests in the archdiocese.”

“I see the land of Detroit as a very fruitful land, and I see our presence there as an answer to the prayer of many in Detroit for more vocations,” Palomino added. “I see Pro Ecclesia Sancta in a humble way as an answer to this prayer. We want to be faithful to those prayers.”

This article was originally published in Detroit Catholic and has been reprinted here with permission.

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  1. I was born in Detroit in 1954, and attended my first year and a half of elementary school at Saint Bede’s in Southfield, a barns new parish under construction. After a corporate transfer I completed my primary and secondary education in New Orleans, and am eternally grateful to the Lasallian Christian Brothers. During my sophomore year at Marquette, with the occasionally Catholic Jesuits, my Dad was transferred back to Detroit. My cousin and his wife taught at Saint Andrews in Detroit, a Polish parish. My little brother spent four years at Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s, a prep school, and the home of the official Polish Seminary educated priests to serve in Communist Poland. For years, starting in 1973, our family went to midnight Christmas Mass at Saint Andrews in Detroit. Little brother, who was the state champion in Polish language for a non-native speaker, belted out the responses and hymns in Polish…There are no longer ANY Polish parishes in Detroit. Saint Bede’s is no longer…However, there is a Mosque across the street.

  2. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. May the Lord of the harvest inspire zealous aspirants to come and toil in the vineyard.

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