Wednesday, June 06, 2012


On Monday, I took a drive down Woodward Avenue to visit Berkley, the Detroit suburb where I lived as a Jesuit novice between 2004 and 2006. There are no longer any Jesuits in Berkley - the novitiate was moved to Minnesota in 2010 - and that fact makes my two years in the town seem more irretrievably distant to me than the years I spent living in New York or even the years I lived in places like Washington and South Bend before I entered the Society of Jesus. The presence of Jesuit communities in cities around the world means that we Jesuits can make ourselves at home in many different places and cultures; the Society's departure from Berkley means that I will never again be at home in that particular place in the way that I once was, and a certain melancholic feeling inevitably comes with that.

Hartfield Lanes, a bowling alley on 12 Mile Road in Berkley. In my time, the novices bowled here as a group at least twice - not as a spontaneous expression of fellowship, but because the master of novices had decided that we would all go there for a community outing. Seemingly untouched since the 1960s, the vintage interior of Hartfield Lanes would make a good subject for photography; sadly, the place was closed when I drove by on Monday.

I never did business with Janet Davis Cleaners on Woodward, but my affection for vintage neon signage led me to take this photo. Like Hartfield Lanes, this sign expresses the particular postwar American aesthetic that I strongly associate with places like Berkley.

Just around the corner from Janet Davis Cleaners, this is a westward view down Harvard Road, heading in the direction of the novitiate. As a novice, I would regularly walk from Loyola House to the corner of Harvard and Woodward and back in order to clear my head and to get some exercise. If I walked the route today, I'm sure that I would notice many small details long hidden in the recesses of memory but still familiar enough to the subconscious to elicit a mental response along the lines of, 'oh yeah, I remember that.' (One such example that I noticed on Monday: an old Volkswagen Beetle, frequently seen on a side street off Harvard when I was a novice but hardly remembered since, is still parked in roughly the same spot.)

Our Lady of La Salette, the Roman Catholic parish church located at the corner of Harvard and Coolidge, across the street from my old novitiate. The La Salette Missionaries ran the parish from 1932 until 1994, when pastoral administration was ceded to the diocesan clergy.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola wanted Jesuits to devote themselves to "the instruction of children and unlettered persons in Christianity," a mission that I and scores of other novices in Berkley participated in by teaching catechism to students here at Our Lady of La Salette School.

This is the building formerly known as Loyola House, where I entered the Society of Jesus on August 21, 2004. Constructed in the 1950s as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy who then staffed Our Lady of La Salette School, Loyola House served as a Jesuit novitiate from 1971 to 2010. After the Jesuits left, the building endured a fate like that of many other former religious houses, being rented out by the parish to an interfaith group called the Song and Spirit Institute of Peace.

Looking west down Harvard Road, the old novitiate at left and the La Salette parish center at right, with ominous but beautiful storm clouds gathered overhead.

My nostalgic journey to Berkley led me to unearth a couple of photos that I took while I lived there. This picture, taken on December 23, 2004, is probably one of my favorite photos from Loyola House: the winter sunset, rippled clouds, bare trees, and the snow-covered backyard of the novitiate combine to make for a captivating and evocative image.

Taken the same evening as the preceding image, this photo presents the view from the front door of the novitiate, looking towards Coolidge Highway with Our Lady of La Salette Church at left. Again, there is much here that I find captivating: the twilight sky with its small speck of a moon; the red lights at the intersection, on the backs of cars, and in the windows of the video store in the middle distance (a video store that has since closed; the building is now vacant); the telephone poles, looking strangely vulnerable in the winter cold.

Later today or perhaps tomorrow morning, I hope to post a few more photos from my sojourn here in Michigan. The next set may not be as laden with nostalgia as this one has been, but I suspect that it will still convey my affection for a place that I have been happy to visit again after a long absence. AMDG.


At 9/26/2016 1:04 PM, Blogger Michael V. Gold said...

It appears from this link ( that Loyola House was open as a Novitiate in 2011. I am just learning today that it has closed. I was a novice there (with the name Albert Joseph "A.J." Knecht) from 1986 to 1988. God bless.

At 1/09/2020 5:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Greetings from Michigan,USA,

This is kind of odd how I found you.Today,January 9,2020 I was reading the Detroit News obituary for Brother Henry Kuhn, S.J. (Br. Hank) died at age 85. The article listed the numerous locations he served, one being the Loyola House Jesuit Novitiate in Berkley, Michigan. I lived in Berkley for many years and was not aware of Loyola House, so I Googled Loyola House and found you.Thought you might know Br.Hank and would want to know of his passing. Stay Warm


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