Duns Scotus College

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 In the beauty and stateliness of Duns Scotus College and its Chapel, one sees the material realization of a long-cherished dream a dream born of a glorious heritage and a hope that was not in vain. In its completion twenty-five years ago one saw not only the aspiration of the architect and of those who labored with mind and hands to crystalize that aspiration, but the symbol of an undying zeal and continuous sacrifice of self on the part of those who first conceived and nourished the idea of building a great school of learning worthy of the 700-year-old Franciscan traditions.

st anthony chapel at duns scotus.jpg (98915 bytes) The gradual growth of the College and its majestic Chapel was observed with increasing interest and enthusiasm, not only by those who sponsored it, but by a great many others as well. During the years it has awakened emotions that architectural beauty and the romance of religious life alone can arouse. It has been written about in the newspapers and periodicals; enthusiasts have sketched and painted it from seemingly every possible angle. It has made a place for itself in the annals of American Architecture, having received the Architectural Medal for 1930 from the Detroit Chapter of The American Institute of Architects and even more important than this is the fact that those who came to see its beauty stayed and prayed and returned again and again, attracted by the feeling that this was really "a holy place."
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Interest in the College and Chapel has been so general, and so many questions have been asked about it throughout the years, that the need of a descriptive brochure has long been felt. This is the more necessary because of the wealth of detail in the carving of wood and stone, a comprehensive explanation of which will add eminently more meaning to its beauty and symbolic treasure. The distinctive features of the buildings are also of interest, and their association with the ancient Franciscan establishments abroad, manes them doubly so.

This account of the Chapel and College has been compiled for the use of all those who may wish to know more about the school and the buildings than immediately meets the eye.

The Friars Minor and Duns Scotus College

The Franciscan history in Detroit begins with the very foundation of the city itself. While it is not certain that the first chaplain for Cadillac in 1701 was a Franciscan, it is certain that in 1702, Father Constantin Delhalle who replaced this first chaplain, was a Friar. This began a term of service that was to last eighty years, for the Franciscans became the chaplains, and later, pastors, of the fort and city of Detroit. In 1782, following the British occupation of the town, the last of the Friars, Simple Bocquet, was recalled to Quebec.

Detroit continued to grow, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, was the center of attraction for many immigrants from Europe. A leading foreign element was the German population: this posed a problem for the Bishop. Where to get help for this group? He turned to the German Franciscans of Cincinnati for help, and in 1872 they were given St. Mary's parish, and Father Apollinaris Hattler became the first Franciscan pastor. St. Mary's was a large parish., however, and in 1876 another parish, Sacred Heart, was established at the northern boundaries to care for the Germans in that neighborhood. Father Eugene Butterman was the founding pastor. In 18C90 both parishes were returned to the diocese, and the Friars left Detroit.

Friars Return

Thirty-eight years later, the Cincinnati Friars returned to Detroit. But this time, it was not as missionaries nor as pastors, but as teachers, as educators in a seminary for their own students to the priesthood. With the growth of the province of St. John the Baptist, the old system of teaching philosophy in three separate friaries, one in Louisville, another in Saint Bernerd, Ohio and the third in Cincinnati, became too unwieldy and expensive. It tripled the faculty, moved the clerics to a different city each time they passed to a higher grade, and blocked any effort to have the educational system recognized and hence also no degrees could be conferred. Those charged with the direction province and the education of the clerics admitted that something should be done. So when Father Urban Freundt became provincial, it was definitely decided to build one friary large enough to accommodate both students and faculty "with room to spare." After looking over several sites in different parts of the country, it was decided that Detroit would be the best city for the projected House of Philosophy. Accordingly, a tract of land at Nine Mile and Evergreen Roads was bought, Mr. Wilfrid B. Anthony chosen as the architect, and Duns Scotus College began to come into being. On Thanksgiving Day, 1928, Father Urban himself turned the first spade full of earth for the new building. In July of the next year, 1929, Bishop Plagens laid the corner stone, and just a year later, July 1930, the first clerics arrived to take up their abode in the almost-completed building.


At last, on October 12, 1930, the Detroit papers ran notices and pictures of the newly- completed college, inviting the public at large to visit the building. It is estimated that almost ten thousand visitors streamed through the as yet uncloistered college. The actual dedication day was Wednesday, October 15, 1930. Rt. Rev. Michael James Gallagher, the Bishop of Detroit, officiated: furthermore, there were in attendance, an archbishop, four bishops, many monsignori, several rectors of universities, seminaries, and colleges, about a hundred priests both diocesan and religious, many sisters and about fifteen hundred lay-people. Monsignor Ryan, Rector of Catholic University of America, preached the sermon. The next Sunday, October 19, was also a general visiting day, and an estimated twenty thousand persons toured the building and grounds. In the evening, after supper, the college was formally established as a religious house, and all of it except the chapel, parlors, classrooms and main courtyard, was put in the cloister. Later, the classrooms and courtyard were also included in the cloister. With this, things quieted down, school began in earnest, and the religious life, so disturbed by the work and visitors, resumed its normal, calm course.


The faculty of that first scholastic year at Duns Scotus College consisted of: Frs. Philibert Ramstetter, President, and Hubert Lorenz, Reginald Lutomski, Emil Brum, John de Deo Oldegeering and Vincent Kroger. Other fathers stationed in the college that first year were: Frs. Conrad Link, Guardian, and Alexander Wilberding, Daniel Linfert, Cyril Georgel and Ethelbert Harrington. The present silver jubilee faculty is composed of Frs. Philibert Ramstetter, President, Raphael Clous Thon1as Ameringer, Edgar Case Seraph Zeitz, Cletus Suttmann, Arnold Rodriguez, George Hellman, Roy Effler, Leander Blumlein, Marvi Freihage and Aubert Grieser. Oth. members of the College: Frs. Norbe Oldegeering, Guardian, Apollinar Grabber, Cajetan Elshoff, Hube Lorenz, Alcuin Kammer, Juven Pfalzer, Florence Hoste and Aida Schaeffer. The following Friars have been guardians of the Friary: Fr Conrad Link, Baldwin Schulte, Clauc Mindorff, Alexander Wilberding, Maurice Ripperger, John Berchmar Wuest and Norbert Oldegeering. The presidents of the college have been Frs. Philibert Ramstetter, Sebastia Erbacher, Vincent Kroger and Norbert Oldegeering.

The seminary for the clerics is not the only school connected with the present college. There is also a school for lay-brother candidates, where aspirants to the lay-brotherhood receive training in both the trades and in spirituality. Father Aidan Schaeffer is the director.

From the very first, too, there has been a parish connected with the College. Named St. Michael Parish, after Bishop Michael Gallagher, for many years it used the College Chapel as a parish church. Since 1950, however, it has had its own church, as well as school, convent and rectory. It is located at Ten Mile and Code Roads, just two miles from the college.


We must also make mention of two or three other activities connected with the College. First there is the large and very active Third Order Fraternity. It was established in the early years of the College and is still most flourishing. Along with this St. Elizabeth Fraternity, there is a Junior Third Order Fraternity, Saint Pius Tenth Fraternity. Closely connected with the Third Order is the Monthly Day of Recollection, conducted by one of the Fathers of the College, and held on the Saturday proceeding the Holy Name Sunday. From small and modest beginnings, when thirty men was considered a large group, the Day of Recollection has become quite an institution, with a hundred and thirty men being considered as a small group!

And there is one other institution that merits attention: even though it is no longer connected with the college. Father Sebastian Erbacher joined the faculty in 1931, during the bad days of the depression. Father had steeped himself in the social encyclicals and was determined to do something to help the laboring man in Detroit. So it came about that for several years, he directed the Labor School, which offered evening courses in the Encyclicals and Modern Problems to priests and laymen. Out of that school grew the ACTU: the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, and its official organ, the Labor Leader. Both have passed into other hands, but both were born here at the College.

There have been, and still are, many other activities connected with the College: debates, conferences, conventions, plays, lectures. There are also the church services: St. Anthony devotions on Tuesday evenings, the Holy Hour on Saturday evenings, Midnight Mass at Christmas, Holy Week and Tcnebrae with the Easter Vigil service, not to mention the Sunday High Mass with its long tradition of Gregorian Chant well rendered. There are many other ways in which the Friars have influenced the people: we have merely chosen the few above since they are the ones for which the college is most noted.

Other Franciscans

NOTE: We have taken the name "Franciscan" to refer to those sons of St. Francis who are commonly called "Brown Franciscans." Among the French of the early days, they were known as "Recollects." The other two branches of First Order Franciscans are also represented in the city: the Capuchins, who arrived in 1883 and are located at St. Bonaventure Monastery on Mt. Elliot, and the Conventual, or Black Franciscans, who have two parishes (St. Hedwig and Queen of Angels) and St. Anthony Monastery on West Vernor. They came in 1910, invited by Bishop Foley to help care for the Polish people. Furthermore, there is another group of Brown Franciscans besides the ones at Duns Scotus College. They belong to the Slovene Commissariate of the Holy Cross, and since 1927 have been in charge of St. John Vianney parish.