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Posted on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

In the small town of Dexter, the St. Joseph Catholic Church draws thousands

By Ann Dwyer


Service in the sanctuary at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 6805 Mast Road., Dexter, on Sunday morning. The new church was built several years ago, but the old parish church in the village is still used during the week and for special events.

Melanie Maxwell I

When talking about their church, the words “warm,” “welcoming,” and “involved” are often used by the parishioners of the Dexter St. Joseph Catholic Church.

These attributes have helped make the church so popular that they had to build a new church to hold all of the parishioners.


The Rev. Brendan Walsh speaks during service at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 6805 Mast Road., Dexter, on Sunday morning.

Melanie Maxwell I

“We would have three Masses, and they were all full with more people waiting to get in,” said parishioner Dan Clark, regarding the “village” church that is still in use in downtown Dexter. Clark has attended St. Joseph for over 25 years.

Weekday Masses are still held in the village church on Dover Street, along with smaller weddings, funerals and other ceremonies.

The St. Joseph Catholic Church has had a long history in Dexter. The first church was founded in 1840 on Dexter-Townhall Road.

The new “country” church on the corner of Mast and North Territorial Road is the fourth to be built in Dexter. Dedicated in 2008, it is a source of pride for its members as it symbolizes their growing numbers and brought them together to decide what was needed and how that would be expressed.

“I love everything about the physical St. Joseph church building. It was a product of extraordinary faith, courage, hard work, and sacrifice of many, many people. said Eileen Slank in an email. Slank was on the Stairwell committee that helped design the church.

The committee wanted to bridge the past churches in Dexter and traditional Catholic churches in general with the new one.

The existing church bell, “Eugene,” was restored and moved to the new church, according to Slank. “Eugene was cast specifically for the parish in 1885.”

Other details, such as the shape of the windows and the cruciform roof line also bridge the past to the present.

St. Joseph Catholic Church

  • Pastor: Rev. Brendan Walsh
  • Phone: 734-426-8483
  • Services:6805 Mast Road, Dexter Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, 9 and 11 a.m. 3430 Dover St., Dexter Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m.

Seating encircles the altar, and Stations of the Cross designed and created by local artists James L. Bowman and Michael R. Kapetan were installed. The large cross behind the altar was made from ash trees that were cut down due to the emerald ash borer.

“The greatness of St. Joseph Church is not the physical building, but it is the people,” Slank said.

In fact, it is the people that keep those like John Goff coming to St. Joseph.

When Goff and his wife were looking for a Michigan home in 2007, they searched primarily in the Chelsea area. But attending a service at the church had an incredible impact on that search.

“We just felt an incredible warmth from the first time we walked in the doors, people talked to us and greeted us,” he said.

They decided to stop looking in Chelsea and instead bought a home in Dexter.


Grace Walsh, 5, and her father, Noel, both of Dexter, dip their fingers in the baptismal font, as they prepare to bless themselves with holy water at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Sunday morning.

Melanie Maxwell I

“This church has always been really friendly and made people feel like they belong there,” said Clark who serves on several committees at the St. Joseph.

This is just the type of church community Father Brendan Walsh wanted to create.

“St. Joseph strives to be a faithful, caring Catholic community,” he said. Walsh came to the church in 1998.

In Walsh, the church has found a strong leader.

“He’s excellent. He’s kind of a micro-manager. Everything gets done,” said Clark of Scio Township.

“He leads by example. His faith and spirituality is resounding,” said Goff. He is the chairman of the pastoral council, which works closely with Walsh as his “eyes and ears” of the parish.

It is a relationship that allows the church to continue to reach their goals.

“The thing that makes me the proudest of the parishioners is the ownership and investment of their time, talent and treasures in witnessing the life, love and spirit of Jesus in their community and their world,” said Walsh.

The community continues to invest their time in programs such as the “Summer Fun Festival,” and the “Fifth Sunday Collection,” which aids local charities, along with other programs and ministries.